• Destruction caused by illegal logging has posed a significant threat to the forest’s ecosystem.
• The forest serves as a key water catchment area for hundreds of residents in lowlands of Mbololo and Mwatate.
The Taita Taveta government has intensified efforts to end illegal logging at Mwambirwa forest.
County water, sanitation, environment, climate change, and natural resources executive Granton Mwandawiro said the department is working with the Kenya Forest Service and Mwambirwa community to end the vice.
Mwambirwa, one of the county's largest forests, has been a prime target for illegal loggers, derailing afforestation efforts.
"Illegal logging remains strictly prohibited despite the recent lifting of the ban on logging in plantation forests. We have intensified our efforts to ensure no further logging," Mwandawiro said on Sunday.
More than 3,000 round poles, which were illegally cut from the forest, were last week confiscated during an operation to nab loggers.
The executive said continued destruction by illegal logging has posed a significant threat to the forest’s ecosystem.
“The department is determined to curb these illegal activities through increased forest patrols and stricter law enforcement,” Mwandawiro said.
He further urged residents to report any suspicious activities related to logging or charcoal burning in the forest, noting that community involvement is key in restoring the forest.
"Increased community participation in forest rehabilitation and protection will play a central role in curbing logging and charcoal burning," Mwandawiro said.
Charcoal burning, he said, has been attributed to a series of forest fires that have destroyed parts of the forest.
The forest serves as a key water catchment area for hundreds of residents in lowlands of Mbololo and Mwatate.
It is among the forests earmarked for a county tree-planting challenge that targets to grow at least 360 million by the year 2032.
The county targets to increase the forest cover from the current 3.4 per cent to 10 per cent by 2032. Further, it projects to increase tree cover to 30 per cent from the current eight per cent.
Mwandawiro said the devolved unit is also keen on promoting education and awareness on sustainable environmental conservation practices in a bid to boost the region's forest cover.
He appealed to residents to embrace nature-based enterprises and alternative income generation initiatives to ease the pressure on forest resources.