Speech by Angela Cropper, UNEP Deputy Executive Director at the Mau Complex Tree Planting Event
Mau Forest Complex, 15 January 2010 -His Excellency Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya, members of the Kenyan diplomatic missions; distinguished guests; friends, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Today is a special day in a special year.
These first saplings, planted in the soils of Kenya, speak of new shoots and new beginnings.
New beginnings for a critical ecosystem: new beginnings for the people of Kenya who depend inextricably on the services that the Mau forest complex generates.
2010 is the UN's International Year of Biodiversity launched this week by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
What is happening here in the Mau today sends a strong and vibrant signal that this can be a year of fundamental change.
Change in terms of humanity's relationship with biodiversity and the economically-important ecosystems which underpin the economic lives and livelihoods of Kenyans-of billions of people across the world.
UNEP's relationship with Kenya dates back to the 1970s. UNEP's interest in the Mau goes back a decade or more.
Our contribution to the national debate that has surrounded the Mau has been the science and the economics.
In partnership with the government and other stakeholders including Kenyan NGOs, we have assisted in chronicling and raising awareness surrounding the damage and the degradation of East Africa's largest close canopy forest.
In partnership, UNEP has put some of the hard economic facts on the table.
Those figures tell us that to lose the Mau imperils services to industries such as tea, agriculture, hydro-power and tourism worth a conservative $320 million a year.
Kenya is not unique in this respect to the challenge.
The international community has singularly failed to reverse the rate of loss of biodiversity. Economies everywhere continue to dismantle the productive life-support systems of planet Earth.
It has been going on for centuries.