PROPOSED AMENDMENTS

Conservationists reject law change to alter forest boundaries

A section of leaders have been agitating to have boundaries of protected forests altered to settle squatters

In Summary

• Some 35 leading public and private organizations tasked with the conservation and management of forests in the country said “the move is insensitive and ill-informed”

• The proposed amendments seek to vest the power to determine the fate of any of such petitions on legislators without consultation of KFS.

Rhino Ark executive director Christian Lambrechts, East Africa Wildlife Society chairlady Elizabeth Gitari and Kenya Forest Working group Joram Kagombe during a press conference in Nairobi on January 24.
SPELLING DOOM: Rhino Ark executive director Christian Lambrechts, East Africa Wildlife Society chairlady Elizabeth Gitari and Kenya Forest Working group Joram Kagombe during a press conference in Nairobi on January 24.
Image: ENOS TECHE

The proposed amendments to forest laws are designed to give politicians a free hand in dishing out protected forests to their supporters.

That is the view of conservation organisations who say “the move is insensitive and ill-informed”.

“The current Forest Act and its sections 34(2A) were carefully drafted in response to arbitrary excisions that led to wanton destruction of forests in the 1990s and early 2000.

"Indeed, before the introduction of the section, approximately 5,000 hectares (12,355.25 acres) of public forests were excised every year, representing an area five times the size of Karura Forest Reserve,” East Africa Wild Life Society chairperson Elizabeth Gitari said.

Gitari read the joint statement by conservationist at East Africa Wild Life Society officesin Riara on Monday.

She urged MPs to withdraw the amendments.

The chairperson said unwarranted excision got out of control in 2001 when 160,618.25 acres of forest land was excised in one day.

She said the introduction of strict laws ensured that no legal excision of public forest took place.

"This has made the general public and international community have high regard for the national aspirations to conserve and protect forests. This gain is likely to be lost by the proposed change," Gitaru said. 

A number of leaders, including MPs and Governors, have been agitating to have boundaries for protected forests altered to settle squatters.

Some of the forests targeted include portions of Mau Complex, Ngong Road, Kamiti, Kiambu, Ngong hills and Mount Elgon.

Other forests are Embobut, Marmanet, Turbo, Bahati, and Chepalungu, Arabel forest in Mochongoi and Nyangweta forest in Kisii.

The statement was signed by Kenya Forest Working Group, EAWLS, World Wide Fund for Nature Kenya, Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Forest Research Institute, National Alliance of Community Forest Association, Natural resources Forum and Green Kids’ Museum Kenya.

Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, WildlifeDirect, Nature Kenya, CISSTA Kenya, Kwale County Natural Resource Network, Forest Society of Kenya, Mount Kenya Trust, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, Transfo Green World and Forsmart limited also signed.

Others are Kenya Green University Network, Campde voices, Cheche Community Forest Association, Soluzioni Sostenibili Di Energia, Friends of Lembus Forest, Lembus Foundation, Ngong Road Forest Community Forest Association and Center for Science and Technology Innovation.

Forest Resource International, Baringo Water Resource Users Association, Conservation Alliance of Kenya, Mount Kenya Community Forest Association, Nairobi Forest Conservation Committee, University of Nairobi’s Wangari Maathai Institute of Climate Change, Green Belt Movement, and Environment Institute of Kenya also signed.

Gitari was flanked by EAWLS executive director Nancy Ogonje, chair Kenya Forest Working Group Joram Kagombe and Conservation Alliance of Kenya executive director Steve Itela.

Chair Environment Institute of Kenya Linda Munyao, Rhino Ark executive director Christian Lambrechts and acting executive director Green Belt Movement William Kibiegon were also present 

(Edited by Bilha Makokha)