The Bus Trip

Water Lily

You see road trips still excite me! Maybe not as much as they used to when I was 5 years. This morning I found myself at the bus stage way before time. I have learned over years that time is important for me, even if it is not so for many others I interact with. Well, for a bus that is departing at 7am, 6.30am seemed ripe! Short version of the story is that we left at 7.36am. This was not without a few exciting moments. Buses issue tickets. Tickets have seat numbers. why people don’t like looking for their seat is far from hilarious and is borderline to annoying. I like the window seat not too far from the front. And this is where I was. This way, I feel under control. I don’t have to be brushed by everybody walking down the aisle and I am the one who controls the opening and closing of the window. A little luxury. Headboy – Headmaster kind of thing. After loads of shifting, disappointed intonations and pouting, we get underway.

The first minutes of the bus ride are intensely soothing, partly from the relief that we are finally moving and partly from the monotonous purr of the turbo engine. I strive to stay awake to get a last glance of home, knowing that I am heading down the same highway. Perhaps I may just see my daughter, son or my wife, or the neighbor, or the neighbor’s kid, or anybody who knows me, and in that odd instance call or wave. I have a short flashback to the days when people would come and wave goodbye beside the road when you were traveling. You had to sit on the left side, open the window, stick your head out so that your face was easily recognized. The tricky bit was that everybody had their head sticking out and so “your people” would have the hard task of identifying which torso was yours. It was a great outing those days. I go unnoticed this time. I fall half asleep, fueled by the crying child, the chatting of women, the incessant chatter of travellers on their phones in different languages that makes for an excellent cacophony of discordance, that my hardly tone-deaf ears cannot stand.

two and a half hours later, the bus stops over in Narok. We have already covered about one-third of our journey. People scramble to disembark, but I stay putt. I don’t believe in stopovers unless you need to use the bathroom. I take out my packed snacks, really pleased with myself to have made plans. I look at the calory load on the label and I am happy to gobble down some crisps, digestive and some soda. Contrary to my ideals, these stopovers stir a level of “food excitement” for travelers and for sure, they start walking back into the bus carrying black plastic bags oozing with the aroma of fries, sausages and all sorts, drenching the limited atmosphere of the bus. If you know the nostalgic aroma of fries, chicken and sausage that lives on Moi avenue or Tom Mboya street in Nairobi then you know what I am talking about. This concoction is nothing to desire at 10am, and furthermore in a public bus filled with other miscellaneous scent ranging from cheap perfume to groundnuts. The black plastic bags hauling the food is what get the better of my attention. Environmental disaster! The bus does not have any disposal bin and as for the people, I am not sure whether they know any better regarding waste disposal. The bus recommences the journey.

As sure as the sun rises, plastic start flying across the windows of the bus. Each satisfied soul takes turns to throw his, filled with plastic bottles and whatever is left over from their meal. I don’t understand who put in our minds that waste is a bad thing that needs to be as far from you as possible. Maybe they would have remembered to tell us that you need not generate it then you won’t have it! My heart bleeds, I feel the need to stand up and “preach” and I do just that!

I think of the Nairobi buses where you have preachers aboard with their sermonette, those who flog their bush medicine for nothing as much as a word, the people who are begging for a cause, and I imagine myself in the same bus, and what I should say! “Everybody listen up!” I take the plastic soda bottle I have and lift it up. “This my friends, is plastic. Good for holding your soda, good for reusing if you needed some water. However, this piece of *item* takes only 20 years to reintegrate into the environment. If you throw it out of the window, it first will stay where you left it until your new baby boy is about 20 years old. Meaning he will go to preschool, nursery, primary and secondary and perhaps still be able to collect it as a souvenir before he goes to college. The plastic bags you are throwing out of the window are useful for the moment but if you could have carried a container from home, you would have only needed to have the fried served into that. It takes planning and execution to think about your environment. It costs you less to plan to save the environment and indeed it will cost your future generations even less and ensure they can enjoy the same resources you enjoyed.” I sit down. Feeling well satisfied.

The only missing link is that all these was contemplated in the heart, but the gut did not allow me to execute this mini-lecture. Something can be done and needs to be done. Maybe I’ll get there one day.

