Mau leads in forest fires and illegal activities, Environment CS warns

Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The country has recorded 180 forest fire incidences in the past two months, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change.

Between December and February, forest fire incidences have been on the rise with forests within the Mau forest complex taking the lead. Forests in Central highlands and the Western region rank second and third in forest fire incidences.

According to Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Forestry and Climate Change Soipan Tuya, the forest fires continue to intensify across major water towers.

 In the past two weeks, 61 cases were recorded.

“The forest fires seem to be escalating. Of the recorded 180 fire incidents since December, Mau forest complex has recorded 63 incidences. Mau forest has also recorded the highest cases of illegal activities than any other forest in the country,” CS Tuya said during a meeting with the Community Forest Associations in Nakuru. 

The meeting with communities deliberated ways on reducing forest fires and curbing illegal activities in the Mau forest complex.

The communities, however, revealed mismanagement by Kenya Forest Service (KFS) that has led to illegal activities such as charcoal burning and logging.

“Why are security agencies not cooperating to curb illegal crimes in forests? Illegal loggers are felling trees, burning charcoal and successfully ferrying them to the markets right under the watch of security agencies,” Alfred Soi, a CFA member from Londiani said.

The communities also blamed the lack of resources for fighting illegal activities.

They said while the KFS is shifting the blame on the communities, the collusion of forest rangers with illegal loggers and charcoal burners in the forests is to blame.

“We are being blamed as communities but the biggest challenge is the KFS. Illegal logging is happening in forests because of understaffing and collusion of rangers with people,” Samuel Koech, a CFA member from Soget forest in Mau said.

And while forest fires remain a key challenge across forests in the country, CS Tuya said the state has rolled out a partnership programme with the French government to curb forest fires.

The program, which runs for five years seeks to enhance the institutional capacity of KFS to manage forest fires.  The project targets Mt Kenya, Aberdare, and Mau forest and will incorporate forest fire response, education, and training of staff.

“The programme will ensure we have modern forest fires management. There will be a detection system and forest fire centers. Ground and aerial surveillance will be conducted regularly,” CS Tuya said.