World Wetlands Day 2000: Kenya

04/04/2000

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Highlights of the World Wetlands Day Celebrations in Kenya

Theme: Celebrating Our Wetlands Of International Importance

Introduction:

The World Wetlands Celebrations in Kenya were held on Saturday 5th February, 2000. Enthusiastic participants from all walks of life arrived at the celebration venue as early as 7 a.m. with one thing in common, "to celebrate Kenya’s Wetlands of international importance and create awareness on conservation of our wetlands".

Walk for wetlands

The celebrations of Wetlands in Kenya consisted of a solidarity walk in Nairobi city via a busy Kipande Road to the Museum. The walk was preceded by a clean-up exercise on the banks a highly polluted wetland in the city.

After the clean-up exercise, an awareness procession led by a music band of a participating Primary school proceeded to the National Museums of Kenya where the day’s celebrations were held. The walkers displayed placards which informed the public about the need not only to conserve wetlands of international importance but also the entire wetlands of our country.

The formal Forum

The formal session was held in Louis Leakey Hall of Nairobi Museum while a wide range of scientific and cultural information was on display on posters outside the hall. The Guest of Honour for the day was Dr. Kang’ethe W. Gitu (SS Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources Development), who presented a paper on " Are Our Wetlands Secure?"

In that paper the need to ensure the existence of well-managed ecosystems while undertaking any economic activity was emphasized. He further noted that the Government is in the process of building capacities to integrate environmental concerns into planning and decision-making processes of the country. Further, consideration is being given to apply economic tools such as taxes, levies and subsidies in environmental management to influence decisions regarding prudent natural resource use. Of particular importance is the application of the "polluter pays" principle in minimizing pollution in our rivers and lakes to ensure that our industrial transformation objective is guided by "cleaner industrial production processes".

The keynote address was presented by Dr. George Abungu (Director General, National Museums of Kenya). Dr. Abungu highlighted the Contribution of the National Museum to the Implementation of the Ramsar Convention in Kenya.

The National Museums of Kenya identified itself with wetlands and Ramsar Convention in 1971. This organisation was represented in the conference that conceived the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971 in the Iranian City of Ramsar. It has therefore a long historical relationship with the Ramsar Convention.

In 1990, the National Museums of Kenya played an important role in preparing the country to ratify the Ramsar Convention and designate Lake Nakuru as a Ramsar Site. The organization was nominated to be the Scientific Advisor to Ramsar Convention Bureau on all matters pertaining to wetlands in Kenya. It still plays that role even today.

The National Museums of Kenya has made significant contribution to the implementation of Ramsar Convention in Kenya, particularly through the research, conservation and education activities of the departments of Wetland Resources, Marine Science, Ichthyology and Education. At present, those departments have wetland research and education programmes in Lake Victoria, Tana River and Coastal areas. Our regional Museums in Kisumu, Kitale, Meru, Fort Jesus and Lamu magnify and localize the initiatives of the natural science and education department at the headquarters in Nairobi.

In 1999, the National Museums of Kenya and Kenya Wildlife Service organized a series of workshops in central, western and eastern Kenya. These workshops brought together about 500 teachers from 60 primary schools to find ways of incorporating wetland education in the school curriculum and identifying appropriate aids for teaching water-related subjects in schools.

An ambitious programme to produce a Wetland Education Handbook was launched in March 1999. With the combined efforts of various organizations, particularly Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Institute of Education, a Wetlands Handbook for Primary School teachers was developed. The handbook, entitled "Nature of Wetlands", was launched on World Wetland day.

Other presentation were from the Director, Kenya Wildlife Service: "A decade of implementing Ramsar Convention in Kenya". Some of the activities undertaken by Kenya to implement Ramsar Convention in last decade were highlighted:

Kenya has listed two sites as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar convention, i.e. Lake Nakuru in 1990 and Lake Naivasha in 1995. The conservation and management of these sites has improved remarkably since they were designated as wetlands of international importance. Lake Naivasha has a management plan that is being implemented by a multi-sectoral committee under the Lake Naivash Riparian Owners Association. The plan lays the framework for coordinated conservation and management of the lake by diverse stakeholders as well as implementation of the wise use principles within and around the lake.

