Lamu residents implore national government to lift ban on mangrove cutting

Parliamentary committee on Environment has thrown its weight behind mangrove cutters and will be seeking to have the blanket suspension on tree products selectively lifted to allow harvesting of mangrove in Lamu County.

In an exclusive interview with KNA after a meeting with mangrove cutters, sellers and traders in Ndau island on Friday, the committee chairman Kareke Mbiuku said the parliamentary group was of the opinion that the ban on tree cutting countrywide, may have hurt the mangrove sector which did not pose any threat to conservancy efforts.

Kareke who is also Maara MP said the committee’s report would advise the government to lift the ban on mangrove cutting as the sector was being managed properly by the mangrove cutting and selling stakeholders in conjunction with the Kenya Forest service.

From the much that we have gathered, whole livelihoods especially in areas such as Ndau, Kizingitini, Faza and Amu Island have been affected because of the ban on mangrove harvesting, Mbiuki said.

Ndau which is one among three main Islands in Lamu has specifically been affected by the moratorium put in place by the national government on tree cutting on February 24th 2018 as the entire landmass derives livelihood from mangroves directly or indirectly.

The legislator said that the committee would also be calling on the Environment and Sanitation CS KeriakoTobiko for a hearing next week to shed more light over possible solutions for the mangrove harvesters in Lamu.

The Lamu economy is tied to mangrove cutting and the same are used in building of houses in the county and now we are being denied our right, said Mohammed Habib, Chairman of the Lamu Mangrove cutters and traders Association during the committee hearing.

Habib said mangrove cutting does not pose a threat to conservancy, adding after cutting, mangroves are allowed to rejuvenate.

The method of cutting the mangroves is done by a special axe and not a power saw that has been the bane of many forest destructions in the country, he added.

He insisted that mangroves cutting was done very carefully to ensure that the trees continue to bear more branches that can be used in future.

Same sentiments were echoed by Lamu Women Representative Ruweida Obo, whose petition led to the committee’s inquest into mangroves.

Ruweida maintained that mangrove cutting does not pose a threat to the environment and thus does not warrant a ban.

Speaking separately Lamu East MP Shariff Athman called on the national government to reconsider its position on mangroves saying there were some that had been cut before the moratorium and were rotting at the Mokowe jetty despite cutters having paid taxes for them to both the national and county governments.

The plight of mangrove cutters and traders is indescribable as they have been caught in the war against deforestation, for which they are not to blame, Athman said.

Ijara MP Sophia Abdi said that some cutters have been unable to take their children to school due to the blanket ban on tree logging in the country.

Kisumu Women Representative Rosa Buyu intimated that the committee will be passing recommendations lifting the logging on mangroves, having been convinced that the cutters were not out to hurt the environment.

The committee’s consensus is that mangrove cutting in Lamu County specifically be allowed as it differs with the type of logging that is done in our forests. In fact mangroves are used locally, following the ban on export of mangroves that saved the sector during the Moi regime, Kasipul MP Charles Were said.

Source: Kenya News Agency