Green

“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”

- Sir David Attenborough

This quote by Sir David Attenborough is a clear statement on our research purpose. The reason for this study is the deteriorating quality of life in Kenya as a result of losing precious green space. More and more green spaces are disappearing and the population and animals are paying the price. Especially deforestation, drought and the loss of biodiversity are a significant problem in Kenya. As a result, there is a downward trend in livability. To combat this downward trend we asked ourselves:

How can the local community contribute to reversing the downward spiral of deforestation?

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THE LOCATION

The research was focused on Kenya, a country located on the eastern coast of the African continent. Specifically, we zoomed in on Kilifi county, one of the provinces of Kenya. In this map we can see Kilifi county highlighted in orange. Within Kilifi we zoomed in further on the region surrounding the North Coast Medical Training College. This is highlighted by the circle radius of 10 kilometres surrounding the college.

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THE PROBLEM

The collection of data on deforestation can be seen through statistics. From 2001 to 2020, Kenya lost 51.8kha of humid primary forest, making up 14% of its total tree cover lossin the same time period. Total area of humid primary forest in Kenya decreased by 7.6% in this time period.From 2001 to 2020, Kenya lost 361kha of tree cover, equivalent to a 11% decrease in tree cover since 2000, and 176Mt of CO² emissions. However, we can visually monitor the loss of green space through satellite imagery. We collected several images from 1975 to 2020 and looked at deforestation through time to get a visual understanding of deforestation.

A large fingerprint of human influence can be found in the east of Bomani. Strategically located around the main road, investment grounds are popping up which are changing the landscape. The main investments are focusing on agriculture (mainly Aloe Vera). A monotonous landscape is affecting the native landscape and is pushing towards the higher density green areas which are more valuable for biodiversity and land quality. Economic interests are the main driver. By diversifying the agricultural land with various species, biodiversity increases and the land becomes more fertile.

UNREGULATED PRODUCTIONS

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SOIL EROSION -
CAUSE & EFFECT

One of the many factors that are both at the cause and an effect of deforestation is soil ero - sion. By removing the trees and other types of vegetation the ground becomes more arid; its ability to absorb and retain water decreases. As a consequence, the soil gets depleted and its ability to foster new growth of vegetation also diminishes. Then, new harvests fail and people have to turn to a quick way to earn money; by cutting down trees and selling tim - ber and charcoal. In turn, this leads to more deforestation and soil erosion. Furthermore, erosion contributes to a lack of water in dry seasons as shown in the image. Reduced dry season river discharges reduce water supply to irrigated agriculture, costing the sector 1.5 billion shillings (12 million euros) in 2010.

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UNREGULATED PRODUCTIONS
CAUSE

A large fingerprint of human influence can be found in the northeast of Bomani. Strategically located at the main road, investment grounds are popping up that are changing the landscape. The main investments are focusing on agriculture (mainly aloe vera). As a consequence, this monotonous landscape is affecting the native landscape and is expanding towards the higher density green areas that are more valuable for biodiversity and soil quality. Here, economic interests are the main driver. By diversifying the agricultural land with various species, biodiversity increases and land becomes more fertile.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF LANDOWNERSHIP

Most of the world’s undernourished people live in rural  areas  depend  on agriculture  for their  livelihoods. In one study on food security in Kilifi South, 81% of all the farmers were food insecure. Consequently, this means that they also have unstable incomes. A quick and easy means of making money is by cutting trees, burning them and selling charcoal. Thus, the food insecurity and unstable incomes lead to a depletion of local materials and green. However, there are other products from trees that benefit both purse and plot.

INSECURE LIVELIHOODS

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LANDOWNERSHIP-
CAUSE

In the history of landownership we can see how the land has been passed on from the British Empire, to minor but wealthy ethnic groups in Kenya and now to common folk and even former squatters. Landownership as an essential resource is thus becoming increasingly scarce due to population growth and redistribution. In the case of Kilifi county, population pressure causes various landcover changes. Forest and bushland have been changed to agricultural land in order to provide livelihood for the rural population who are highly dependent on small-scale farming. Unclear land rights and misbalanced access to land cause uncontrolled expansion and insecure livelihoods. Secure land rights are crucial to improve the living conditions for the local smallholders. Yet, at the same time the fragmentation of land causes the loss of forestry.

