A section of beekeepers has protested after Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki’s ban on beekeeping in forested hills, to conserve the environment.
Mr Njuki issued two Executive Orders to conserve natural forests, with the ban on beekeeping in the hills evoking protests by residents who have placed a large number of bee hives in the hills.
Speaking when he launched a tree planting drive at Kathwana in Tharaka Governor Njuki said people were destroying forested hills in the county through charcoal burning, in the guise of beekeeping in the areas.
Njuki said his administration was making great efforts to conserve the environment and would no longer entertain charcoal burning.
“We no longer want charcoal burning our hills. I have banned beekeeping and other activities in our hills. There are those doing it in the guise of beekeeping,” Njuki said.
The county chief cited the famous Kijege Hills, Kera and Munguni Hills as some of the areas affected by charcoal burning but said that banning beekeeping in them will conserve their forest cover.
He said the county government will partner with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to enforce his order as the county does not have money to employ guards to protect the hills.
The beekeepers are now appealing to Njuki to cancel the ban and in its place start issuing permits to beekeepers.
One of them, Paul Kajita, said the hills offer the best locations for their hives because they remained unpolluted.
“Bee-keeping thrives in the forested hills because they are not polluted. If we place our hives in forests near our farms and homes we will not get quality honey because pesticides used by farmers are very poisonous to honey bees,” said Kajita, who also makes hives for sale.
He said some of the best honey comes from Tharaka and the livelihoods of locals were at stake because of the ban.
“It will impact us negatively because many of us have hives where we get the honey for sale to Meru and other counties. We want the county government to register beekeepers and issue permits to us,” he said.
He said those burning charcoal in the hills were not associated with the bee-keeping activities.
“We go there solely to take care of our hives and harvest the honey. Pollination is best in the hills because there is no spraying of crops with pesticides,” he said.
Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders Secretary General (Operations) Josphat Murangiri also appealed to the Environment, Forests and Climate Change Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuyia to allow the elders to put up makeshift shrines in the hills, as a conservation promotion measure.
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Mr Murangiri said they want to construct shrines at Kithoka, Ntirimiti, Kinyaritha, Imenti and other forests which will see the elders conduct their deliberations out of prying eyes and also protect the forests against intruders.
“A long time ago nobody accessed our forests for charcoal burning, poaching or other practices that harm the environment. As Njuri Ncheke we want to be allowed in the forests so that we can keep the intruders away,” he said.
The elders recently sunk a borehole at their Nchiru Shrine headquarters in Tigania West and have, to water their tree nursery and other uses.
“We will be distributing the trees to our members and the rest of the community to plant because, in addition to resolving disputes in the community, our other role is the protection of natural resources,” Murangiri said.