Eastern Mau residents protest State's decision to ban grazing

Residents of Eastern Mau sit on trees that were cutdown in Logoman forest within the Eastern Mau, Nakuru County on June 17, 2024. [Julius Chepkwony, Standard]

Residents living adjacent to the Mau water tower have protested the decision by the government to ban grazing of livestock in the forest.

According to the locals, they depend on the forest for grazing and firewood, and the decision has dealt them a blow.

Juliana Rono, a resident of Logoman in Nessuit Njoro, Nakuru County, said that while the community living adjacent to Mau forest was denied access, people engaging in logging were having a field day cutting down and ferrying trees.

“We have been denied access to the forest while we see huge tractors and lorries in and out of the forest carrying huge and heavy logs,” she said.

She said their livestock have suffered and locals also do not have access to the water points in the forest.

Kitur Sigei, another resident said a majority of those harvesting trees from the forest are non-residents adding that a mature tree is going for Sh15,000.

Sigei said as a community living adjacent to the forest, they ought to be considered and allowed to benefit from it as per the law.

He questioned the decision by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to allow loggers into the forest adding that they are aware the ban on logging is still on.

“The President lifted the ban on logging but the High Court termed the decision as unconstitutional. How and why logging is going on here is a puzzle to us,” Sigei said.

Locals, he said are not aware of any tendering process on forest products.

Duncan Somita, a resident said they do not know the criteria used by the government to allow loggers into the forest.

Somita noted that the decision to allow loggers into the forest and bar the locals was discriminating.

A KFS officer stationed at Logoman forest station who declined to be named said logging was not only happening in Logoman forest station but also other parts including Kiptunga and Marioshoni forests.

The officer said KFS is currently carrying out a zoning exercise which will inform on areas to be used for grazing.

He revealed that the opening of the forest in Logoman was done through open tender.

“Some trees have matured and there is a need for harvesting. The forest was zoned and Compartment 2C was declared ready for harvesting, due process was followed and qualified saw millers were awarded tenders,” said the KFS officer.

KFS in a statement on June 10 prescribed rules for grazing in the forest to guide the implementation of the decision.

KFS said forest zonation and mapping will be done to identify designated forest areas suitable for grazing as prescribed in the Participatory Management Plans.

Grazing, according to KFS is prohibited in plantation areas of less than four years.

“Each forest station shall maintain a grazing register indicating locality, name of grazer, national identity card number and number of animals ,” read the statement in part.

The number of animals allowed to graze in a designated grazing area according to KFS will be determined by the Forest Station Manager based on the land carrying capacity and all grazers must obtain a monthly grazing permit.

KFS said no animals will be allowed in the forest at night, between 7 pm and 6 am, and also no cattle enclosures or makeshift structures are allowed in the forest.

It warned that any grazer who flouts the guidelines will lose the right to graze and be prosecuted. Any unclaimed animal, will be detained for being in the forest illegally.

The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry in a public statement dated June 14, noted that illegal grazing on public forests is on the rise.

Cabinet Secretary Soipan ole Tuya, in the statement, said that undermines the progress made towards attaining the 15 billion trees target.

She said to ensure that only sustainable participatory forest management activities are undertaken in gazetted forests including grazing, and that the ministry shall only engage with communities adjacent to forests that are members of duly registered community forest associations through negotiated Participatory Forest Management Plans and Forest Management Agreements as stipulated in the law.

She said the ministry, working with partners, is deploying technology to enhance forest surveillance, hastening the delineation of boundaries and expanding a fencing programme to cover all gazetted public forests.