ENVIRONMENT

Assist butterfly farmers of Arabuko Sokoke forest

In Summary

• Arabuko Sokoke forest in Kilifi county is the largest remaining patch of coastal forest in East Africa

• The butterfly export trade collapsed in March when the coronavirus forced the stoppage of all international flights to Kenya

A tourist visiting Arabuko Sokoke forest, which is under threat because of oil and gas exploration.
A tourist visiting Arabuko Sokoke forest, which is under threat because of oil and gas exploration.
Image: ALPHONCE GARI

The plight of butterfly farmers around Gedi and the Arabuko Sokoke forest shows the extent of the suffering caused by Covid-19.

Thousands of small farmers around the Arabuko forest earn up to Sh10,000 per week growing butterflies for export to Europe. 

In March the butterfly export business collapsed when airlines were stopped from flying to Kenya. At the same time, buyers in the UK cancelled their orders.

 

Now the former butterfly farmers are invading the forest to collect firewood but also to get involved in illegal logging.

This is a double tragedy after their loss of livelihood. Arabuko Sokoke is the largest remaining piece of coastal forest in East Africa with many endemic species. It must be protected, not just for ecological reasons but also as a source of tourist income.

The Kilifi county government needs to urgently collaborate with the KFS and KWS to increase ranger patrols around the forest to prevent illegal logging.

And the county government needs to explore ways to provide a temporary basic income to the butterfly farmers so they can survive without destroying the precious natural resource of Arabuko Sokoke forest.

Quote of the day: "Either Africa or death."

Saint Daniele Comboni
The Italian missionary was born on April 15, 1831