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Tough times for traders as ban on logging bites

COUNTIES
By Titus Too and Osinde Obare | April 14th 2018
Moratorium leads to a sharp decline in supply of charcoal from Turkana and West Pokot counties. [File, Standard]

For the past few weeks, Kevin Shikoli has not received charcoal from Turkana County, his source of the black gold for the last ten years.

He operates a stall in Kitale, near the railway line but the business has gone down due to lack of regular supply.

“I have not received any consignment from my supplier in Turkana for weeks. The restricted movement of charcoal following the ban on logging has disrupted the supply,” he said.

“I do not know the future of my family especially my children who are in school. Charcoal business is my source of livelihood,” the father of two said.

The empty stall is a sign that charcoal has become a rare commodity in the region.

Timber merchants in parts of the North Rift have also not been spared by the ban.

Restrictions on movement

Turkana and West Pokot counties are major suppliers of charcoal. The moratorium has led to a sharp decline in supply of the commodity after the administration stepped up campaigns to discourage residents from operating kilns, logging and transporting timber.

A spot-check in Kitale revealed that charcoal stores were running low on stocks.

“The supply has dropped. We do not get adequate stock from West Pokot or Turkana because dealers are discouraged by their respective governments to stop logging and protect the environment,” said John Karanja, a charcoal trader in Kitale.

“We buy a sack at Sh1,000 from the remote areas in Turkana and West Pokot and then there is transportation cost and money to bribe police officers on the way,” Mr Karanja said.

The ban on logging is slowly rendering many jobless as traders close their shops.

“I have exhausted my stock and there is no supply. I have to look for alternative means of survival. This was a source of income and I feel doomed,” Jane Wangare, a charcoal trader in Kiminini, said.

This means consumers in the counties will have to dig deeper into their pockets to meet the high costs of fuel wood. The situation is similar in North Rift where restrictions on movement of wood products have affected economic activities.

In Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties, the ban has affected farmers who engage in commercial tree planting.

Samwel Seroney and Michael Chebii who run separate hotel and restaurant businesses in Kapsabet town said they rely on charcoal and that prices have increased by 50 per cent over the last few days.

“It is only a few Kenyans who use gas and electricity to cook. Currently, fuel wood cannot even be transported. Charcoal is becoming scarce and the price in dealer stores has increased from Sh 1,000 to Sh1,500 per bag,” Mr Seroney said.

He said the ban should have been effected only for products in Government forests but farmers allowed to harvest wood from their farms.

Trees are replanted

Seroney, who is also the Nandi County chairperson of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) said cottage industries will be affected by the scarcity of fuel wood.

He said they use almost 150 bags of charcoal every month. They used to buy charcoal from stores in town.

Chebii, whose business needs almost 30 bags of charcoal per month said that they have resorted to using gas and electricity to supplement fuel wood, which is now expensive.

“We are in an agricultural town and deforestation will affect us either way. We support the Government’s move to ban logging although the implications will hit us hard,” he said.

Joseph Lagat Manjoi, a director at Siret Tea Company Limited said large commercial tea firms in Nandi Hills are self-sustaining in fuel fuel wood and have not been affected by the ban on logging.

“While the Government aims at achieving 10 per cent of the total land mass under forest cover, large commercial tea firms have between 30 and 40 per cent of their land mass under indigenous forests. We need trees to boost convectional rains for good foliage of tea leaves,” Mr Lagat said.

The director said they use eucalyptus trees harvested from their farms. The trees are replanted in a cycle of 10 years.

“Our tree cover fields are constant because they are re-planted immediately wood is harvested for fuel in factories. Trees are planted on rotation basis,” he said. Timber merchants too are reeling from effects of the logging ban with most of them in Trans Nzoia County running out of stock.

Merchants interviewed said they have exhausted stock as they rely on public forests.

“We have exhausted our stock and we don’t know where to source trees for timber. We have suffered due to the ban,” said Ibraham Mohammed in Kitale.

Tom Momanyi, another timber dealer said public forests were the major source of timber as private ones lack mature trees. Following the scarcity of timber, the cost has gone up by 50 per cent in the past weeks due to high demand. Timber dealers are selling the commodity for between Sh5 and Sh 10 per foot.

Carpenters are most affected as prices of timber increase.

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