Thursday, December 23, 2010

Clarification on National Water Towers Management Committee

Further to our earlier report on the appointment and gazettement of a 9 member committee to oversee the NWTM for a period of two years, herebelow is the complete list of the members:-

    • Fredrick Owino (Prof.) - Chairman
    • Taina Veltheim (Ms)- Embassy of Finland 
    • Leone Comin- Embassy of Italy
    • Colin Church
    • Mohamed Awer Mohamed
    • PS or Representative- Ministry of Prime Minister
    • PS or Representative- Ministry of Finance
    • PS or Representative- Ministry of Forestry & Wildlife
    • PS or Representative- Ministry of Environment
In the earlier post Prof. Owino was inadvertently referred to as Prof. Onyango. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

When Professor Jude Mathoko joined Egerton University over 20 years ago,then as a young student, the area surrounding the university, which forms part of the greater Mau forest complex, was a sight to behold, with its lush greenery of trees and flowing rivers busting at their seams.

"The forests were very thick and the rivers were flowing," recalled Professor Mathoko recently at a ceremony to mark Egerton University's environmental week.

Twenty years on however, the area is a different spectacle, far from what it used to be. The trees are no more in vast parts of the formerly thickly forested areas and in place of the trees is dry land, sometimes with an occasional stump here or there.

The Rivers have also slowly trickled dry, as the effects of man' s activities such as illegal logging and uncontrolled cultivation take its toll on the area's ecosystem.

"Today we are now talking of a different story," says Professor Mathoko who is the University's deputy Vice Chancellor, in charge of Research and Extension. "The rivers and forests are no more."

Mathoko's sentiments are echoed by Bernard Ngonda a lecturer in the Department of Natural resources who also has been in the University for over twenty years.

"River Njoro and River Lamudiack are now seasonal, and the volume of River Molo has reduced," says Mr. Ngonda, a life member of the Forestry Society of Kenya.

"Lake Nakuru is also shrinking because the rivers that used to pour water in the lake no longer have enough water. All the water we use here comes from boreholes, yet out of fourteen boreholes, only seven are now functional."

The now dry areas according to these academicians offer the clearest indication yet of what man's unchecked activities can do to the environment.

It is another clear proof in as many scientific researches and debates that Kenya like many other parts of the world is now clearly grappling with the most immediate effects of climate change.

An urgent testament, they say, of the realization that if nothing is done to mitigate the destruction of environment it is in fact the local residents of affected parts who will be the first to pay the price of the environment's wrath.

To reverse this trend, Egerton University has teamed up with Kenya Commercial Bank, through the bank's offshoot program that will see the bank's Foundation  provide seedlings while Egerton University will provide manpower and other support services in a bid to increase Forest cover in the Mau complex through tree planting.

"The program will see us plant over 150,000 trees per year around Egerton University and surrounding areas up to Elburgon, Molo and Nakuru and so on," says Ngoda. "It will also cover the Masai Mau."
Once the trees are planted, Ngoda says the University will monitor their growth and with the help of the schools and communities in the area ensure they survive into mature healthy trees."We have already planted trees in Njoro Day High School, Kerima, and Tengecha schools and we are seeing a positive trend," says Ngoda.

The initiative which was conceived in 2001 according to Ngoda arose out of the realization that something had to be done to mitigate the effects of climate change in East and Central Africa.

"We realized that if nothing was done the adverse effects of climate change would hit us directly. For instance Lake Nakuru whose shrinking waters have led to the decrease of Flamingos, a major tourist attraction in the Rift valley province, might be extinct in the next 10 years if we don't do anything," he says.

Ngonda notes that there is need to create awareness among people, that man's activities such as tree logging which are brought about by his many needs as a r result of increased populations and modernization, could be carried out side by side with conservation efforts.

So far, Ngoda says KCB has helped plant over 139,000 trees with 50,000 trees planted this year alone.

Under the program, while the students provide easy manpower required for planting trees in large volumes, they also benefit from direct jobs with KCB in its various Rift valley region branches.

Timothy Kabiru, KCB's Divisional Director of Retail Banking says the bank has taken the initiative in a bid to bridge the forest cover gap, which scientists put at less than two percent against a recommended 10 percent.

"The 1.148 million shillings that has been invested into this project demonstrates  the importance the KCB Foundation attaches to the environment," he says. "KCB targets to plant three million trees this year."

Professor James Tuitoek, Egerton University Vice chancellor, says the initiative to increase forest cover in the Mau complex is among other environmental initiatives that the University has undertaken in order to promote the environment's safe keeping.

According to him, by planting ten trees a year, each Kenyan could play a invaluable role in reclaiming forest cover and in turn help in mitigating the negative effects of  climate change.

"If every Kenyan could plant 10 trees each year, and seeing that we are over 36 million Kenyans, that would simply translate into 360 million trees a year, a crucial number that if replicated every year would help in restoring Kenya's forest cover and in the end in mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change," says Professor Tuitoek.

