The fate of more than 10,000 Mau forest settlers was sealed yesterday after the State launched a 10-million tree planting drive to restore the forest.
Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko, who led a multi-agency team of government agencies and partners at Sierra Leone, announced that the areas were 100 per cent free of human habitation.
“For the last 60 days, we have done everything in the open and people left voluntarily. No bullet was fired nor anyone brutalised,” said Mr Tobiko.
The CS also criticised some Rift Valley politicians whom he described as ‘mistaken’ saying there were no families in the forest as alleged.
Mr Tobiko said what remains is the hardest part of ensuring the Mau water tower is restored to its original state.
The ministry has acquired money to fence off 50km of the forest out of the expected 119km. However, the CS ruled out compensation for Mau forest settlers.
He said they are targeting to plant 300,000 tree seedlings on day one of reclamation efforts in 35,000-acres of the forest.
“We are targeting 10 million trees in the entire Maasai Mai forest and we have also done four million seeds through aerial seeding,” said the CS. Mr Tobiko, who was accompanied by Kenya Forest Service Deputy Ecosystem Conservator Alex Lemarkoko and Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya, said plans to fence off the 46,000-acre forest had started.
He said government surveyors are on the ground and a 50km electric fence to be erected by the Kenya Water Towers Agency was in the pipeline.
The CS said they will use the 1989 Senior Chief Lerionka ole Ntutu commission boundaries during the restoration. Tobiko reiterated that no community was being targeted in the exercise.
“No government officer asked any of the illegal settlers about their tribe or political affiliation and we are not doing it for politics. We are doing it for the sake of future generation and all Kenyans should support us,” he maintained.
He said in a bid to cover a larger area, the government has divided the forest into blocks of 100-acres where agencies will ‘adopt’ and plant trees. The CS said the ministry will put in place proper measures that will see people harvest their crops without interfering with the rehabilitation programme. Natembeya said those who will be allowed to harvest their crops will have to first record their details at the chief’s office.
Kenya Forestry Research Institute Director Joshua Cheboiwo said more than four tonnes of seeds will be planted by aerial means.