Kenya has made significant achievements in promoting environmental sustainability, and greening of the economy, by among others banning single-use polythene bags nationally and single-use plastics in protected conservation areas; developing a sustainable waste management policy and legislation; developing regulations on extended producer responsibility, plastic and chemical Management and e-waste
The push for environmental and forest conservation is driven by the critical role the sector plays in achieving sustainable development as captured in the BIG FOUR AGENDA
The circular economy and the ‘green recovery’
The circular economy is an economic model where there is minimal wastage. It entails reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling for as long as possible. It has guiding principles centered around embracing green technologies and gradually phasing out negative externalities.
Within this context, the Sustainable Waste Management Bill 2021 of the Senate sought to promote the Circular Economy by encouraging extended producer responsibility. Through the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Nairobi City County Environmental Sustainability and Circular Economy awareness campaign is promoting sustainable consumption among members of the public to reduce waste generation
According to GIZ, green recovery means measures that combat the social, economic and environmental impacts of the coronavirus crisis. The African Union launched new a five-year continental Green Recovery Action Plan 2021-2027. Kenya has the Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP), a macro-economic policy framework in tandem with Kenya’s Vision 2030.
Waste Management Policy and Legislation
The development of a sustainable Waste Management Policy and Legislation has an international, regional and national framework. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12 requires a strong national framework for sustainable consumption and production that is integrated into national and sectoral plans, sustainable business practices and consumer behavior, together with adherence to international norms on the management of hazardous chemicals and wastes.
Africa adopted the Bamako Convention in 1991 to ban the import of fall hazardous and radioactive waste. When it comes to regional matters, the East African Community established the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill (2016), a regional approach to the control and regulation of use, sale and manufacture and importation of polythene materials and products. The EAC bill provided the regional framework for the Kenyan plastic carrier bag ban in 2017. Kenya followed by establishing the National Sustainable Waste Management Policy and the Sustainable Waste Management Bill 2021 guided by the circular economy on the 3Rs – Reuse, Recycle and Reduce. The rationale is that sustainable development is threatened by the waste challenge that can result in negative socio-economic, health and environmental impacts as per the Sessional Paper No.X of 2018.
Ban of single-use plastics
The ban of single-use plastics in Kenya was prefaced by various global efforts by the United Nations because of the harmful effects of plastic. Kenya first banned single-use plastic in 2017 and later in 2020 banned single-use plastics in protected areas. While there has been significant progress with a drastic reduction in plastic pollution there is still a lot to be done.
Four years down the line, there is still no law that requires manufacturers of plastics to take control of their wastage. The industry -ed initiative, Kenya PET Recycling Company (PETCO) whose main goal is to take Extended Producer Responsibility still has a limited membership base that is purely voluntary, despite intents by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to make it compulsory for single-use producers to be members.
Smuggling of single-use plastics into the country especially from Uganda continues to be a challenge but there is a marked reduction of environmental pollution as witnessed before when plastic waste papers littered the environment.
Regulations on Extended Producer Responsibility
Clean-up Kenya has gone deeper in the analysis on the Extended Producer Responsibility by looking at the 2021 Environmental Management and Coordination (Extended Producer Responsibility) Regulations that aims to have producers take greater responsibility for packaging.
The producers are required to join a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) which would undertake recovery, collection, sorting, recycling and treatment of packaging. The hiccups on the proposed law include the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). Beer and soda companies require a deposit to manage glass companies as a tangible incentive to recycle. However, wine companies still have single-use wastage.
The challenge with the legislation is that it does emphasize the DRS but uses the word “may” to indicate the model is not compulsory but left in the hands of the producer. DRS has been effective for years enabling consumers to be part of the recycling efforts. The second issue with the law is that it gives room for the creation of the EPR monopoly.
A product falling under PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) will have one PRO as a member and shareholder. Kenya Association of Manufacturers already set up KEPRO which is already seen as a monopoly. Monopolies have been seen to inhibit legislation and even manipulate prices by shifting costs back to the consumer. Producers should be members of PRO, and not shareholders as the biggest companies may take the lead and have undue influence on the management. Finally, the law omits the mention of vulnerable groups who bear the biggest burden of recycling. The PRO should set up a percentage to aid the welfare of the vulnerable groups.
