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NEWS RELEASE: Connections Between Poverty and Ecosystems Mapped in New Kenya Atlas

by World Resources Institute — last modified Jan 10, 2013 07:30 AM © 2007 World Resources Institute In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only.
Nature's Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being. (2007 - 164 pages) This report provides a new approach to integrating spatial data on poverty and ecosystems in Kenya. It is endorsed by five Permanent Secretaries in Kenya and with a Foreword by Wangari Maathai (recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize). WRI; Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Kenya; Central Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Planning and National Development, ! Kenya; International Livestock Research Institute.

A lo-res copy of Nature's Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being in pdf format is here.

The link to the book's location on WRI’s website is

A related presentation and web-interactive tool is located here 

NAIROBI, KENYA, May 29, 2007 -- 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.

Nature's Benefits in Kenya mapNature's Benefits in Kenya map legend

This map from Nature’s Benefits in Kenya outlines the upper watersheds of the Tana River and combines that with poverty rates in 222 administrative areas. Most of the poorer communities are located in the drier plains downstream of the foothills of the Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya. The quantity and quality of the surface water supply for these poorer communities is highly dependent upon the use of land and water resources by the upstream communities. If upstream users withdraw large quantities of water, little is left for families downstream. If upstream users contaminate the water supply, families downstream bear the consequences. Once communities and decision-makers are aware of these relationships, they can investiga! te thes e issues further and make better management and policy decisions. Similarly, other maps in the Atlas show how and where people derive benefits from the land and how that relates to the spatial pattern of human well-being. The Atlas is designed to inspire improved analysis of poverty-environment relationships and informed decision-making.

“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.

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Additional Resource: Journalist Guide to Nature’s Benefits in Kenya (PDF; 770 KB)



The National Bureau of Statistics ( is mandated to collect, analyze, and disseminate socio-economic statistics needed for planning and policy formulation.

The Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.

For more information, contact:

World Resources Institute
Nate Kommers, media officer,
Paul Mackie, senior media officer,
Rosemary Okello-Orlale, African Woman and Child Feature Service,! rookell


The World Resources Institute ( is an environmental think tank that goes beyond research to create practical ways to protect the Earth and improve people's lives. For information on WRI events, publications, research projects and experts, contact: Nate Kommers, Media Officer,

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