The WDCD Clean Energy Challenge focusses on energy issues in five world cities. To give a better understanding of the local situation, we present a series of stories from within. Here’s another contribution by Ray Mwihaki, who works both as a journalist and farmer in Nairobi.

Kenya’s forest cover is dwindling. We cannot boast the less than 10% forest cover we presently have because we need to do better. Forests serve an important role in our existence as humans and our quest for clean energy. They do more than just provide an aesthetic of cool, calm and green. They have a part to play in environmental preservation, climate changes and ensuring clean water supply for the general population.

Yet, due to this insatiable need to provide farm lands, living areas and fuel for the growing population, our forest cover is suffering. We face a myriad of challenges due to this. Farmers all over the country are decrying poor rainfall that results in less crop production. Our weather patterns are so erratic; farmers are unable to plan as they did before.

Water scarcity

Since forests protect water catchment areas, the encroachment on forest land either for farming or living or infrastructural development has resulted in a new age of water rationing. Early this year, Nairobi faced the worst water crisis in years. Many homes went without water for months. Others had to buy water at exorbitant prices. The worst hit neighbourhoods are the low income areas where most people use charcoal and fire wood as a primary source of fuel.

Felling trees for firewood and charcoal is now illegal but that does not mean it has been put to an end. The prices have just gone up. Unfortunately, many low-income households cannot afford to use LPG gas to cook. So, the business still thrives.

Reforestation project by Sustainable Environmental Development Watch Network (SusWatch Kenya)

Clean energy solutions needed

There is, therefore, urgent need for clean energy solutions that are low cost and can be adapted by the masses in low income areas. The simplest of them could be the adoption of biogas, however frowned upon it may be. But how do we encourage those with little to embrace the power that lies in their own waste and that of their animals?

We need to save our forests and plant trees. We also need to ensure that the people who need cheap energy are contributing positively to the environment.

Clean and green Nairobi

Is there a solution out there? This may be the time to explore it so we can have a clean, green Nairobi with plenty for all. Your intervention could save the forests, increase efficiency and reduce greenhouse emissions in Nairobi. Submit your ideas to the Clean Energy Challenge and help Nairobi get back to being the ‘Stream of Cold Water’, as the Maasai word ‘enairobe’ literally means.