As the bus speeds away, I stay lost in the thoughts of the myriad of ways we could approach environmental education. The purr of the bus draws nearer, the chatter of the women stops, travelers still stay loud on their phones and the children laugh and chatter with glee. I drift back to my half-sleep, crowded with thoughts of the risks to society because of environmental decay.

Nature’s Touch – the irreplaceable value

Lake Kanyaboli
Lake Kanyaboli

One of the greatest gifts of life is to be able to dream. When I was younger, I wanted to be a bus driver. I dreamed of being able to sit behind the mighty behemoth and pacing around like I own the world! My dream was ever strung around reversing the truck with multiple trailers. Let me say that this dream were short-lived as LIFE gradually replaced it! The realities of process as well as cause and effect! That said, the brighter side is that these dreams were replaced by even grandeur ones; traversing the world, being UNEP boss – ha!  but was quickly limited by numerous challenges and fraught with dangers, that I equally dreamed of. Nowadays, I change the world a word at a time!

Recently I visited Lake Kanyaboli, a satellite lake on Lake Victoria in Siaya County. The scenery was beautiful, the nature pleasant, fresh air intoxicating and I just imagined myself sitting by the side of the lake with a book, taking stock of the changing moments, the rising of the sun, the innumerable bird species, the glistening waters, unadulterated environment, the fish, the people as they scramble to collect water amidst the livestock and the distant hills across the lake that constantly casts its shadow over the waters.

I met a man, Charles, who works with his hands! He is a craftsman, designing crafts out of papyrus which is abundant around the lakeside, as my eyes would say. His story is one of resilience, belief and hard work. He learnt the craft by tagging on to a man he met selling woven chairs off his bicycles on the dusty rugged roads of his village. He persuaded him to teach him the craft and for more than six months he would be an apprentice under him, stirring early in the morning everyday to  harvest papyrus, a task which initially left his hands bloody and his back sore. Not to give up, he would quickly and efficiently accomplish this duty to ensure that he had time to observe and learn the actual art of weaving. To cut short the long story, he now has his own business that provides him with a means of putting food on the table and taking care of his family, running for more than 10 years now. He enjoins the services of two women who help him meet his demand.

For Charles, it has been well over the years but now he feels threatened by expansion of Agriculture and increased destruction of the swamp areas around lake Kanyaboli. His only hope is that he will continue to have the opportunity to run and expand his business. I also hope that he teaches the craft as an inheritance to his children.

Papyrus at Lake Kanyaboli
Papyrus at Lake Kanyaboli

For me something slightly different ticked off! As I watched him twisting together the tapestry of his product, I could almost see a radiance on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He enjoyed what he was doing. There was a subtle state of comfort that prevailed making his work seem so effortless yet also a constant exertion stemming from the effort put leaving him with beads of sweat streaming down his cheeks. He seemed very in touch with the papyrus reeds that they almost seemed to know how to respond when he touched them. The swinging of hands, poking of holes and pulling of reeds almost produced a rhythmic cadence to a silent song that will never be sung.

For more than ten minutes I sat there in silence watching him and wondering what value he places on this papyrus. If the whole swamp is destroyed, it seems obvious what he would loose. In the same step, I reflect on the serene beauty that surrounds me just outside the door of Charles’ workshop. I look around at those living here going on with their daily chores, quite oblivious of my ways and thoughts. I smile and dream. What would this place would look like many years from now. A complete environmental disaster? Or a renewed Gem? It is only the many who live in these surrounding that will determine its future.

As it is for them, so it is for you and me. We can only reach where our dreams go! We can only dream of what we see, what we hear and what we know. Our lives are inextricably linked to nature, we come from it and we go back to it when we die. The dash in between our nascence and obliteration what we can dream of. I am dreaming of a better world, a better people and an even better next generation.

As I settle back into the car, I dream that if I would come back as a man (again) in my next life, then I will be a cobbler! Take care of people’s feet and let their feet take care of them.

