Tag Archives: deforestation

Proclaiming the Good News to a Forest?

I don’t know many churches that will fight to protect a forest. Until now, I don’t think I knew even one.

But loving God compels us to love the stuff he made.  And loving our neighbors demands that we love the natural world they depend on. In the small Kenyan town of Kijabe, Christians seem to have figured this out, and in the West, we’d do well to take heed.

Kijabe is home of one of the most important mission hospitals in Africa, perched on the rim of the Great Rift Valley, halfway up the steep escarpment that rises thousands of feet from the valley floor into the East African mists. For thousands of years, thick forests have protected the escarpment from washing into the valley during the rainy season, regulating water flows and sustaining the microclimate upon which the community relies for food.

Rift Valley escarpment forests hold soils inplace

Rift Valley escarpment forests hold soils in place

At first glance, Kijabe’s forests still appear lush and green. But a closer look reveals a shocking reality: 80 percent of its forest cover has been destroyed by firewood poachers in the last 30 years.  And in 2012, Kijabe’s church leaders began sounding the alarm. They warned of the threat of catastrophic mudslides and the loss of fertile soils. They warned of crop failures due to a microclimate no longer protected by the felled trees. And they warned of malaria outbreaks in the hotter local weather.

But they were dealing with armed forest poachers, and the entire community feared them. It’s hard to picture pastors and elders rolling up their sleeves to fight for the creation, but Kijabe’s Christian leaders took up the challenge.

“We have to fight, even if it means forgetting that we are pastors and become radicals,” said David Mwangi, an elder in the African Inland Church (AIC) last AprilContinue reading

Got Doodoo? Make Biogas!

How many days last year did you spend caring for your Father’s creation? We all know that “tending and keeping” God’s world was the first job assigned to mankind in the Bible (Genesis 2:15), but many of us struggle to see what it has to do with our discipleship and calling. How about you?

Here in Kenya, we see a lot of day-to-day creation care by ordinary people. Maybe it’s because most people live by tending the plants and animals around them. Millions of Kenyans tend tiny postage-stamp farms: good weather and fertile soil mean the world to them.

Whatever the reason, everyone I’ve met here understands that caring for the earth is really important. I want to tell you about one I met recently. Her name is Josephine Muthone.

Josephine is a farmer. She’s an active member of the Presbyterian church. On her 1-2 acre parcel in Kikuyu north of Nairobi she milks three cows, and grows beans, potatoes, corn and other produce to feed her three children. She also grows coarse Napier grass to cut as fodder for the cows. Her husband died two years ago.

Josephine Muthone

Josephine Muthone, with tea made with biogas

Josephine works really hard. By 4:30 in the morning, she’s already walking several kilometers to the dairy co-op with her full milk jugs swinging from a shoulder harness. But while hard work is necessary, it’s not enough. Josephine used to spend lots of time, labor and money buying and carrying heavy loads of firewood for her kitchen stove. Her soil was becoming degraded, and fertilizer costs were eating into her earnings. Rains were becoming unreliable, and water was a real problem. And without a husband’s earnings or help, providing for her family was a real challenge.

But a few years ago, with the help of a local expert, Josephine installed a biogas digester in her small farm, and it’s made all the difference in the world. No more hauling charcoal and firewood; no more smoky cook stoves and harmful kitchen fumes; instant heat from free, renewable cooking gas; a steady supply of free, safe organic fertilizer to enrich her farm plot; no more runoff of harmful raw manure into the local waterways; and more resources to pay school fees for the children and improve her family’s life. What’s more, the biogas digester paid for itself in less than three years.

Continue reading

Cooking Without Fire

About ten days ago, a massive mudslide swept away three little Kenyan girls in the small town of Kijabe. We arrived in Kijabe only a few days after the flood, to find scores of local people cutting up fallen trees, carting away mud and clearing roadways.

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Kijabe forests couldn’t keep mud from swamping the town

We reported on the Kijabe mudslide a few days ago. Recall that in one month alone, Kijabe has received more rain than its annual average over the last three decades. On the night of the disaster, 5.5 inches more fell in less than two hours. The saturated soils simply could not absorb the torrent, and they gave way in a lethal wall of clay-red African mud.

It happens that Kijabe is home to one of the best medical centers in East Africa, the AIC Kijabe Hospital. The hospital treats more than 150,000 patients every year, who wind their way up or down the Rift Valley escarpment to Kijabe, perched midway between the clouds and the valley floor. But the narrow roads were rendered impassable by the mudslide, and the hospital’s water source was also cut, its collection tanks now sitting idle and empty.  Continue reading