Safaricom has partnered with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Wetlands International and other stakeholders to raise awareness on the urgent need to conserve Kenya’s wetlands, ahead of World Wetlands Day on 2nd February 2019.
Wetlands are defined as ecosystems that are saturated with water either permanently or seasonally, and currently cover an estimated 3-6 per cent of Kenya’s total land mass. These ecosystems are responsible for supporting diverse aquatic and terrestrial life, as well as economic activities like farming, fishing and tourism.
In the last century however, wetlands have come under grave threat from human activities around the world. There are now just over 2,000 designated Ramsar sites – wetland sites designated to be of international importance under the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wise Use of Wetlands – left in the world, covering approximately two million hectares. This represents an estimated 64 to 71 per cent decline in the global extent of wetlands since the turn of the 20th century.
To draw attention to the impact of wetlands degradation on climate change, one of the most pressing problems we face today, the theme of this year’s World Wetlands Day is Wetlands and Climate Change.
“Widespread destruction of wetlands, including coral reefs, is estimated to result in more than 20 trillion USD in losses globally each year, money that could be used to provide essential services to those who need it most. So we are telling people that far from the perception that wetlands are unproductive and valueless, these ecosystems provide food, water and livelihoods to millions of people around the world, and their conservation is a sustainable solution to climate change.,” said Stephen Chege, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer – Safaricom.
Chege was speaking during a stakeholders’ panel discussion themed The Role Of Wetlands In Climate Change Mitigation And Adaptation, which was hosted at the Michael Joseph Centre.
The forum aims to bring together stakeholders from the private sector, government, civil society and non-profit organisations, academia and the media, to raise awareness about the linkage between wetlands conservation and climate change mitigation, create a greater understanding of the different roles stakeholders can play, and inspire action towards global climate change action.
”A synergistic approach between adaptation and mitigation needs be facilitated by international and national incentive mechanisms for mitigation action which integrate adaptation measures. Standards should be applied that evaluate the impacts of mitigation projects on community vulnerability and wellbeing. Ultimately, it is essential to foster knowledge sharing between adaptation and mitigation scientists, decision-makers and practitioners,” said Prof. Geoffrey Wahungu, Director General – NEMA.
Last year, Safaricom and NEMA renewed their Memorandum of Understanding to promote environmental management in Kenya. The two partners agreed to work on: provision of technical support to engage the public sector on sustainability issues, advancement of the climate change agenda from a thought leadership, policy and advocacy perspective, providing advisory services on climate change action and information sharing, among other areas.
“Our message is simple: we are saying that the private sector, government, and all other stakeholders must put people, and the planet, before profits, and embrace sustainable practices as outlined by the Sustainable Development Goals. This is not a Safaricom cause, it’s a global cause. So we are asking more organisations to join us so that together, we can create a better world,” said Chege.