Immersing in Nature: That’s the Culture

7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10: NIV Bible

2009
Me enjoying a mini splash in some stream along Nakuru – Sacho Road

 

One fine morning in Schloss Klaus, Austria, my friends and I took a rope course just for fun. An ordinary day it was in this beautiful forested construct overlooking a stunning lake. All it was going to take at least as the Germans would put it is, “kinder spielen”(child’s play). Well, as you can imagine, a rope course embodies intricately thought out ways of making you SUFFER! Easy to start but, “why I am here again?” comes in quite quickly. Walking across swinging ropes, moving bases and all those contraptions that make your muscles ache and cry is not all-in-a-days-work for non-macho people and at 75+Kg, shifting weight is not an easy thing. On one section, I gave up more than 100 times, only to inch forward with a little rest. Of course out only a few of us made it to the very end. At the end of that day, with quaking limbs and aching muscle, I finally understood the GRIT I am made of!

This course is like a mirror on my life. What was two hours of a gruesome voluntary process, revealed to me how I handle issues of life. For one, I never give up easily. I change tact and do what it takes to get the job done! On the contrary, I am inadvertently averse to risk. I like solid ground. Most importantly, I derive loads of inspiration from my immersion in nature, and take courage from those who have been there before.

Recently, I enjoined myself as an audience to a most hilarious conversation. My friends were discussing issues of nature and conservation in a most tickling and ignorant manner, devoid of fact and knowledge! For instance, the assertion that the wildebeeste of Mara – Serengeti never coming to an end is acceptable because as you would say, tyranny of numbers but seeing a rattle snake is Kenya should be most absurd, no matter how dangerous it is! We watched a video of the meer cat hunting a hare. It would first do a ritualistic dance to get the hare entertained then without warning take it by the neck! Who eats their audience really? The tragedy of a python ripped on like a sleeping bag after swallowing a crocodile whole should be a good bedtime story for our kids with regards to greed.

Well in all, I was remained quite entertained with a smile on my face. I was satisfied by the fact that friends could indulge in a nature conversation independent of my prompting. Of course my nature experience would have it that I laud it over the rest on “specialist” matters but I am only so happy they acknowledge the existence of the wild. Geography and statistics can be dealt with at the PhD level when they get a chance.

Nature and culture shape the way we think. Our experiences are a sum total of who we are. That is to say, the richer your experience in nature and culture, the richer your appreciation for creation. There is always something amazing about being walking through the park, watching birds in your garden, watching a herd of elephants, pride of lions, antelopes, topis, the green that splashes the horizon in the wet season, the intense smell of earth at the start of the rains and all else in natures cycle. There is truly nothing more coveted that brushing through a stack of bushes and getting some blackjacks stuck on your trousers, and little compares to the blooming of a flower in the desert, once in every two years. To be there is heaven, a moment of exhilaration, a moment to savor. I must admit that there times that I cruise unfocused through nature that I fail to experience the here and now.

Nature has a lot to tell us about who we are and who God, the creator is. Nature keeps a record of the goods, as well as the ails and pains. So imprinted are the marks that we can tell what happened before our generation and so will the generations coming evidence our attitudes to nature.  Careful studies have revealed intricate dependencies between the earth and man. Getting ourselves closer to nature is getting to understand who we are and why we are.

So just to get the facts straight. Rattle snakes are a preserve of North America’s deserts. Wildebeeste populations have been gradually declining over the years due to immense pressure on land resources, erection of fences along their migration routes and other ecological factors.

Whether you turn on your TV to discovery channel, take a walk in your garden, or plan a trip to Tsavo National Park, don’t miss the opportunity to remove your shoes and feel the soil. IMMERSE!

Climate Change or a Change in Climate

TransMara

 

 

Over the past three weeks, it would almost be “legal” to tell someone bon voyage as you part ways in the evening! Why? Flooding – caused by torrential rains. Nairobi, Mombasa and Narok have made news but the more peripheral regions have not been spared either as some have suffered mudslides and  to some extent flood related disasters. Well, it would be great to interrogate the issues in detail, but here’s my take on the matter.

When I first visited Nairobi many years ago and became acquainted with the city, I remember encountering several swamps in Kileleshwa, Karen, Nairobi West, Upper Hill, Madaraka, Loresho, Ngong, you name it! The green-leafy suburbs was not a name just for the sake of it! It was green and leafy.

