Interview: How ESPA science can inform Kenya's development decisions

December 7, 2017


Liz Carlile, ESPA's Communications Advisor, inteviewed Anne Nyambane of the Stockholm Environment Institute Africa Centre, based in Kenya, about how her country could apply ESPA scientific insights to development decision-making. 

Is Kenya measuring its ecosystem services and their effect on poverty alleviation?

In Kenya, we have different ministries responsible for different ecosystem services.  All the different ministries are undertaking activities for their responsible areas. Take energy for example: the Ministry is trying to promote more sustainability around the use of fuel.  The charcoal sector is a big sector and it is trying to enhance sustainability through campaigns like ensuring when you cut one tree you plant two.  The government is also organising charcoal producers in to associations so that they will have a responsibility to drive this forward.  They are also being encouraged to use efficient kilns and use more sustainable transport to move charcoal around.

The measurement of ecosystem services is not being well captured in Kenya, but they are trying to ensure that the ecosystem itself is not degraded!

In what way does your country need to do better here?

I think the different ministries need to understand how interlinked they are  - there is too much duplication of activity. For example, we have a forestry service that might be doing similar activities to the Ministry of Environment.  These kind of clashing initiatives should be better understood and avoided!

How can ESPA science help to manage ecosystems services for poverty alleviation?

Just thinking about what I have heard over these few days at the ESPA science conference: I think the point about understanding the underlying politics resonates in Kenya. Politics underlies all the issues.  The best thing will be to understand how this works, and to find ways to see how the different perspectives and voices can penetrate resource politics.

Also, I think building the capacity of the people who are supposed to make this change happen would be important.  This means people in the relevant ministries on one side, and civil society on the other.  What do we tell them?  We are still working on the messages: do we talk about an ecosystem approach or do we talk about the practical benefits?  It is about language, it is about how we communicate effectively so that we are all sharing and understanding the benefits of good ecosystem management.

What are the big policy opportunities coming up in the future that we can leverage?

The big opportunities are around understanding the political economy so that we can separate out those who are the champions and who can help us integrate ESPA thinking and those who we need to influence.  We have particular opportunities to partner with individuals who can support us in different ways.  For example, the current Cabinet Secretary for the Environment is an academic – he is more familiar with this language and the importance of evidence.  We can use this to help us get a seat at the table.  I think the key is really trying to understand who our champions are and how we can help them to support our position with good materials, and common language to support our interpretation of the issues.