Illegal logging and charcoal burning a big menace in Kajiado

Strict measures ought to be enforced to curb illegal logging and charcoal burning in Kajiado County so as to save the environment from further destruction, Kajiado Central Forest officer, Samuel Kahunyo said.

Kahunyo, who was addressing the press in his office Thursday, said despite a ban on charcoal burning and ferrying imposed by the County Government three years ago, the trade continues unabated with loggers felling and transporting trees at night to avoid being caught.

The officer said the only way to save the environment from imminent disaster was to enforce strict laws and impose heavy sentences and fines which would deter people from engaging in the trade.

He added that most parts of the county was arid and semi- arid and only certain types of trees could grow in the area and if the trade continued then it would result in serious environmental destruction.

The dilapidated state of forest cover in Kajiado County is a result of lack of legislation and policy to protect the environment. The County Environment bill which is expected to streamline the sector is yet to be passed by the County Assembly, he said

Kahunyo noted that Kajiado County was a huge supplier of charcoal to neighbouring counties of Machakos and Nairobi which had led to a sharp decrease of forest cover in areas like Loitoktok, Namanga, Ngong hills, Torosei Bissil and Ilpartimaro.

The officer said forests were the most threatened resources in Kenya as 80 per cent of the population use charcoal for cooking and other domestic uses thus depleting Kenya’s water towers.

He emphasized the need to sensitize the public on the importance of environmental conservation and added that his department had embarked on educating the public through meetings and workshops on sustainable tree harvesting.

The Forest Officer further revealed that forest encroachment was also a huge challenge especially in Ngong where at least 400 families reside inside the forest.

Boda boda riders in the County have however hailed the charcoal trade saying that ferrying of charcoal from the forests to the traders is a very profitable venture earning them quick money.

Musa Kikaye, a boda boda operator from Kiserian, said the business was highly rewarding with one trip enabling him to pocket at least Shs.3000.

This business is not for the faint hearted because we travel to very remote areas in search of the commodity and also a place where even the forest guards will not disturb us, the most that I have ever earned is shs.4000 because the profits depend on the number of sacks that one carries. Kikaye said.

According to the law, Boda boda operators are not allowed to ferry more than two sacks of charcoal.

Local leaders and environmental activists however say charcoal burning in the area has been hard to stop in the county as powerful businessmen and law enforcement people were involved in the trade.

Governor David Nkedianye pointed an accusing finger at the county law enforcement agencies for the rapid deforestation in the county, saying they had failed to contain illegal charcoal trade.

He blamed law enforcement officers for their laxity, noting that while his government was under pressure to regulate the trade the law enforcement were abetting illegal charcoal burning.

Although my government is under pressure to regulate the trade, law enforcement officers are compromised and allow illegal logging to continue, said Nkedianye recently during Mashujaa Day celebrations.

He blamed Forest Officers who issue licenses and police manning roadblocks for allowing unlicensed motorcycle operators and vehicles carrying charcoal to pass through their stations for a fee.

In 2016, thousands of indigenous trees were felled from public conservancies and individual lands with hundreds of charcoal being transported to urban towns like Isinya, Namanga, Kitengela, Athi-river and Nairobi where the demand is high. A sack of charcoal in the areas currently retails for around Kshs. 1800.

Source: Kenya News Agency