Fast forward to 2015, the concrete jungle is being intricately fitted with cement and brick for good measure. Every inch of the land is measured for its worth as real estate rather than for the ecosystem functions that it performs, among them flood regulation! Our architects give a great after-thought to Nature-Design, asymmetrically assigning more effort to energy conservation including lighting and heating. Solar on the rooftop and grand window spaces for maximum lighting is misconstrued for eco-design.

Don’t get me wrong here, prudent use of energy has its role in environmental sustainability, but nature design by far engulfs a holistic sustainability approach that includes food provision, flood amelioration, cultural and recreational services, as essential ecosystem functions.

If Design was to consider these, then we would for one prefer to open our window and enjoy the sunlight, fresh air and amazing view from our apartment, houses, workspaces or coffee shops or we would probably take the opportunity to walk out, take a hoe and enjoy tending the kitchen garden behind the house, sit on a park bench and have our snack lunch, or enjoy the absolute pleasure of interacting with a squirrel, a bird, or a perhaps a waterbuck grazing by the reedbed. All thanks to nature conservation within our spaces.

However, what we have ended up with is locked doors for our children to ensure that the dangers of the outdoors remain unknown to them. For example broken glass, or some polluted element that could turn a Business-As-Usual day to Business-Unusual day! Shut windows grilled with grizzly iron or glazed with heavy blinds to keep out the eyes of nosy neighbors, whose window by the way is two metres away. Constantly lit bulbs, not in the name of ambience but occasioned by the large shadows cast by adjacent skyscrapers, perpetually keeping the room in darkness and all you ever experience of wild-life is the stray cat that is forever sneaking into your kitchen to grab a bite off the leftovers, and the pestering rats that continually spatter their tiny feet on your ceiling in the still of the night!

Silently, nature asserts itself when in one night of heavy rains, it looses the memory of its route. The swamps and reedbeds that once use to slow it’s pace is a house, an office or a parking lot. Places where water once went through are no longer “valid” pathways, ground seepage is no longer available since our driveways and exquisitely tart with bamburi cement product and therefore only discharges the water to other lower lying quarters. The streams are rife with with paperbags, plastic bottles and sediment so that stream flow is halved. The endpoint? You who are lowly and meek (literally) standing in a pool of water half-way through your house or having your car float for a change. Not as good as a rest this one!

Generally speaking, we experience one heavy downpour once in four years, in Kenya. The third and fourth year of this cycle tend to be drier with less than average precipitation. So, where we should place our effort during the in-between years is in building some personal and institutional resilience, and integrating nature designs, into our architectural tapestry. Land use planning should constantly consider nature designs, a concept that will put us ahead of time when it comes to Climate Change Adaptation. For now, we can contend with the change of climate by moving to higher ground.

A – Team 2008 + 8 years later: An excerpt from my journal

I stumbled upon one of my journal entries and it is time for a renaissance! A reminder of where we come from. Read on!

What’s the journey like…. Wednesday 31st October 2007

A-Team 2008 from left Andama, Chris, Alex, Pauline, Felix, Kenya ambassador to Germany, Betty, Atsango, Paul, Kinuthia, Dan

Being the last day of the month, it is very interesting for me and also after a long wait, I am finally in Diguna. I was so looking forward to this day but it is eventually here with me. A bit about my expeditions and how I got here…

I went for the Standard Chartered marathon on Sunday where I ended up among the top 100 :-), I reckon and I find it very exciting. I did it in 27.31 minutes but I doubt if the distance I ran was 10Kms. Anyway, I did it. Monday was interesting because I had to help out a friend of mine (Victor) with his car at the garage, it is also the vehicle that was to be used for ferrying me on my Journey to Diguna but guess what? Everything managed not to work out but eventually I got a taxi from Carnivore area which ferried me to Diguna for 800 Kenya Shillings… a raw deal but what to say!

7pm Diguna here I am! What’s the team like? Felix… ex – Word of Life fella of mine, Tony… very charming inviting guy who took upon himself to show me the details of where I belonged, Geoffrey… my Khumundu from Western, Betty… the one lady that night, Paul… from Diguna Tinderet station, Dan of course… the coordinator of A – Team 2008, Alex from Oyugis and Alfred from Uganda.

