Thursday, June 3, 2010

Squatters In Marmanet On Borrowed Time

Hon. Josphat Nanok, Assistant Minister for Forestry & Wildlife joins local dancers during the tree planting event 

Hon. Nanok plants a ceremonial tree to launch the event. 

Forestry and Wildlife Assistant Minister Hon Josphat Nanok has warned the illegal settlers in Marmanet to move out of the forest.

Speaking recently during a tree planting campaign in the forest, Hon. Nanok warned the group that they were living on borrowed time. He said the functions of the forest were extremely important hence the forest must be restored.

“Trees are very close to the human being with many economic and aesthetic values,” noted Hon. Nanok.

He recalled how as a young person he grew up in the area and roamed the forest that existed then. He noted the current situation is unfortunate and something needed to be done with speed to halt the degradation and begin reclamation.

“I am not a visitor in Marmanet, I grew up in Igwamiti, I walked and hunted in this forest, I would also visit the pencil company, there were rivers and only three villages” said Hon. Nanok.

He said without conservation, there is going to be disaster and he had no intensions of having the desert begin in Marmanet.

Speaking during the same event, a resident Pastor Stephen Lewisti said he was not a squatter and he thanked the Government for it.

“The Government moved me as a squatter to this place and issued me with an allotment letter and it’s upon payment of KSh. 3,785 that I have finally obtained a title for the land here,” said Pastor Lewisti.

He said forest officers kept chasing him out of the forest year after year.
In response to the pastor’s concerns, Hon Nanok pointed out that forest officers are Government officers and their work is to manage the forest for all Kenyans including those residing in Marmanet.

He noted some of the land issued did not follow the laid down procedure in land allocation, hence was illegal.

“The lands were issued by Government and it’s the Government’s role to protect its citizens, KFS rangers come to us with guns and that is why I arm myself to defend the land,” decried the pastor.

“If the lands are legal then Government let us live, if the lands are illegal, let Government show us where to go,” he added.

KFS Head of Conservancy Central Highlands Mr. John Wachihi said forest management is founded on the Forest Act 2005, and also guided by legal and Gazette notices. He advised the community to access Nyahururu Zonal manager’s office to establish whether they were living in or outside the forest.

“There are boundary plans and maps for Marmanet forest that are available in the forest stations and the Zonal office to enable members of the community know whether they are inside or outside the forest,” said Mr. Wachihi.

Mr. Wachihi noted Kazi Kwa Vijana funds had supported tree planting activities and will continue to utilize the funds in replanting the forest. He said other line Ministries are also coming in to support replanting. He urged local communities to join CFAs inorder to access forest resources legitimately.

Nyahururu District Commissioner Ms. Lucy Muhili asked Kenya Forest Service to donate seedlings for woodlot planting in private farms during the extended rainy season. She noted this would reduce the pressure on forest resources.

Marmanet Community Forest Association Chairman Mr. James Kabutu said it is prudent to restore Marmanet forest to its original form.

“I walked in this forest in my childhood and I am now shocked to see what it has become,” said a distraught Mr. Kabutu.

Marmanet forest is 26,000 acres and was gazetted in 1932. Forest resources have enabled adjacent communities access low cost housing over the years. However, prolonged forest destruction has led to reduced farm yields, and drying up of rivers. 

Story Courtesy of Charles Ngunjiri 

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