Kitui Charcoal dealers cry foul as ban intensifies

Charcoal traders in Kitui are now feeling the pinch of a recently imposed ban on the production and transportation of the commodity in the county by governor Charity Ngilu.

The dealers complain that following Ms Ngilu’s charcoal ban, transportation costs gave shot up three fold.

This, the traders complain was diminishing their earnings.

Speaking to KNA on Thursday, a cross section of the charcoal traders attributed the hiked transportation costs to prohibition of charcoal ferrying by lorries and pick-up trucks.

We are forced to ferry the charcoal bags on motorcycles and donkey carts which is quite costly compared to lorries and pick-up trucks, said Joyce Mutemi, who sells charcoal in Kitui town.

Mrs. Mutemi said the charcoal business has been her only source of livelihood for over a decade and she was bitter that earnings have now nose-dived due to the ban.

This job has been my sole source of income for more than ten years. It has enabled me to feed and educate my children since my husband is jobless, she explained.

Mutemi’s colleague, Mercy Kimanzi, regretted that the increased transport costs had seen their earnings drop from the previous Sh.150 per bag to only Sh.50 since the ban was imposed.

The traders pleaded with Governor Charity Ngilu’s administration to reconsider its position on transportation of the commodity within the county so as to save their dwindling businesses.

We beseech Governor Charity Ngilu to issue us with special permits allowing local charcoal dealers to at least ferry the commodity using pick-up trucks in order to help us cut down on transportation costs and restore our earnings, pleaded Mrs. Kimanzi.

On January 17 this year, the county and national governments issued a directive banning all charcoal and sand businesses within the county in a bid to curb adverse climatic change and environmental degradation occasioned by the venture.

Governor Ngilu revealed that charcoal traders transport a monthly average of 2000 lorries of charcoal outside Kitui, an indication that there has been massive destruction of local forests.

She also affirmed her administration’s commitment towards making the ban a success, adding that the decision was a turning point in saving Kitui from absolute environmental degradation.

We are keen to ensure that our forests and water sources are protected and preserved at whatever cost so that we can gradually reverse the adverse effects occasioned by charcoal burning and sand mining in our county, she said.

The County Executive for Environment and Natural Resources, John Makau, however, affirmed that the ban would not prohibit internal consumption or sale of charcoal and sand.

But implementation of the ban outlawing the multi-million shilling venture has not been without challenges.

The ban took an ugly turn after a truck ferrying charcoal was on February 8 set ablaze by unknown arsonists at Kanyonyoo market along the Thika-Garissa highway.

The incident sparked uproar among Kiambu County leaders led by Governor Ferdinand Waititu and business community demanding arrest of Governor Ngilu over allegations that she was inciting youths in Kitui to burn down charcoal trucks.

As Mrs. Ngilu appeared before the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to answer hate speech claims on February 26 this year, protestors blocked three major roads in Limuru for close to four hours demanding her arrest and prosecution over burning of the vehicle.

They even deflated tyres of more than 100 vehicles among them long distance trucks and Public Service Vehicles totally paralysing transportation along the Great North Road which connects Limuru-Naivasha, Limuru-Mai Mahiu and Limuru-Ruaka routes.

On Monday, Governor Waititu filed a petition in court seeking legal action Ngilu for allegedly inciting Kitui residents against charcoal dealers from Kiambu County.

Source: Kenya News Agency