- A new atlas, designed to improve understanding of the relationships between poverty and the environment, has been released by the Kenyan government today.
The atlas and its 96 different maps contain significant and economic development analyses that will be useful to policy-makers worldwide.
"This is the result of a multi-year effort between two Kenyan and two international organizations," World Resource International (WRI) quoted the Kenyan Minister for Planning and National Development, Henry Obwocha, was quoted as saying.
"Such a 'poverty and ecosystem' atlas has never been done before for Kenya. By utilizing it, Kenyan institutions can initiate a comprehensive accounting of ecosystem services for the country. We can continue to develop new approaches to better integrate poverty-ecosystem relationships in national policies and decision-making."
Mr Obwocha will speak at the official launch of the atlas tomorrow.
Dubbed Nature's Benefits in Kenya, the atlas of ecosystems and human well-being was jointly produced by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics at the Ministry of Planning and National Development, the Kenya Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the International Livestock Research Institute, and the World Resources Institute.
The new atlas tells many important stories about Kenya. Interestingly, the atlas discovers the high milk production from cattle in more prevalent communities with lower poverty rates around Mount Kenya and Upper Tana region.
However, the challenge now is to determine whether households in these communities became less poor once they became high milk producers or whether a certain amount of capital had to be in place to support a high-milk output production system.
It is believed that an examination of areas of high milk production and high poverty rates can provide useful insights into the causes of high poverty rates. It could also help promote appropriate milk production technology in poorer communities in the upper Tana River drainage basin.
"As a result of this type of work, we will never be able to claim that we did not know," said Professor Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate, and a member of the Tetu Constituency of the Kenya Parliament. The Nobel laureate was given the honour to write the foreword to the atlas. She also made a videotaped statement during a news conference today, ahead of the launching.
"Planting trees has been a way to break the cycle of diminishing resources for the women of the Green Belt Movement. I see the ideas and maps in this Atlas to be much like a small seedling. If nurtured, if further developed and grown, and if used by both government and civil society, this seedling carries the promise of breaking the cycle of unenlightened decision-making that is not accountable to the people most affected by economic or environmental changes; that does not consider the impact on our children and grandchildren," Maathai said.
The President of WRI, Jonathan Lash, said, "The links between poverty and ecosystems are too often overlooked. For the majority of the poor, rural environmental resources are the key to better livelihoods and economic growth."
The atlas is a step forward from the landmark findings of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment - that 15 of the world's 24 ecosystem services are degraded. The Kenyan initiative will set the stage for other countries to develop similar maps.
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