Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Kenyan atlas a waste of resources?

The new 168-page "Kenya: Atlas of Our Changing Environment" - produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - was launched earlier this week in Nairobi. "Kenya’s chances of realizing its 2030 vision will depend increasingly on the way the country manages its natural or nature-based assets," the press release reads. Of course, I hear you say.

Let me start by admitting that the report really looks nice and professionally done in terms of lay-out, has easy-to-read graphs and tables and many images and is quite informative. Let me give you just one example which you may find interesting:
The land available per person in Kenya has dropped from 7.2 hectares per person in 1960 to just 1.7 ha per person in 2005 due to the rapid population growth of the last few decades. There are now 38 million inhabitants in Kenya, up from just eight million in 1960. The population is expected to keep rising, and land available per person is projected to drop to 0.3 ha per person by 2050.
But... if you dig into the atlas a bit deeper, there is really nothing new in there. Nothing we didn't know already, I would say. Even the video that comes with it is a bit disappointing: mostly things you can also see through Google Earth. And the film has a non-Kenyan voice-over. We do have some good Kenyan voices as well, don't we?

Was the production of this atlas by UNEP really necessary? Does it make sense to do more tests on a sick patient when you already know which disease s/he is suffering from? Instead of spending more money on doing more medical tests and producing additional reports, you would start treating the patient, right? And I think that is exactly what UNEP should have done right now instead of producing yet another report: start treating the sick patient. Start treating our threatened environment by promoting and facilitating practical interventions for example. Kenyans were not really waiting for yet another nice report to gather dust on the shelves...

Also, the report is not very accessible to the average Kenyan. OK, you can download and/or buy the report here. But which Kenyan is really able to download a file of 63 MB? Or which Kenyan can afford US$80 for the hardcopy? And this is without shipping charges from the UK by the way. Yes, shipping from the UK. Why a report which is about Kenya and which has been produced by an organization (UNEP) based in Kenya needs to shipped from the UK is still a mystery to me. Is this another case of hypocrisy at UNEP? The use of SUVs by UN staff in Nairobi has been rankling some bloggers for some time now.


Our Kid said...

Call me ignorant Rafiki, but I didn't know that we could actually share out all the land in this country and everyone including the newly born at Pumwani gets an acre. Whilst obviously this is impracticable, there has been obsession among Kenyans with all things land. The election violence was linked to land in some areas. I think this report should really tell us how many shares each one of us can get in a blue chip company, eh?

Oh.. 'sick patient'? Can you say that? Isn't that in the category of 'old mzee' or other tautology.

I agree that UNEP can get practical but I am sure getting good printers of such an Atlas in Kenya may be an uphill task. Plus such reports are never meant for everybody... Like people used to say in the 205 Referendum: Kama Raila amesoma hiyo katiba, mimi si lazima nisome!

He he.

Mama said...

Thanks for the links Rafiki, I have received some much needed education. I never really thought about the linkage between SUVs and climate change. Hypocrisy at its worst I tell you!

Shipping an Atlas about Kenya from the UK? Wow! That is just on another level, but my opinion my dear, is that this was just but a money making venture for some people.

I am not surprised coz wasting resources is not new to Kenyans. Otherwise what would you say about a country that refuses to invest in agricultural activities namely irrigation, goes about begging donors for food, but has no qualms purchasing tankers that some of us have only seen in Afghanistan and Iraq? Who are we fighting? Who do we intend to fight?

Anyway, don't blame those UNEP boys so much. They are just conforming to the wasteful culture of this country.

coldtusker said...

Sigh... I wish I worked for the UN. They are a bunch of overpaid civil servants.

Did you know a posting to Kenya qualifies you for 'hardship' pay?

Shiko-Msa said...

The moment I see our court of arms on anything I just get deflated. Not on your blog Rafiki but on that report. The national emblem proudly displayed there does not elicit patriotic excitement for me at all unfortunately.

But the report has some education about our country. Good to know. Thanks.

UrXlnc said...

hey rafiki

thanks for the links and post.

actually UNEP and associated organs do a whole lot and have been for a very long time, but the effects do not trickle down as effectively (too little sometimes too late) due to many other factors.

Our Kid is right in a way reports are not meant for everyone, the question maybe whom was intended audience for this report sadly its given to the very people who have either badly mismanaged our resources or are in the process of further destruction through typical nefarious activity.

good job on this.

hey there mama, shiku

Shiko-Msa said...

hey urXlnc. were you on a hiatus or something?

Sukuma Kenya said...

I sent your post to the chaps at UNEP and the response from the Media Spokesperson who is not even competent enough to know that Rafiki Kenya is a completely different blog run by a different person sent me this:

"Sorry Dipesh..you gone from championing the environment from a perspective that is at least worth a debate to level of ust down right petty and rather boring.

You are starting to sound like some right-wing, anti-UN blog/web site.

Slagging off and whining on about everything UNEP indicates to me that your journalistic credentials are zero and shows you up as simply a self publicising, egotisical, aggrandizing sort of chap.

Keep up the bad work!!"

Personally, I feel he might be realising that his whole life is a sham and amounts to nothing more than the spoils of being an expat in Africa. He is also the same chap that admitted in writing that he drives a big smoke spewing landcruiser. You would think they would train them not to say such things in public even if it were true...

Rafiki said...

@ Our Kid: Yes, obsession with land, I hope that may change with the generations. Like myself, I don't own any land.
We have some excellent printers nowadays in Nairobi and even if they couldn't print it locally, they could at least distribute it from here.

@ Mama: I don't think the UN should conform to wasteful culture, they should actually set an example.

@ coldtusker: Being overpaid is also not nice, take it from me. It creates the same problems as being underpaid. The best is still being fairly paid.

@ Shiko-Msa: The court of arms is on the report because the GoK "commissioned" it. But I am sure they would not have done so if the Government of Norway had not paid for it. It is a very expensive report by the way.

@ UrXInc: Feel welcome. I agree UNEP has done a lot, but in my opinion they could have achieved a lot more with the same kind of budget.

@ Sukuma Kenya: lol, are they really that stupid? Tell that Media Spokesperson to get a life!

Joanna said...

I actually liked the report and I found it very useful to my research on Kenya. But I have to point out that you omitted few important pieces of information in your post.
1. Report was prepared by UNEP at the REQUEST OF THE GOVERNMENT OF KENYA. It was mainly funded by Norway.
2. It was also proudly launched by the Minister of Environment John Michuki.
3. It is the first report that present changes of environment of individual country.

I also do not think that price is too high. Costs of preparing such report are very high. And it is available online. I hope that you, don't think that it should be delivered to each household in Kenya for free? It is actually a question that Kenyan Government should answer to. If it requested the atlas to be prepared, it could also make an effort to make it more available to Kenyan citizens.

Rafiki said...

@ Joanna: Welcome to the blog and thanks a lot for your observations. Of course the report was at the request of the GoK (UNEP would not even be allowed to do such a report without that request), but it was BECAUSE OF THE FUNDING AVAILABLE FROM NORWAY. The GoK would never request such an expensive report and pay for it from its own pocket, at least they are that smart. And I can guarantee you that the report was expensive.

I don't think it should be made available to each and every household in Kenya (although a simple flyer with a summary would be nice) but it should be readily available to the average interested Kenyan. Such a large file or posting it from the UK don't help in that respect.

I was wondering what information exactly you found so useful in the report? Because I couldn't find anything really new. Remember, as a researcher, you need to refer to the original source of the information.

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