Codes of conduct for various sectors have been produced to ensure compliance to sustainable development around the lake. The planning process for Lake Nakuru is at an advanced stage. There are several conservation programs in the catchment basin being spear-headed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and KWS. The objective of these programs is to address environmental issues and threats that have direct bearing on Lake Nakuru. The process of designating Lake Bogoria as Kenya’s third Ramsar site is making good progress..

Many institutions are now engaged in wetlands conservation than ever before. There are more than 22 GoK ministries and departments whose mandate involves conservation of wetlands in one way or another. There are also hundreds of NGOs (local and international) which are involved in wetlands conservation activities throughout the country. Among these are the WWF, IUCN, Nature Kenya, Kenya Wetlands Working Group, SPEK, OSENIELA and many others. Several CBOs are equally involved in wetlands conservation programs. Thus building of national and local constituency and advocacy for wetlands conservation has made significant improvement in the last few years. Institutional arrangements for biodiversity and wetlands conservation have also increased with time.

Notable among these are the Inter-ministerial committees on the Environment, Biodiversity, Wetlands, Desertification etc. There are also many environmental working groups in operation. Some of the institutions also have M.O.U.s for bilateral co-operation on biodiversity conservation including wetlands. These include KWS/CDA, KWS/NMK, KWS/Forest department, KWS/KEFRI, KWS/DRSRS and KWS/Several Local Authorities etc. Most of these M.O.Us have strengthened joint conservation of biodiversity including wetlands. Many institutions have recognized the values and importance of wetlands and have initiated specific wetlands conservation programs. Among such institutions are KWS, NMK, and NES.


Significance of World Wetlands Day

by Cecilia M. Gichuki, Co-ordinator, Kenya Wetlands Working Group.

Apart from its historical link to the signing of the Ramsar Convention, the World Wetlands Day is a global campaign for conservation of wetlands and wise use of the associated natural resources. The main aims of the World Wetlands Day are threefold:

  • To create awareness of the values, uses and threats to our wetlands.
  • To evaluate our achievements in wetland conservation, especially the implementation of the Ramsar Convention’s (Conference of Parties) recommendations and guidelines.
  • To provide a forum for discussion of important national or regional issues that have a direct bearing on the future of the nation’s wetlands.

In an effort to network World Wetlands Day celebrations, a similar celebration was held in another site " Manguo Swamps" -- this was inorder to mobilize the local community and other stakeholders to mark the day. The participants were once more reminded of the importance of conserving wetlands especially for that particular wetland being a habitat for various species of birds. A small exercise of bird count was demonstrated to the participants by experts from the ornithology department of the National Museum and other experts from Nature Kenya an NGO dealing with conservation. This way the local community can be entrusted with monitoring any change in the swamp.

Various schools gave a feedback to the effect that they had celebrated the World Wetland Day in their own small way. This was very encouraging as it was noted that the networking process is picking up slowly but surely. It also reflected on the results of the various teachers’ workshops which had been held earlier in the previous year to campaign for wetlands conservation.

Publicity for wetlands

Two banners were elected at NMK. Over 500 placards were prepared and provided to walkers. About 30 paper hats were prepared by nursery children from Scholastica Kindergarten (Thika Road, Nairobi). In addition, 100 posters were prepared and distributed to school and pinned in public places in Nairobi. Official invitations were sent to government departments and City Council of Nairobi, UNEP, IUCN,KWS and other institutions dealing with wetlands.

Wetland information for public

A wide range of literature, including Newsletter, posters and magazines were displayed at the NMK venue. The materials were prepared by KWWG, East Africa Wildlife Society, and the participating schools. A Wetlands Handbook for Kenyan Schools was also launched and given to most of the participating schools and members of the public.

Visit to Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru

As part of the World Wetlands Day Celebrations a trip to the two Ramsar sites in Kenya, Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru was organised on 6th February. The purpose of the trip was to expose participants (scientists, school children and teachers and public volunteers) on the values of our wetlands, their existence and the looming threats facing them.

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