Further Kenya only recycles 15% of the plastic it produces, according to Zephaniah Ouma, NEMA Director for Compliance and Enforcement. International Agreements have also caused a threat to the ban on single-use plastics, such as the Kenya-USA Trade Agreement that had a proposal by America Chemistry Council with an intent to expand the plastic industry footprint across Africa. China also shut its borders to most plastic waste imports in 2018 but Kenya started taking in more of it.
Plastic and Chemical Management and E-waste
The National Environmental and Management Authority E-waste guidelines are handled through the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Regulations 2013 and the Waste Management Regulations (2006) as legislation dealing with Plastic and Chemical Management and E-waste.
The producers of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) shall establish or join a Producer Responsibility Organization as shareholders and operationalize an EPR Scheme collectively. The Cabinet’s approval of the Sustainable Waste Management Policy and Bill (2021) shows a clear transition from a linear to a circular economy. The counties are also required to enact a county sustainable waste management legislation.
National 200 million hectares tree planting initiative
Kenya’s most ambitious tree planting campaign unveiled in 2019 aims at planting two billion trees by 2022 to accelerate the achievement of the 10 per cent tree cover, which currently stands at 7 per cent, placing the country among the least forested in the world.
The strategy also entails protecting natural forests and water towers, rehabilitating degraded forest areas and mangroves, development of commercial forestry, restoration of degraded landscapes in the ASAL regions, greening of infrastructure and urban areas, adoption of forests among others.
This takes a whole government approach with line Ministries, Departments and Agencies involved. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko at a high-level online meeting of the Global Alliance on the Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE) outlined Kenya’s actions in promoting the circular economy in the context of the ‘green recovery’.
The CS mentioned the ban on single-use plastics, the sustainable Waste Management Policy and Legislation, regulations on Extended Producer Responsibility, Plastic and Chemical Management, and E-waste as some of the initiatives aimed at achieving a circular economy and environmental sustainability. The tree-planting initiative, besides restoring large areas of degraded forests, and the finalizing of Kenya’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Strategy (2050), will enhance the scope of the circular economy interventions.
Restoration of forests
The Government is targeting 5.1 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes for restoration by 2030, as a contribution to the African Forest and Landscape Restoration initiative. All these plans are backed by the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2018-2021 as a second five-year nationwide sectoral plan to guide Kenya’s Climate Action and the County Climate Change Fund.
The increasing rate of deforestation and forest degradation globally formed the basis of discussion during the COP26 World Leaders Summit on ‘Action on Forests and Land Use’. The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use was endorsed by 133 nations who committed to collectively halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting inclusive rural transformation. Kenya is among the 133 countries that endorsed the declaration.
On March 21, the world celebrates the ‘International Day of Forests’. The theme for 2021 was “Forest Restoration; a path to recovery and well-being”. Even though Kenya did not commemorate the day publicly due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Government urged citizens to raise awareness on the importance of protecting and conserving forests.
Kenya adopted the Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) as one approach in forestry that has been used as a nature-based solution to restore degraded areas. One of the most impressive projects has been the Chyulu Hills REDD+ Project.
According to Forest Carbon Partnerships REDD+ stands for countries’ efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. “Chyulu Hills steady stream of income from the sale of carbon credits — both before and during the pandemic — has been “transformational” for local communities, including Indigenous Maasai pastoralists and Kamba agriculturalists.”
Finalising of Kenya’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Strategy (2050)
Kenya committed itself to the COP Agreement. Through the Kenya Climate Change Action Plan,it pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. Kenya like other African countries contributes very little in terms of carbon emissions but bears the brunt of climate change especially because it relies on rain-fed agriculture for the production of food. This is among the rationale for the Green Growth and Employment Strategy and Action Plan, where there is nationwide tree-planting campaigns and forest landscapes restoration under the ‘Greening Kenya’ Initiative.