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INSECURE LIVELIHOODS
EFFECT

Most of the world’s undernourished people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. In one study on food security in Kilifi South, 81% of all the farmers were food insecure. Consequently, this means that they also have unstable incomes. A quick and easy way of making money is by cutting down trees, burning them and selling the charcoal. Thus, food insecurity and unstable incomes lead to a depletion of local materials and green. However, there are many products from trees that can benefit both plot and purse.

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KAYA'S
EFFECT

The Kaya are a major feature of Kenya’s coastal strip. The Kaya forests are situated in the coastal plains and hills of Kenya and are regarded as sacred by the Mijikenda community. As a result of the population growth, the border between the forests and the inland are pushed back. Thus, the living area of the Mijikenda is decreasing. The presence and knowledge of these original inhabitants is of great importance to sustaining the forests. By increasing our knowledge of the Kaya, Mijikenda culture and coastal forest biodiversity through biological, sociological and cultural research we can conserve the knowledge and existing systems that are sustaining the forestry in Kilifi.

FLOODS
EFFECT

Floods are occurring on a more regular basis, becoming more extreme over time. Without a natural ground buffer to store the water, the rainwater flows directly towards the river, which in turn cannot manage this extra water as it comes within a short burst. In turn, this leads to rivers that burst their banks. Floods like these are dangerous and lead to evacuations of villages and people losing their homes. In other words, floods have a major impact on the social and economic factors of people’s lives. Specifically, Kilifi South has been labelled as a high-risk area for floods. We can see that this risk only becomes higher if nothing is done about the loss of green.

WATER INSECURITY
EFFECT

The Kaya are a major feature of Kenya’s coastal strip. The Kaya forests are situated in the coastal plains and hills of Kenya and are regarded as sacred by the Mijikenda community. As a result of the population growth, the border between the forests and the inland are pushed back. Thus, the living area of the Mijikenda is decreasing. The presence and knowledge of these original inhabitants is of great importance to sustaining the forests. By increasing our knowledge of the Kaya, Mijikenda culture and coastal forest biodiversity through biological, sociological and cultural research we can conserve the knowledge and existing systems that are sustaining the forestry in Kilifi.

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AGROFORESTRY

We arrived at a single solution that could address the various factors that we described, namely, agroforestry. Agroforestry is an agricultural system in which trees and woody plants are combined with arable farming or vegetable growing or livestock farming on one plot of land. By combining these, the resilience of the entire agricultural system can be increased.

Effects are:

Boost incomes and forest cover / plants, crops and trees are combined to benefit from each other (medical plants African cherry, also control pests naturally for the crops) / Provide diversity of products / Plants (wild banana) grows on wetlands to stop soil erosion / Preserve fertile ground and species (plants and animals) / Forests release water in dry periods

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CONCLUSION SECTIONS

CONCLUSION

In all, we can see how all these many factors can be both causes and effects in disrupting the intricate system of the natural world. By removing more and more green, humans create imbalances that can turn into a vicious cycle of worsening conditions. When layering several maps of soil, rainfall and temperature we could see that the conditions for greenery were quite good. Namely, there was a mix of relatively fertile grounds in the form of loam and clay around the coast, relatively high rainfall compared to the rest of Kenya and high temperatures. However, we can see that the various themes such as economic & cultural factors, water & food insecurity and natural processes all have a part to play and influence the environmental system. In the end, we see the most benefit in applying agroforestry, an agricultural system in which trees are combined with arable farming or livestock farming. The use of agroforestry can benefit climate change, biodiversity, soil quality and secure water buffers. Moreover, it can also benefit the people economically, which might be the first step and most important argument for local people to embrace agroforestry and apply its principles.