ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION IN KENYA
In 1978, when I was the Agriculture Secretary of Government of India, I was a member of the committee to decide on the location of the International Council for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF). It was decided to set it up in Kenya. John Bene of IDRC of Canada, who was an expert on agroforestry, was the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees and I took over from him. My first task was to source land in Nairobi to build the institution. I was introduced to the President Jomo Kenyatta by his wife who was very interested in environmental protection. I had met her the previous year at the UN Conference on Desertification held in Nairobi, of which I had been the Chairman. President Kenyatta was very helpful and immediately gave us around 30 acres. ICRAF came up there and we also had a demonstration centre to educate people on the concept of agroforestry. In 1991, ICRAF became part of CGIAR to conduct strategic research on agroforestry throughout the tropics.
I have had contact with several leading Kenyan scientists. I was keen on enlisting their support to convert the Great Rift Valley that runs through Kenya into a bio-valley where biodiversity is conserved and maintained. Once I travelled all along the Rift Valley with some of the Kenyan scientists, but the project did not come through because there was no funding for it. Even now I feel that some of these areas rich in biodiversity should be conserved for posterity.
One good thing in Kenya is that there are many women scientists who are excellent in their work. Dr Ruth Oniang’o, a leading academic expert in food security and nutrition, is a good friend of mine. She won the 2018 Africa Food Prize. There are a large number of Kenyan scientists who are world leaders now in the areas of environment protection and biodiversity conservation and Kenya is leading the way in Africa.