By Jeckonia Otieno
For years, Dakacha villagers have watched helplessly as their indigenous woodland is decimated by greedy people.
The woodland in Magarini constituency, Kilifi County, is a hotbed of conflict with both locals and investors claiming ownership. As they say, when bulls fight, the grass suffers and for the Dakacha woodland, the vegetation cover is nearly gone.
Rampant charcoal burning and interest in the proceeds from the woodland is threatening the ecosystem of the area.
After watching the turn of events over years, now some people, mostly the young, from the area have got together to stop this blatant destruction of their environment.
The local group is continually fighting to conserve the land as well as the woodland.
Recently, the members of the group, Community Forest Association, got information that an investor who had been allocated a huge chunk of land for plantation farming is moving out of the county and has abandoned the project.
The ministry of Environment had ordered all plans of extensive farming in the area halted. When they broke news to fellow villagers, everyone sang and danced.
Finally, they said, they were going to ensure that the area does not become an environmental disaster in future due to careless and reckless environmental and economic activities.
But not everyone celebrated this good news. There are some villagers who strongly feel that economic activities such as plantation farming and charcoal burning should go on.
They claim with rampant joblessness in the area, their only source of income is the burning and selling of charcoal.
The association, which is made up of environmental enthusiasts, is more concerned about ‘investors’ being invited to farm in the land. These destroy the woodland to make way for their farming activities.
These investors, says the association, collude with local influential leaders to “sneak in projects that will not benefit local people”.
Samson Katisho, a local, says the community has farmed in the woodland for many years without destroying it. They grow indigenous crops such as cassava which they depend on for survival and these crops, he says, are not a threat to the environment.
“Plantation farming will destroy our environment. It will decimate the few remaining trees and leave the area even more susceptible to vagaries of weather,” says Katisho.