Nairobi — Over 30 environmental experts met last month to chart out a social plan to balance sustainable use of natural resources and the needs of communities in Kenya's parks and forest reserves.
The June 12 Joint Environmental Research Workshop were drawn from government ministries, Non Governmental Organisations that included UNEP and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and academic institutions such as University of Nairobi, Kenyatta, Moi and Daystar Universities.
Kenya is one of the few countries to have achieved the International Conservation Union (IUCN) target of putting 10% of its total land area under protected area status.
According to environmental experts, this area of about 60,000km can support 4.2 million people and an agricultural and livestock production with a net return of $203 million or 2.8% of the country's GDP.
While Kenya has made tremendous efforts in creating protected areas it is yet to strike a balance.
This, coupled with the general politics surrounding the issue of land in Kenya, has ensured that controversy is rife in the country's efforts to implement the global strategy.
Globally, there are over 100,000 sites designated as protected areas in 227 countries and territories, about 11.7% of the earth's land surface and 1% of the marine environment.
The IUCN defines protected areas as an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.
The establishment of protected areas is in line with the global sustainable development strategy popularised by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) otherwise referred to as the Brundtland Commission.
The Brundtland Report (1987) observed that the world is not endowed with infinite life supporting resources and, therefore, there is a need to develop a global development strategy that takes care of the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.
However, experts say, "As considerate, wise and significant as this observation is, it poses a great challenge to governments around the world."