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Posts Tagged ‘Yale Environment 360’

Fred Pearce of Yale Environment 360 (a publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies) had a post on some positive change in Kenya recently. It came to me by way of the Christian Science Monitor Change Agent e-mail.

“In Kenya, local farmers are replacing state officials and forest wardens …

“Kenya’s five main ‘water towers’ — the Aberdare Mountains, the Mau forest complex, Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon, and the Cherangani Hills — cover just 2 percent of the country. But their elevation means that they intercept clouds blowing off the Indian Ocean, capturing most of the country’s rains. These places are the sources of all but one of Kenya’s major rivers. …

“Emilio Mugo, the acting director of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) … says an important factor in [the process of reclamation] was the popularizing of the phrase ‘water towers.’ It unlocked a recognition about the nation’s precarious ecosystems and water supplies, and their link to forests.

“ ‘The new terminology galvanized public attention,’ he says. Calls to revive the towers became a national priority, culminating in the creation in 2012 of the Kenya Water Towers Agency to coordinate government activity.

“We are now looking at the towers as national assets,” says Francis Nkako, the CEO of the new agency. In the past five years, 81 square miles of the Mau forest system have been repossessed from illegal settlers for ecological rehabilitation …

“Control of the forests is being systematically given to democratically elected community forest associations (CFAs) that manage the forests under agreements with the KFS. …

“Under the agreements, CFAs are tasked with ensuring sustainable use of the forests, preventing illegal activity in them, managing and raising fees for grazing of livestock and firewood cutting in the forests, and starting new economic activities based on forest resources. No members of the community are allowed to live in the protected forests, but they can use them.” More here.

Photo: Fred Pearce
Sarah Karungari shows beehives set up by the community forest association (CFA) in Kimunye village in Kenya. Management of mountain forests is being systematically given over to democratically elected CFAs.

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I hope colleagues who saw almost the same post on the blog I contribute to at work don’t mind a repeat. I’m winging it a bit as I hold a two-day-old little girl in my left arm and type on her mom’s Mac with my right.

This post can be taken as reassurance that there are pockets of people here and there working to make the world greener for my grandkids and yours. It originates with Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network.

He begins in Seattle.

” ‘The biggest threat to Puget Sound is non-point sources [of pollution],’ says Nancy Ahern, Seattle Public Utilities deputy director.

“Blowhole samples taken from killer whales have revealed fungi, viruses and bacteria living in their respiratory tracts, some of them antibiotic-resistant and once found only on land. Health officials often have to shut down oyster beds because of fecal contamination. Salmon in streams are killed by torrents of dirty storm water.

“To lessen this deluge of diffuse pollution — a problem faced by many regions worldwide — Seattle is looking not at new and expensive sewage treatment infrastructure. Instead it is embracing an innovative solution to storm water runoff called green infrastructure … A growing number of places, from New York City to Sweden, are investing in everything from rooftop gardens to pollution-filtering assemblages of trees to reduce tainted runoff.

“Gray infrastructure is the system of pipes and ditches that channel storm water. Green infrastructure is the harnessing of the natural processes of trees and other vegetation — so-called ecosystem services — to carry out the functions of the built systems. Green infrastructure often intercepts the water before it can run into streets and become polluted and stores the water for gradual release through percolation or evapotranspiration. Trees also clean dirty water through natural filtering functions. …

A 2012 study by American Rivers, ECONorthwest, and other groups examined 479 projects around the country. About a quarter of the projects were more expensive, they concluded, and 31 percent cost the same; more than 44 percent brought the costs down, in some cases substantially. New York City, for example, expects to save $1.5 billion over the next 20 years by using green infrastructure.” I call that having your cake and eating it, too.

More.

Photograph: Mike Di Paola/Getty Images
Plants grow on a rooftop farm in Greenpoint, New York.

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“How will the world find the water to feed a growing population in an era of droughts and water shortages?” asks Fred Pearce of Yale Environment 360 by way of the Christian Science Monitor.

“The answer, a growing number of water experts are saying, is to forget big government-run irrigation projects with their mega-dams, giant canals, and often corrupt and indolent management.

“Farmers across the poor world, they say, are solving their water problems far more effectively with cheap Chinese-made pumps and other low-tech and off-the-shelf equipment. Researchers are concluding that small is both beautiful and productive.

“ ‘Cheap pumps and new ways of powering them are transforming farming and boosting income all over Africa and Asia,’ says Meredith Giordano, lead author of a three-year research project looking at how smallholder farmers are turning their backs on governments and finding their own solutions to water problems. …

“Such innovations are becoming a major driver of economic growth, poverty reduction, and food security, says her report, “Water for Wealth and Food Security,” published by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a research center based in Sri Lanka.

“The report says better support for this hidden farmer-led revolution could increase crop yields threefold in some places …

“But such help could be a while coming, because much of the revolution is happening out of sight of governments and international organizations. In Ghana, the study found, small private irrigation schemes cover 185,000 hectares – 25 times more land than public irrigation projects. ‘Yet when I asked the agriculture minister there about these schemes, he hadn’t even heard of them,’ says Colin Chartres, director of IWMI.”

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Photograph: Noor Khamis/Reuters/File
Boys from Nalepo Primary School draw water using a manual pumping machine in a semi-arid region south of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

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