Things have been quite intense as we are introduced to the A – Team. We’ve watched a few movies and discussed namely The Gods must be Crazy and also Coach Carter. Is God Crazy is the big Q! Vision and mission is another thing that we are being pushed towards, am I finding it exciting? I think it is getting more exciting than I thought it would be right from the beginning! What is my vision towards this team, what is God calling me to accomplish? One thing I am very sure about is that God is calling me to use music and my skills in playing guitar, writing songs and even offering administration and leadership to this team. The specific of this vision is still yet to be clearer. What is my wider vision? What do I want to accomplish? What is my aim?

At the moment I am only hoping that God will lead. I really don’t know what God wants to accomplish through me but I am keeping the odds and ends open. I believe I want to influence the community, to alleviate their situations through providing them with means of getting their education as a way to their self – actualization process. I also often feel that I need to go back to school and study as to sharpen my knowledge in community development, international relations and Energy Management as a way of working to develop Kenya.

I write this vision and hold it closely to my heart as I continue in the Journey.


I had this opportunity to work with an amazing group-of-10 in 2007 – 2008. 8 years down the road, I now understand my mission, at least most of the time!

By then I know all of us had questions. What am I supposed to be? Why am I here? I am indebted to this group of friends, who were there in between life’s dynamics over 2007 – 2008. They taught me endurance, hard work and team work counts. I am glad to know that we are all destined for greatness. Never lose site! Always love ya’ll. This one’s for you!

And to the Lovely Wife I found! In season…2 kids later, still going strong.

Going Green on the Twos! My Nairobi biking experience…

Well a couple of months ago I made a tough but necessary decision to be cycling. Unlike most people, it didn’t start out with good planning like finding seven reasons to cycle, buying cycling gear, reducing global warming etc. but I must say that I am vigorously checking these boxes in retrospect!! Exciting! For me? I just start and make the rules as I go.

So, after my second fall this morning 10th February 2015, I must find a good reason why I do this! Surely, not because I want to die on our crazy roads but because I want to live, and live long. A bit of a oxymoron! I looked up the benefits of cycling and read that they include increased cardiovascular fitness (check), increased muscle strength and flexibility (woo! I need that – check), improved posture and coordination (hmmm-what are they saying about my…), decreased body fat levels (yeah I want that! check!!) prevention or management of disease (check), reduced anxiety and depression, reduced emission (that’s great!) etc. The list is endless.

My cycling adventure stemmed out of two things. One, the desire to be active (I have played basketball, football, name it over the years) because I wasn’t having time in the busy town jungle and life pressures to do exercise and second, because the doctor kept telling me that I have High Blood Pressure, despite never having such a diagnosis before. I needed to manage it!

So, I bought a second hand bike (Giant mountain bike-God bless ya’ll) and decided that the best way to get this done is integrate exercise into my daily routine. I have to get to work and I have to go home (well, at least most of the time). Initially biking was great since I was using back routes with less traffic. In fact, I have never had an incident until one week to Friday the 13th! My first accident on Friday 6th February 2015, after a near miss with a car, I rammed into a pedestrian.

The dangers of riding in towns without cycling lanes are real as I am coming to realize. First, as a cyclist I tend to take the middle lane in slow traffic, faster and less drudgery from the overlapping matatus. There is need for acute awareness on the road when biking just like when you are driving. Good anticipation and confidence on your lane is also key to ensure that you are predictable and visible. To note: please please, when you are “overtaking” a truck, bus or car in slow/fast traffic and you cannot see its front, be very cautious! Cars, people, animals, carts, rats, rubbish, you name it, tend to just appear in front of these vehicles just when you think you are clear and that is the worst. Both my humpty-dumpty falls would have been avoided if I was simply cautious. Glad I am alive, well and kicking! I was reading about five gadgets to make you safer when biking but for a good part of it, they are costly and cannot replace your head or heart when you get “fatally flawed”!

So rule of thumb, always be confident and observant. Do away with those headphones when riding, the tune of death doesn’t come through them! It’s very dangerous. Also, get the proper gear, at least bright clothes and a good helmet! Proper riding gear ensures that you are visible from a distance and also helmet increases your safety in case you have to hit the the ground. Choose a route with less traffic if you can!

