Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Professor Judy Wakhungu,
The Honorable Joyce Laboso,
Deputy Speaker, Kenya National Assembly,
Narok County Governor, Samuel Ole Tunai,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Mabibi na mbwana
Hamjambo! Habari zenu!
Thank you for the opportunity to speakbtoday about the protection of wildlife and the conservation of Kenya’s naturalbresources.bConservation and environmentalbprotection are critical issues to all of us in this room today. In fact, it is critical to the future of the entire world as more and more species become endangered and ecosystems degrade due to human encroachment and the effects of climate change. I am pleased that we are coming together today as leaders to help shape a future that protects wildlife and biodiversity.
Kenya is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife on Earth. Yet, increasingly, the effects of rapid population growth and accelerating climate change threaten Kenya’s natural heritage. There are many challenges. They range from climate change to poaching to deforestation and overall loss of habitat. These challenges hamper economic growth, threaten livelihoods, and undermine the country’s future. Indeed, as the late Wangaari Maathai once said, “If you destroy nature, nature will destroy you.” Conservation of wildlife and resources is essential for our sake, and for the sake of our children.
Yet during my time in Kenya, the country has taken significant steps to tackling these pressing challenges. The Government of Kenya has put in place a strong new Wildlife Act with serious penalties for trafficking in wildlife. The poaching of elephants is down. The Kenya Wildlife Service is increasing its cadre of rangers, recently graduating 592 rangers from the KWS training facility in Manyani. And community conservancies are making strides to build peace and protect wildlife. The community conservancy model demonstrates the importance of community engagement in issues that matter to them— grazing and water for their livestock, employment for their youth, education for their children, and protecting their environment and wildlife. Groups that fought over scarce resources are now meeting and taking ownership of how they can share them and are working with government agencies like the Kenya Wildlife Service as partners. These community conservancy methods now serve as a model for conservation around the world.
I am very pleased to see that Kenya’s business community, represented by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance – better known as KEPSA – has joined forces with the Parliamentary Conservation Caucus to discuss challenges faced in protecting and managing Kenya’s natural resources. This is an excellent opportunity to expand the dialogue and strengthen collaboration on these critical issues. The best way to fight these problems and preserve Kenya’s natural heritage is through cooperation. Kenya’s business community, government policymakers, civil society, and citizens must all do their part.
As must international partners. And, in this area, Kenya and the United States have long been strong friends. We work with organizations across Kenya, including the Lewa Conservancy and the Northern Rangelands Trust. Initiatives like this have helped to reduce elephant poaching and is providing a new lifeline for Kenya’s endangered rhino population. Over the next five years, we intend to expand our community conservancy partnerships beyond Northern and Coastal Kenya to other critical areas including in the Masai Mara, Amboseli, and Tsavo.
And we have recently made significant new awards in support of conservation in Kenya. These new partnerships represent a $29 million commitment by the U.S. government to support additional community conservancies, wildlife research, national conservation policies, and to combat illegal wildlife crime. I look forward to launching these new programs, in partnership with our Kenyan partners, in the coming months.
Promoting good governance and the rule of law also help countries to protect the environment through stronger land tenure systems and the enforcement of environmental laws. President Obama and President Kenyatta committed our two nations to working together to tackle it here when they agreed to a wide range of steps that will help address the problem of corruption head on. We believe these steps will show that environmental and wildlife crimes are no longer low risk/high-reward criminal activities but that perpetrators will face the full weight of the law.
While significant challenges remain here in Kenya and across Africa, the presence of everyone here today gives me hope. The steps we are taking to promote conservation through initiatives like this one give me hope. We need to further encourage government, business, civil society, international partners, and average citizens to engage to protect wildlife and strengthen conservation. Together, we can succeed. Together, we can conserve wildlife and ecosystems while also building a prosperous future.
Thank you all for coming.
Pamoja tusonge mbele.