Residents push for gazettement of Loita Forest as Community Forest

Residents of Loita area in Narok South Sub County want the government to gazette Loita Forest as a community forest to enable them protect the forest against logging and charcoal burning.

The residents accused the local administration of collaborating with people from outside counties thus abetting logging and burning of charcoal in the indigenous forest.

They put the request on Thursday when a task force from the Ministry of Environment that is looking into Forestry Management visited the forest estimated to be 33, 000 Kilometers Square stretch.

The Loita Council of Elders Vice Chairman, Daniel Siloma said before the local administration took control of the forest ten years ago, no logging activities took place in it as the community through their spiritual leaders ‘Olaibooni’ dictated who should be allowed into the forest.

We guarded the forest as we guard our cows. If a member of the community needed timber or posts, he or she had to approach the local forest committee that allowed the individual to remove and use the fallen trees in the forest, he said.

He said when the area Assistant County Commissioners (ACC) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) were given the mandate to guard the forest, things changed immediately with many lorries being seen in the forest transporting timber and posts.

The local administration officers come and go, but we who live here know the benefits of the forest. Most of our traditional rituals like moranism and cleansing take place in the forest hence it is a taboo to destroy the forest, Siloma said.

He added research shows the forest has numerous tree species, wild animals and birds; the more reason the community was willing to preserve it.

Moses Kisotu, an elder from the area asked the government to allow the locals to build tourist camps in the forest to earn income and accord researchers and other visitors a conducive environment as they traverse the forest.

The community will largely benefit from the forest if we build camps where both local and international tourists can visit. The income generated will be used to improve on infrastructure and building schools and hospitals in the area, he said.

The Task Force Committee Chairman, Ernest Nadome confessed that Loita forest was among the best conserved forests in the country hence combined effort from the local administration and residents was needed in protecting it.

Nadome said it was clear from residents that in the recent past, the administration had allowed logging and if the trend continued, the forest would be massively destroyed.

The residents have told us of massive corruption where people bribe the officials to cut trees even near the water sources which is very dangerous, he said.

Nadome said they would recommend for the gazettement of the forest to avoid possibilities of people grabbing its land.

The Narok County Commissioner (CC), George Natembeya who visited the forest said the delay to gazette the forest as Community forest was because the entire Loita land was not demarcated.

Natembeya, who is barely two months old in the County, said he would investigate the matter where his officers were alleged of taking bribes to allow logging in the forest.

Source: Kenya News Agency