Taskforce unearths rot in forest management
A report has revealed harrowing details of forests that only exist on paper, cartels bleeding the country’s forest cover as clueless managers preside over the rot.
The interim report of the taskforce on forest cover has lifted the lid on activities that have seen a number of forests replaced with vast plantations belonging to powerful individuals.
The taskforce has clearly demonstrated how Kenya Forestry Service (KFS), tasked with protection of the country’s greenery, is part and parcel of the conduit of saw millers and privateers bleeding the forests.
The massive assault on the country’s trees has exposed rivers including Sondu Miriu, the source of hydropower and Mara River the lifeline of Kenya’s tourism at Maasai Mara and Serengetti.
The mountain bongo is being pushed to extinction and there is no adult mammal in 17 out of 22 forest blocks.
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“Some forests only exist on paper. For example Kitalale Forest Reserve, Manzoni and Mautuma blocks of the Turbo Forest reserve. In OiPusimoru Forest Reserve, approximately 22,155 hectares has been adjudicated, settled and title deeds issued,” Chairman of the Kenya Forest Service Board Peter Kinyua is said to be quoted in the report as saying.
And Deputy President William Ruto has called a crisis meeting next week to consider radical proposals contained therein including banning the harvesting of cedar trees, immediate suspension of KFS board and transfer of senior managers to pave way for investigations.
“The Deputy President, has also noted concerns raised regarding the scope of the earlier declared moratorium and has instructed me to convene an urgent consultative meeting to address and clarify the issues,” Environment Ministry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko said.
According to the report, 30 per cent of the Maasai Mau forest was destroyed between 1973 and 2014 reducing forest cover by 13,281 hectares.
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The taskforce found that Community Forest Associations (CFA) have been hijacked by cartels to expand settlement into forest land.
The Forestry service relies on saw millers and CFAs through Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme known as Pelis to replant trees. However, this process is voluntary and without framework.
As a result, Pelis, which was supposed to allow participating farmers to till land in forest has led to unprecedented conversion of indigenous forests into plantations.
“The supervision of Pelis is poor, inadequate, and out rightly inundated with corruption across the entire country,” the report reportedly reads.
“In some instances the Pelis practice has been infiltrated by influential people in the society who have used the system to acquire huge chunks of forest land which they are using for speculation and larege scale production of commercial crops,” the report says.
In 2016, a local Daily reported massive logging in Ngong Forest’s Karen Dagoretti section under the protection of KFS armed personnel which was subsequently turned into acres of maize plantation.
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KFS has also allowed private commercial interest to hijack the 2.3 million hectares supposed to be under commercial forests.
The forestry service which only directly controls 6 per cent of this land has not been keen to ensure that the private firms are actually planting trees in the five major water towers of Mount Kenya, Aberdares, Mau, Cherengani hills and Mount Elgon.
“The taskforce was informed that some of the compartments have not been planted with trees for the last 20 years,” the report reportedly says.
KFS has also overseen the racket where more trees are cut down than approved for harvesting in the process losing the much needed revenues.
In Elgeyo Marakwet, trees worth Sh40 million had been felled without being paid for while in Kericho County, Sorget forest, Mololo compartment, trees worth Sh29 million were harvested without royalty.
“There was an understatement of the number of trees in the allocation letter which was 7,368 while the number of trees in the plantation was found to be 8,698,” the report allegedly says adding that similar complains had been received from Baringo County.
According to the taskforce the charcoal business which is depleting cover in the dry areas of the country which are most vulnerable is also being fueled by cartels operating in cohort with Kenya Wildlife Service and KFS despite attempts by some counties to ban the trade.
Instead of issuing timber harvesting licenses as per the forest rules of 2009, KFS issues arbitrary letters to loggers without monitoring compliance of tree harvesting.