On a more positive note, besides two sore shoulders and a bashed in elbow, I must say that in a matter of 3 months, my pressure has lowered from 156/105 to 131/98, which is fairly normal for me. Aside from the carbon I belch or excrete on and off the bike, I am positive to be living green!! As for the improved posture and flexibility, I really don’t know…

Living on the Ledge: Pastoralism and the Conservation Dilemma

Have you ever thought of life as futile, meaningless, vain? Well, that makes two of us at least. When you wake up in the morning and have to convince yourself that, “I have to live this day because…” Then you pick up your bag and off you go to work. Well conservation work feels that way some time, where you have to aggregate different actions in order to make sense, integration by parts (literally).

In Africa today, many will wake up having slept hungry while others will not give a hoot about having sausage and bacon for breakfast a second day. These disparities exist throughout society but it is extremely ferocious when you come face to face with its reality. I for one have been brought up in a modest family where we had enough, and a bit to share. For all I care, I desire to get a better life for my family than I ever did, and that wakes me to go to work. However, at what expense?

Land today has become an instrument of speculation in Kenya and I wouldn’t need to talk about it if it is such a trivial matter. No matter the people’s tribe, age, status, orientation, you name it; they have glorified land, with good reasons, as a worthy investment. It wouldn’t be so gory if we didn’t talk about the inequity, unfairness and irrationality that innately exist. For instance, it is not unusual that the rich control most of the land resources, usually more than they will ever need, while a majority remains squatters in their lands.

Of most concern to me is the rate at which rangelands are being sold off and fragmented into pieces that are uneconomically viable. Rangeland by textbook definition is best suited for pastoralism, wildlife, animal production, recreation and tourism. On the contrary, these lands are being bought off by large scale investment groups primarily interested in making money out of the land deals. For example Kajiado, south of Kenya, several of the Maasai group ranches have been bought off, subdivided and sold. The second rated buyers are lured into buying pieces as small as one eight of an acre (being what they can practically afford) but the big benefactors are the middle men, who have not connection whatsoever to the land save for the money it makes. These lands are fences with disregards to whether they exist on wildlife corridors or whether they are viable for any kind of economic use. Next, they buyer now has the “tough task” of speculation, that over time its value will appreciate and will sell it for a profit. The cycle continues. Money seems to be the motivating factor behind these transactions. We all want to get rich or die trying but where does it end?

The result of this is that a lot of land is not being put to any economic use, but simply being used as financial gain tools.

Pastoralism has evolved over time alongside rangelands. It is arguably the best use of rangelands given its adaptive nature that emulates the erratic climatic and rainfall variation over time and space. These lands have also been colossally instrumental in supporting pastoral livelihoods by attracting income from livestock rearing and tourism for many centuries. The allure of quick money from land sales is going to infinitely reduce the potential of rangelands to support pastoralism and related livelihoods. An abject trade of Riches for Poverty.

This is why sometimes when I wake up, I wonder if I am going to make a change. A change in the hearts of men, women and children. A change that will stop the changes we are experiencing. But the greatest of change still lies within the hearts of those, Living on the Ledge!

GETTING MY GROOVE BACK: THE ECO-MOJO

Road to Amboseli
Road to Amboseli

Everybody loses their groove at one time or the other. It’s LOST then one starts to wonder what happened over the years. You interrogate your formal work, your relationships, your actions, your age, in the quest of harnessing a reason – or rather an excuse – as to why the good old MOJO don’t work no more!! Some rattle back like a spring under tension, some vacillate between MOJO and NO-MOJO, while some lose it like a rubber-band-lost-tensile-strength – they just can’t do it!

C.S. Lewis thinks that you are never too old to dream a new dream! That’s valid! Wake up though, because you will need to live the new dream.

My tumultuous life is without a dull moment, even in the prodigious paucity in my blogging, there have been questions ranging from the mundane ‘complicated’ to ‘extraordinarily complex’! The simple work I started off as balancing forage (grass) and animal numbers (wildlife and livestock) seems to have been overtaken by pressures on land – it’s sustainability, it’s use, it’s management, and productivity – just but to touch a tip of the ice berg.