He says the University has started the green energy wave program which will see the university embrace environmentally friendly fuels.
"We are already using bio-gas to fuel our Kitchen and we plan to build Iko toilets,  (latrines that do not use water) in future. We are also seeking to tap solar power  and wind power in future for our energy needs," he says.

Source- Xinhua

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Government Names National Water Towers Management Committee

The government has appointed a nine-man team to oversee the management of the country‘s five water towers in a move expected to unlock donor  funding and give fresh impetus to the rehabilitation effort launched two years ago.

The National Water Towers Management committee set up last week by Prime Minister Raila Odinga to lobby for funding and guide the process of rehabilitating the country’s forest services is made up of top government officials, conservationist and members of foreign missions.
“These appointments are in accordance with the government’s financial management regulations on water towers conservation funds and take effect from December 1,”Mr Odinga said in last week’s gazette notice.

The team is headed by the chairman of East African Wildlife Society, Prof. Fredrick Onyango, and will be in office in the next two years.

Other members are Finnish Embassy forestry expert Taina Velthem, Italian Embassy official Leon Comin, Rhino Ark veteran Colin Church and Egerton University Council vice chairman Mohamed Awer Mohamed.

The country has five main forest areas – Mt. Kenya, the Aberdare Ranges, the Mau Complex, Mt Elgon, and the Cherangani hills – which have been depleted alarmingly by human encroachment. UNEP estimates the loss in sectors such as agriculture, water and tourism have suffered due to destructions of the Mau complex alone at sh24billion. 

Report Courtesy of Business Daily

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tusker Project Fame Contestants Plant Trees In Karura Forest

Tusker Project Fame nicknamed TPF4 is a talent search that recently concluded on Citizen Television and whose main aim is usually to nurture and  mould young and raw  talent in singing to successful musicians. This year’s TPF4 finalists came to Karura Forest on Friday 19th, November, 2010 to plant trees courtesy of EABL who are the show’s  sponsor .This was also part of EABL’s Corporate Social Responsibility.

The eight contestants who came were Steven from Kenya, Davis from Uganda, Gaelle from Rwanda, Ameelina from Kenya, Rachel from Uganda. Paleki from Southern Sudan, Msechu from Tanzania and Gabiro from Rwanda. The contestants were accompanied by staff from EABL and journalists from different media houses. At KFS they were received by the Nairobi Conservancy Regional Commandant Mr. Charles Otieno, the acting Zonal Manger Nairobi North East Mrs. Joyce Nthuku and forester Mr. Orwa .Mr. Orwa then took them on a step to step on how to plant the seedlings and how to seal the holes so that they are not washed away by the rains.

The contestants were very excited as they embarked on the tree planting session with some contestants saying it was their first time to plant that many trees. Some of the contestants like Paleki said she had previously been involved in planting trees as her family owns a big piece of land back at home in Southern Sudan. Gaelle also expressed her joy for being part of the noble cause of conserving the environment.

After the tree planting session a total of 600 tree seedlings were planted and the contestants could not hide their joy at their achievement. Their representative Rachel thanked KFS for hosting them and promised that they would plant more trees when they went back to their respective countries. On behalf of KFS Mr. Charles Otieno said it was an honor to host them and thanked EABL for choosing KFS to do the tree planting activity and requested them to come back again to also visit the Karura Forest Nature Trail. He also commended them for the good job they were doing and encouraged them to continue nurturing talent. The KFS staff also showed their excitement at seeing their favorite stars most of whom they only see on television and took pictures with them.

EABL is closely associated with Karura Forest through the Friends of Karura Forest initiative. As part of their CSR , EABL recently funded the fencing of the Karura central block.

