NAIROBI, Kenya, May 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new atlas of Kenya -- designed to improve understanding of the relationships between poverty and the environment -- is being released today. The atlas and its 96 different maps include significant policy and economic development analyses that will be useful to policy-makers worldwide. "This is the result of a multi-year effort between two Kenyan and two international organizations," said Henry Obwocha, the Honorable Minister for Planning and National Development. "Such a 'poverty and ecosystem' atlas has never been done before for Kenya. By utilizing it, Kenyan institutions can initiate a comprehensive accounting of ecosystem services for the country. We can continue to develop new approaches to better integrate poverty-ecosystem relationships in national policies and decision-making." He will speak at the official Atlas launch here tomorrow -- on May 30. Nature's Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being was produced by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics at the Ministry of Planning and National Development, the Kenya Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the International Livestock Research Institute, and the World Resources Institute. The Atlas tells many stories about Kenya. For one example, high milk production from cattle is more prevalent in communities with lower poverty rates around Mount Kenya and the Upper Tana region. Further investigation is needed to determine whether households in these communities became less poor once they became high milk producers or whether a certain amount of capital had to be in place to support a high-milk output production system. An examination of areas of high milk production and high poverty rates can provide useful insights into the causes of high poverty rates. It could also help promote appropriate milk production technology in poorer communities in the upper Tana River drainage basin. "As a result of this type of work, we will never be able to claim that we did not know," said Professor Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate, and a member of the Tetu Constituency of the Kenya Parliament. Maathai wrote the foreword to the Atlas and made a videotaped statement at today's press conference. "Planting trees has been a way to break the cycle of diminishing resources for the women of the Green Belt Movement. I see the ideas and maps in this Atlas to be much like a small seedling. If nurtured, if further developed and grown, and if used by both government and civil society, this seedling carries the promise of breaking the cycle of unenlightened decision-making that is not accountable to the people most affected by economic or environmental changes; that does not consider the impact on our children and grandchildren," Maathai added. Jonathan Lash, WRI president, said, "The links between poverty and ecosystems are too often overlooked. For the majority of the poor, rural environmental resources are the key to better livelihoods and economic growth." The Atlas is a step forward from the landmark findings of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment -- that 15 of the world's 24 ecosystem services are degraded. It will help enable other countries to develop their own similar maps. The National Bureau of Statistics (http://www.cbs.go.ke) is mandated to collect, analyze, and disseminate socio-economic statistics needed for planning and policy formulation. The Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (http://www.environment.go.ke/dep_drsrs.php) gathers and analyzes information on wildlife and livestock population trends, human dwellings, vegetative cover, land use, land degradation, crop forecasting, and other environmental variables. The International Livestock Research Institute (http://www.ilri.org) is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable development. The World Resources Institute (http://www.wri.org) is an independent, non- partisan and nonprofit organization with a staff of more than 100 scientists, economists, policy experts, business analysts, statistical analysts, mapmakers, and communicators developing and promoting policies that will help protect the Earth and improve people's lives.
SOURCE World Resources Institute