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January 21, 2019

Mangrove logging ban to be lifted, say MPs

Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki in Lamu on Saturday /CHETI PRAXIDES
Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki in Lamu on Saturday /CHETI PRAXIDES

 The National Assembly Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has promised to ensure the ban on mangrove logging is lifted.

Lamu woman representative Ruweida Obbo had petitioned Parliament to have the ban reviewed.

On Saturday, committee chairperson Kareke Mbiuki (Maara) said they will take up the issue.

They toured Lamu’s hard-hit areas, including Ndau village in Lamu East. The village started as a camp for mangrove loggers who would come from other islands and use it as their collection point and resting place.

With time it turned into a trading centre. Today, it has more than 2,000 residents. Before the ban, they depended heavily on the mangrove trade as their main livelihood.

A nationwide logging ban was imposed on February 24 and later extended. Kenya seeks to increase its forest cover and illegal logging is a threat. Many water towers have suffered massive destruction.

Following an outcry among Lamu loggers, Mbiuki said they had considered the level of suffering caused by the ban.

“We’ve heard the numerous complaints from thousands of mangrove loggers whose livelihoods lie with the trade. That’s why we’re here today,” he said.

“We’ve met the mangrove loggers and got a chance to listen to their grievances. We promise that the ban will be lifted soon. We’ll submit our report with necessary recommendations so it’s reviewed.”

Obbo said almost half of Lamu’s population depends directly on mangrove logging. She implored the committee to act swiftly. A loggers’ association said about 30,000 households depend directly on mangrove trade for survival.

Obbo said the ban should have excluded mangroves.

“Mangroves are literally part of the culture and heritage of Lamu. Lamu can’t function without them. Livelihoods are dead. We request the government to reconsider its decision,” she said.

Mangrove Cutters’ Association chairman Abdulrahman Aboud urged the government to come to their rescue and compensate them for the “huge losses incurred”.

He said alternative livelihoods, fishing and tourism sector jobs, are unsustainable because of insecurity caused by frequent Shabaab attacks. Logging is their only option, he said.

“Mangrove loggers right from Lamu Old Town to Ndau, Kiwayu, Faza, Kizingitini, Pate, Siyu and Manda depend on the business for sustenance. You can’t impose a blanket ban,” Aboud said.

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