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EXPERT COMMENT

Forest land must be protected from grabbers

In Summary

• In forests such as Ngong Road Forest, Kaptagat and Embobut, we need to work with communities through village elders to demarcate the boundaries clearly before finding a way of regulating them.

• When a common title is handed out, the community will protect the forest better than government institutions.

Environment CS Keriako Tobiko plants an Elgon Teak at Miotoni, Ngong Road Forest, on June 19, 2020 as KFS Board Chairman Peter Kinyua looks on
Environment CS Keriako Tobiko plants an Elgon Teak at Miotoni, Ngong Road Forest, on June 19, 2020 as KFS Board Chairman Peter Kinyua looks on
Image: /MAUREEN KINYANJUI

Public land must be clearly zoned out before being legally protected from potential land grabbers.

The parcels, large or small, should then be registered to communities that are direct and indirect beneficiaries.

That is the approach we have taken at Loita Forest because people who did adjudication got deep into the forest knowing they might benefit.

We have pushed for demarcation by using a scientific tool.

In forests such as Ngong Road Forest, Kaptagat and Embobut, we need to work with communities through village elders to demarcate the boundaries clearly before finding a way of regulating them.

When a common title is handed out, the community will protect the forest better than government institutions.

We need to zone out the ecologically sensitive areas such as rivers, riparian areas and grass land, because sometimes these areas are grabbed because people do not appreciate their importance.

This means all ecosystem services they the community enjoys such as timber, food, fuel, ecological functions such as carbon storage, nutrient cycling, water and air purification must be documented.

The maintenance of wildlife habitat, social and cultural benefits such as recreation, traditional resource uses must be take in into account.

 
 
 

Once they have been zoned out and there is land use policy and strategies to protect them, the forest is registered to a community for protection.

Common places such as markets and schools are also factored in the zoning plans.

This approach makes grabbing or illegal allocations virtually impossible.

Forests in the United States of America, for instance, have been secured using the above method.

This is the same way we protected Lake Nakuru, as one of our first project by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The Lake Nakuru National Park is a world-famous conservation area. It faces ever increasing pressure from surrounding human activities.

This conservation area plays a valuable role in the Kenyan tourist industry.

It is a national and international asset that must be protected.

We have supported the conservation of Lake Nakuru National Park for the past 25 years. This support included the purchase of land to expand the park to an ecologically sustainable size, the establishment of a sanctuary for the black rhino and support for wildlife clubs.

In 1988, we initiated the Lake Nakuru Conservation and Development project.

The project has promoted the adoption of sound conservation practices in the developments within the lake's catchment area.

Between 1988 to 1991, some of the critical problems identified included soil erosion and industrial chemicals seeping into the lake.

But with the help of donors we resolved the challenges.

We transferred to the land to KWS and is now 100 per cent owned by the parastatal.

 

Zachary Maritim is a Marine and Terrestrial Spatial Planning, RAP & Acquisition Expert and the Spatial Planning Manager at WWF-Kenya.