Conservationists criticize motion passed by County Assembely seeking to de-gazette forest for resettlement

Conservationists have criticised the move by Baringo County Assembly seeking to degazette Ol Arabel Forest in Mochongoi, to pave way for resettlement.

According to a motion by Mochongoi MCA Kipruto Kimosop, degazetting of the forest would pave way for legalisation of Mochongoi settlement scheme.

The MCA noted that people residing within the settlement scheme have no tittles.

The motion has sparked outcry from conservationists, saying people had encroached on forest land, and degazetting it was a blow to conservation efforts.

Lembus Council of Elders Chairman Josepph Leboo said the move was a setback in the wake of the Government’s move to reclaim degraded forest land to boost cover.

“We don't support encroachment on any gazetted part of the forest, even hiving it off for resettlement. If we are serious about conservation of the forest, then we should maintain the little left instead of petitioning for degazettement for more space to farm and live in,” said Mr Leboo.

He said the Government should explore alternative land to resettle those who were settled in the area.

“We are already experiencing the effects of forest destruction. Degazetting the forest will make matters worse because it would create a platform for people to encroach into the forest and petition parts of it to be hived off. We will fight to conserve the little parts of forest remaining for the benefit of the entire country,” he said.

Rainfall patterns

The conservationists argue that degradation of Ol Arabel has affected rainfall patterns in several parts of the county.

“This is a gazetted forest, a home to endangered wildlife and source of rivers and degazetting it at a time when the country is upping efforts to conserve the forests is a mockery. People encroached on the forest and now they want their entry to be legalised,” said Gilbert Kiptalam, a conservationist.

Mr Kiptalam said the Government should consider reclaiming the forest, which is almost entirely occupied to curb rising cases of encroachment of indigenous forests in the area.

But Kimosop defended his motion, saying the forest is already degraded and has been hived off and de-gazetting it is part of formalities.

“There is no forest, almost 45,000 people are living there and degazetting the forest is just making it formal. There are Government institutions and residential homes built by people who were resettled there almost 20 years ago... all they require now are title deeds,” said Kimosop.

“Practically, we cannot champion for conservation of the forest when it is no more, we can only champion to regularise it for those living there,” he said.

Ol Arabel is part of Marmanet forest and a source of Ol Arabel river that feeds Lake Bogoria.

Initially, the forest reserve covered 9,629 hectares (23,790 acres), but 6,273 hectares (15,500 acres) were excised in 1993.

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ConservationistsBaringo CountyOl Arabel Forest