Over the last one year, I have had innumerable experiences of ecstasy and depression in the same step when observing natural resources management. Interestingly, both can be strongly attributed to social dimension – the human will – which I’ll delve into.

In order to bring a lasting change, there needs to be a complete change in people’s attitude, in order to achieve that, there needs to be a change in ‘men’, and this gets interesting. “The world is in need of better men” insinuates that there are not nearly enough out of the 7 billion people trotting around the planet. An environmental writer wrote and said that the greatest natural resource dilemma is that the people who are willing to bring the changes in natural resource management are not able to so (due to limitation in finances, social, and political connections), while those who are able to do not.

In the rangeland rangelands today, the greatest issues rotate around good management, at a global, national and local levels. Regardless of the skills available at our disposal, continual land resource degradation still persists. Lack of cohesive plans are leading to incompatible land-use, subdivision which leads to fragmentation, less primary productivity, less production leading sustained livelihoods and food insecurity. Technological development may also be promising more than it will be able to deliver especially with the conversion of grazing lands to farmlands, which also comes with fences that are barricading wildlife migration routes, and necessitating wildlife corridors, which may ultimately be closed.

I must confess that many times I compromise my individualism and ideals faced with grim circumstances but, it is ultimately imperative for each of us first to hold on to strong environmental values, as simple as Reducing, Reusing, Recovering and Recycling. As abstract as they may seem, each one of these can be applied directly to our waking and sleeping.

Getting your Eco-MOJO on! I’m working on getting mine back.

The ramblings of environmental sustainability

Marsabit county is hot and dry. Marsabit town can be foggy, wet and muddy. Environmental conservation in this place is not an option. Pastoralist livelihoods are built around livestock (cattle, sheep, camel and goat) and there no way of extricating this from their mundane lives. Man needs cow for meat and milk; cow needs grass to produce meat and milk; grass needs rain to grow; and rain has a wit of not showing up at the right time or place.

For instance, in the 2012, the onset of the long-rains in Marsabit was the 11th of October, but for most of October and November, it did not rain nice and neat across the county. However, in December, one huge downpour ensured that most of the south part of the district received rain. In January, only three days of rain was left to add to the count and that was it. So, when you talk about how grass grows in these parts then you must be a technocrat… I’m serious! Sustainability in pastoral lands is a very delicate affair which continues to baffle many minds (mine included) of how to strike a balance between forage (grass, shrubs, etc.) and the number of animals. As easy as this may seem, the ‘equation’ is way from being solved.

However, another form of environmental sustainability still looms over our head. The urban kind of environmental sustainability. Recently when visiting Mauritius, I was treated to rare experience of driving through a country that is hardly 2 hours drive from coast to coast. The apparent differences with my home country Kenya (I am talking infrastructure, environment, economy) were stunning and led me to delve a little more into the detail.

Mauritius is a democratic country and provides free health care (that caught my attention) and education for its population of 1.2 million. The road infrastructure is superb and you don’t need to visit the environmental authority to know that their laws and regulations are being enforced. The population is about 80% literate, which is by no means a bad thing to aspire to as Kenya. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy, away from sugarcane production that dominated the past few decades. What I saw in a few hours in Mauritius is the picture of where I would like Kenya to be in the next few years. You could blame the transect I walked and think that it may not be representative of the whole country but that’s for another day.

What I learnt is that we can continue talking about environmental sustainability all we want but without societal transformation, we are just a clanging gong. Empty. Education therefore is key to transforming our society. We need to rethink the quality of our education system if we are to inch ahead. Secondly, environmental, social and economic policies need to focus on empowering the community and reducing gender disparities across the board. Third, development should reduce dependency on fossil fuels and other systems that create waste and provide cleaner solutions that reduce pollution and promote the use of alternative energy including solar, wind and water.

So what’s in it for you as an individual today? Reduce the energy you consume at household level. This includes getting rid of those incandescent light bulbs, using energy rated equipment and managing the use of appliances. It will also save your costs. Choose to minimize the waste you produce – reduce, reuse and recycle. Conserve water (there’s not very much going around).

Meanwhile, I’ll keep with the “less complicated stuff” of balancing livestock and grass.