Kenya is finalising its long-term Greenhouse Gas Emission Strategy (2050), which will, among others, enhance the scope of circular economy interventions in all sectors, and ensure principles that underpin the EU-Green Diplomacy are aligned with Kenya’s Green Growth Agenda. Scientists have noted that the energy and transport sectors contribute more GHG emissions compared to any other industry. This means adopting a more environmentally friendly mode in the future, with the government encouraging more non-motorized transport like cycling or solar-powered/rechargeable cars.
To increase carbon absorption in the atmosphere, Kenya is keen to plant more trees. Counties have their targets in the planting of trees and encouraging clean energy reducing charcoal burning. Legal tree cutting is regulated and one must have a licence.
In Kenya’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution and Joint Credit Mechanism activities dated 16 2021, Kenya mentions specific legislation like the Water Act (2016), Disaster Risk Financial Strategy (2018-2022) and the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy (2017-2026). The mitigation measures include increasing renewables in the electricity generation mix of the national grid, Enhancement of energy and resource efficiency across the different sectors, clean, efficient and sustainable energy technologies to reduce overreliance on fossil and non-sustainable biomass fuels and sustainable waste management systems.
The sectors covered by the contribution include The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Guidelines for all sectors: Energy, Transportation, Industrial Processes, Agriculture, Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) and waste sector. For adaptation to occur Kenya will mobilize resources to meet 13 per cent of this budget, requiring international support for the 87 per cent.. JCM activities include Electrification of communities using Ultra Low Head Micro Hydro Power Generation system, the introduction of Solar PV System at Salt Factory
b. Restoration of the Cherangany – Elgeyo Hills Ecosystem
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry launched an Integrated Masterplan to Restore Degraded Cherangany-Elgeyo Hills Eco-System in July 2021. The plan provides an overview of the importance of the ecosystem, the challenges it faces, and the need for its restoration and it also provides a legal framework for supporting the Plan, with a focus on the five conservation zones in this ecosystem. The Cherangany-Elgeyo Hills ecosystem traverses Elgeyo-Marakwet, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia and UasinGishu Counties, and it covers an area of 414,928 hectares, consists of two water towers and 22 gazetted forest blocks. It lies within Lake Victoria and Rift Valley drainage basins, draining its water into Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana. The ecosystem is geared towards the conservation of the Kaptagat forest block which includes 225 hectares of degraded areas within Sabor, Penon, Kaptagat, Kipkabus and Kessup forest blocks. The project will need 7.5 billion over 10 years. During the 5th annual reforestation campaign, 319000 trees were planted. The last four editions have reached a total of 210 hectares and distributed 12,000 avocado seedlings to communities adjacent to the forest in UasinGishu and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.
The Cherangani Hills Forest Strategic Ecosystem Management Plan 2015 –2040 seeks to conserve water catchment and enhance the unique biodiversity of the forest, contribute towards meeting subsistence needs and improving the livelihoods of forest adjacent communities, improve and develop the condition and potential for utilization of the forest resource. The approach to plan implementation includes; zonation of the eco-system, livelihood support zone, ecotourism, cultural sites and rehabilitation zone.
Cheragani Hills woes began during the colonial days when 12 forest blocks were gazetted as government forests by the colonial government. The Sengwer community thought it would get back its land after independence but that was not the case. This led to the dramatic loss of forest drastically especially in 1992. Justin Kenrick through the Forest Peoples Programme argues that “thousands of hectares of land were excised through illegal alterations of forest boundaries and irregular allocation of the land to non-Sengwer. The largest excision areas extended over the top of the Cherangany Escarpment (Eastern Cherangany Forest Reserve), impacting tremendously on water resources and altering the flow regime of major rivers feeding Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana, a trend threatening the stability of the lakes ecosystems.”
c. Green public procurement implementation
Green Public Procurement (GPP) is a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works within a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle. GPP policy can be a strategic lever towards achieving its Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP) 2016 – 2030.
The Kenya government can capitalise on GPP to facilitate sustainable development and transition towards a circular economy; strengthen agriculture and food systems; generate economic gains; encourage the SME sector development; bolster eco-innovation; create opportunities for marginalised/vulnerable groups and enhance trust in public institutions.
