Crisis in Mbaga Forest: Deforestation, Pollution, and Health Risks Loom in Bondo (Siaya)
Mbaga Forest, located in Siaya, Kenya, is facing severe environmental challenges such as deforestation, charcoal burning, open defecation, and a lack of solid waste management. These issues have led to soil erosion, reduced water quality, and a decline in wildlife populations, posing significant risks to the local environment and the health of the surrounding communities.
Deforestation and charcoal burning are some of the primary causes of environmental degradation in the area. The forest is used as a source of fuelwood and charcoal production, leading to significant losses in tree cover. This has negatively affected soil stability, increased the risk of landslides, and diminished the forest’s capacity to regulate water flows.
These findings follows Rona Foundation’s recent pre-visits to Mbaga and Wichlum beach market in Bondo with county officers from the directorate of environment and natural resources, ICDP (CBO) and Light Youth Group (CBO) working in Bondo.
With Siaya having the lowest forest cover of 0.42% slightly lower than the national cover currently at 7.4%. A crisis is looming in the face of the long droughts and short rains often seen in the region.
Additionally, open defecation is a significant health hazard around the 83 beach markets in Bondo. Poor sanitation infrastructure and a lack of proper waste management have resulted in the contamination of water sources, leading to the spread of waterborne diseases. The situation is particularly severe around the Lake Victoria area, with vegetation and other forms of waste clogging up the drainage system and contributing to the accumulation of garbage.
One of the areas most affected by poor waste management is the Wichlum beach market in Bondo. The accumulation of garbage in this area is particularly concerning as it poses a health risk to local residents. There is evidence of human waste, highlighting the urgent need for improved waste management infrastructure.
Another looming danger in Siaya is the artisanal mining sites – with Bondo having 110 mining sites, which use dangerous chemicals. The mining activities have resulted in land degradation, soil contamination and water pollution, leading to adverse health effects for local residents and wildlife with no ongoing land restoration actions.
Most vendors plying the informal trading areas are widows who face significant economic and social challenges. The lack of adequate waste management infrastructure only adds to their difficulties, making it harder for them to earn a living while ensuring their health and safety.
To address these environmental challenges, there is a need for a coordinated effort from the local community and government agencies. This could involve joint cleaning campaigns, sensitization and awareness, providing alternative sources of energy to reduce reliance on charcoal, promoting reforestation efforts, implementing waste management programs, and improving sanitation infrastructure.
Additionally, government agencies should regulate mining activities to ensure that they are conducted safely and do not harm the environment or local communities.
Making the Voice to Action project by the Rona Foundation supported by Forumciv through the recently launched project Jumuika Sikida – a much needed intervention to undertake discourse and joint actions – addressing the issues by key populations and stakeholders.
To enhance forest cover in the region, area – there’s urgent need to gazette More forests in Siaya, starting with Mbaga.
Lastly, the environmental challenges facing Mbaga Forests and the Beach markets in Bondo area are significant, and urgent action is needed to address them. By working together, local communities, government agencies, and other stakeholders can take steps to improve the health and well-being of the local population, protect the environment, and promote sustainable development in the area.
Roseline Orwa is the Founder & Director of Rona Foundation, a grassroots organisation in Kenya that works to advance and protect widows’ rights, as well as provide support to orphans and vulnerable children.
She is a lifelong Fellow of the Atlantic Social Economic and Equity Program at the London School of Economics for social and economic equity. An Aspen New Voices Fellow 2021, and a Storyteller with The Moth Africa. She tweets @Roseline Orwa.
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