The National Assembly Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has intervened to solve a land dispute between more than 500 families in Kasipul constituency and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).
The families living around Kodera forest in Lidha and God Agulu areas have had protracted disputes between them and KFS for about 70 years.
According to the residents, they inherited the land from their grandfathers who lived there many years before 1950, but some years later, the land was included as part of Kodera Forest which is 770.6 hectares.
The residents occupy 256.8 hectares, forming one-third of the forest.
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However, KFS wants them to vacate the land so that trees can be planted in the area.
Through area MP Ong’ondo Were, the residents petitioned the National Assembly and requested for degazettement of the forest land.
In their petition, they want to be allowed to secure title deeds in the 256.8 hectares so that they can utilise it.
On Friday, House Committee members led by Vice-Chairperson Sophia Noor, area MP Were, Ruiru MP Simon Kingara, North Horr MP Chachu Ganya, Kisumu Woman Rep Rozaah Buyu and nominated MP Nasri Ibrahim toured the contentious land.
Addressing the residents at Ombek Primary School during the visit, Noor said the committee had noted demands of residents with serious concerns.
“We are going to handle this matter in a manner that will provide the residents with justice,” said Noor said.
Were argued that giving the residents a desired piece of land will not interfere with the 10 per cent tree cover required by the KFS.
“It is not a must that the 10 per cent of forest cover can only be achieved in gazetted forests. This percentage can still be achieved if residents plant trees in their private land,” Were said.
He wondered why the KFS only wanted to plant trees in the controversial land after the residents had petitioned the National Assembly.
Kingara on his part said the contentious land does not have trees planted by the KFS.
“The area is currently occupied by residents. We are going to solve this matter in a free and fair manner,” Kingara said.
Buyu said the interest of the locals should be considered in solving the issue.
“If the residents lose their lives because we are conserving a forest, who will use the trees? We must consider the interest of the people in this matter,” Buyu said.
Ganya called on the locals to be patient and assured them that they will get an answer to their grievances.