(May 29, 2007)

Links between poverty and the environment in Kenya outlined in new atlas

From Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya launched a new national atlas on Tuesday that seeks to unearth links between poverty and the environment in a country which, like many in Africa, depends heavily on farming and tourism.

More than three-quarters of Kenya's 35 million people rely on agriculture for a living, but management of scarce resources is often poorly understood -- leading to misuse and conflicts.

For the first time, the atlas, "Nature's Benefits in Kenya," binds natural data like water sources, wood supply and wildlife populations to information including human habitation, economic activities and household expenditure, its authors say.

Kenya's planning and national development minister, Henry Obwocha, said the atlas would help formulate government policy, and Kenya's Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai also praised it.

"As a result of this type of work, we will never be able to claim that we did not know. ... I see the ideas and maps in this atlas to be much like a small seedling," she said in a statement accompanying the launch.

If nurtured, Africa's best-known green activist said, it could break a "cycle of unenlightened decision-making that is not accountable to the people most affected by economic or environmental changes."

A chapter on tourism examines the impact of tens of thousands of visitors on the nation's unique wildlife reserves, highlighting the vulnerability of a sector seen earning the impoverished country more than $1 billion this year.

It was produced by the Kenyan government along with the private global bodies International Livestock Research Institute and World Resources Institute.

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