Kenya’s Green Public Procurement Framework highlights an eight-point action plan to be implemented within the first five years after its approval. This includes Approve Green Public Procurement Framework (GPPF) by the Joint TaskForce; Implementing GPP pilot programme; Creating a legal environment for Green Public Procurement by amending the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Act (PPADA) and Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Regulations (PPADR) to include “at least 30% of the government procurement is to be green procurement”; Implementation of Green Public Procurement in Kenya by Integrating Green Public Procurement cycle; Capacity building; Communication strategy by ensuring effective information dissemination and raising awareness on GPP; and Market engagement, Monitoring and Review by developing rapport with suppliers and ensuring that they benefit from GPP.
Integrating Green Public Procurement cycle includes prioritising goods, works and services for procurement planning and budgeting; Developing, Publishing, Implementing and Reporting Annual GPP Plans; Publishing GPP procurement opportunities in the Government Procurement Portal; Procuring Priority GPP Goods, services and works; Adopting green criteria-technical specifications and evaluation for awarding contracts in key sectors; Reports on GPP goods, services and work contracts; KEBS to develop quality certifications for GPP products; Initiating the formation and development of Kenya’s Ecolabel Programme by expanding NEMAs mandate to include Eco-labeling certification and environmental standards management; regular meetings with suppliers/manufacturers;, updating green goods/products and including them in the catalogues (like an e-shop); developing sector-specific GPP Products Specifications; Training
d) Mitigation of the impact of deforestation and climate change
Deforestation and forest degradation present real challenges to Kenyans and touch on the lives of people, as highlighted at the country consultations held on Kenya’s Climate Change Action Plan in early 2012. Deforestation and forest degradation impact on livelihoods through reduced biomass energy, soil erosion and siltation, reduced water infiltration in the soil (leading to diminishing groundwater quantities), and changes, principally reductions, in precipitation. At independence in 1963, Kenya’s forest cover stood at approximately 11 percent. Deforestation has reduced Kenya’s forest cover to six percent, with the country losing approximately 12,000 hectares of forest a year despite the government’s attempts to alleviate the problem according to the Food and Agricultural Organization.
The drivers of deforestation in Kenya are diverse and encompass both direct and indirect pressures. The REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) notes that the main drivers of deforestation include conversion to agricultural land in response to demographic pressures, and unsustainable production methods and consumption patterns for charcoal. Other drivers include degazetting of forest lands (although steps have been taken to address this, including the 2005 Forest Act), ineffective institutions and enforcement, corruption, illegal logging and, in the case of private local authority forests, unclear land tenure for forest-adjacent peoples. Significant degradation has also occurred in gazetted forests because of decades of illegal logging. Similarly, many trust land forests have been degraded due to demand for charcoal, timber and fuelwood.
Kenya’s reforestation efforts are there to mitigate climate change. Other efforts include; mitigating the impact of deforestation and climate change, and enhance the provision of water facilities, by rehabilitating wells, water pans and underground tanks in the Arid and Semi-Arid areas at a budget of Ksh. 850 million. Kenya has a National Policy for Disaster Management.
Severe flooding affected wide areas of Kenya since the start of the “Long Rains” season in early April 2021. By 23 April, over 25,000 people had been displaced according to the Red Cross. Further heavy rainfall from 8th May worsened the situation, with flooding reported in Kakamega, Turkana, Homa Bay, Baringo, Busia, Siaya and Kisumu counties.
e. The Greening Kenya Campaign
The Campaign focuses on growing trees in schools, universities, education centers, farmlands and dryland. The initiative is part of Kenya’s aim to plant two billion trees and achieve more than 10 per cent forest cover in the country by 2022. The President, Uhuru Kenyatta, issued a decree that the attainment of 10 per cent National tree cover be accelerated by 2022 and subsequent directives that all Government Ministries, Departments and Parastatals/Agencies (MDAs) to commit 10 per cent of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) budget to tree growing activities. Greening Kenya Campaign recognizes that planting trees must be all-inclusive that is the whole government/whole society approach.
The government says the campaign is an offshoot project conceptualized from the collaboration between the National Youth Service and the Kenya Prisons Service. The agreement will round off the cause with joint projects in planting and nurturing different types of exotic and indigenous trees and fruits The ultimate objective is to develop 50 million tree seedlings for planting and contribute to the realization of the recommended 10 percent forest cover in the country.