Report by Lydiah Ogada

New Charcoal Rules To Legalise Sustainable Trade To Save Forests

Kenya Forest Service officials seize charcoal before the lifting of a ban on charcoal-burning and sale. The new Forest Act will provide for charcoal-burning on a sustainable basis to stop forest destruction and ensure constant supply of fuel to families that cannot afford alternative fuels. Photo/LABAN WALLOGA
Kenya Forest Service officials seize charcoal before the lifting of a ban on charcoal-burning and sale. The new Forest Act will provide for charcoal-burning on a sustainable basis to stop forest destruction and ensure constant supply of fuel to families that cannot afford alternative fuels. Photo/LABAN WALLOGA 
Posted Tuesday, December 14 2010 at 00:00
The new charcoal rules which are currently being enforced by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) seek to regulate an industry that has largely been viewed as illegal and promote it as a sustainable enterprise but the short term effect has been a spike in the retail cost of charcoal, hurting household budgets.
The rules which came into effect after gazettement on December 24 last year are aimed at making the industry attractive to investors so that they can put money into sustainable charcoal production while promoting conservation and reforestation and the use of technology for production.
KFS officials said under the new rules, the forestry service will also promote the best tree species for charcoal production and efficient technologies, including high carbonisation rate kilns for production.
“The forestry service seeks to regulate the charcoal industry and promote it as a viable business. What has happened over time is that there has been no incentive for investments in the industry and technology because you cannot invest in an industry without clear policy? You cannot be sure of tomorrow,” said Emilio Mugo, senior deputy director, KFS, in a recent interview with the Business Daily. 
“For the government to encourage better returns, innovation and technology. It has to recognise it as a legal enterprise so that people can invest in it, plant trees specifically for charcoal production, develop technology that will improve recovery rates and provide a commodity market,” he said.
“Off course we are encouraging people to look at alternatives. For example, we have people producing charcoal from coffee husks. Charcoal production should actually be a by-product of timber and this is the trend the world over,” he added.
The new rules are being implemented at a time when the World Bank recently launched the Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa (BEIA) that seeks to facilitate the promotion of biomass modernisation in the continent through funding amounting to $3.5 million (Sh280 million) of which Kenya is a beneficiary.
BEIA seeks to promote the efficient production and use of charcoal among other biomass and biofuel sources as they are the main energy source for households in Sub-Saharan Africa, a trend that is expected to continue through 2030.
“Biomass is the predominant energy source for Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 81 per cent of the overall energy consumption” said Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Kenya during the launch of the BEIA last month.
He said that even though it is still widely used, its production was still based on inefficient and unsustainable traditional approaches that had a negative impact on health and the environment.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, biomass will continue to play a major role in the energy sector at least until 2030 so we need also to focus on making the use of biomass energy sustainable,” he said.
Rogerio Miranda, a consultant with Winrock International, said that studies show that the charcoal industry generates over $450 million (Sh36 billion) providing employment to over 700,000 individuals in the country but very little investment had been made given its economic importance.
While KFS estimates that over 80 per cent of urban and 50 per cent of rural dwellers use the fuel to cook, World Bank studies show that the country’s annual demand exceeds 1.6 million tons a year.
The National Environment Management Authority estimated biomass energy supply at 15.4 million tons against demand of over 38.1 million tons in 2004, reflecting a 60 per cent deficit.
“I think charcoal production has been criminalised and by having legislation in place is the best way to have it as an enterprise. What the new regulations are doing is to recognise charcoal as a commodity that can be traded and also recognise that at the moment it is being produced from unsustainable sources which are also affecting the environment,” said Mr Mugo at KFS. 

“This will bring all the stakeholders together in the whole of the value chain so that it can be viewed as a viable enterprise and people can invest in production and technology. Investors will be more willing to put their money in the industry” he said.
“Without the legislation, charcoal production will take place underground and it will be difficult to regulate, having a negative effect on the economy and the environment. Wood resources are renewable and sustainable resources if well maintained,” he added.
The coming into effect of the new rules has disrupted supply in many urban areas as the forestry service has increased surveillance in government forests and cracked down on producers and transporters who do not have valid permits.
A rise in the price of charcoal, most of which comes from trust and private land has been the result.
This has exerted pressure on household budgets of middle and low income families who rely on the fuel for cooking.
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that the average price of a four kilogramme tin of charcoal went up 92 per cent from Sh37 in September last year to Sh71 in September this year.
Charcoal dealers are now selling a 90 kilogram sack at between Sh800 and Sh1,000; up from Sh600 12 months ago.
Middle and low income families who mostly use charcoal for their cooking and heating are being forced to spend more as the dealers shift additional costs to the consumer.
Traders in Nairobi who sought anonymity as many carry out their trade without licenses told the Business Daily they were not aware of the new rules but that they have had to pay higher bribes to police manning road blocks following the intensified conservation efforts.
“What has been going on is that we are focusing on the whole country. We have increased the level of surveillance in terms of movement of charcoal and have suspended charcoal production from some of the areas, for example Mau, Narok, Transmara, Molo especially in the encroached areas” said Mr Mugo
“We are also not giving movement permits for those areas and obviously what that will do is cause a bit of imbalance between supply and demand and that will have an effect on prices. We have also done the same for Kajiado from May last year where have not been issuing movements permits” he said
The new rules, published under legal notice number 186 made KFS the sole authority for issuing licences for the production and transportation of charcoal and mandatory for all commercial producers and transporters to organise themselves into producer and transporter associations which are issued a registration certificate by the forestry service.
The associations, aimed at promoting self regulation, make it easier for forest service to monitor production and transportation and make the issuance of charcoal licences easier for members while charging them with the responsibility of ensuring reforestation conservation plans are implemented.
Movement permits will be issued to association members after a recommendation from the association making it easy for the KFS to track which areas the charcoal is coming from.
Wholesalers and retailers are required to keep all records and copies of sources of charcoal, certificates of origin and movement permits.

Producers are required to provide detailed personal information, places where the charcoal is being produced, designated charcoal collection points and consents from land owners to produce charcoal to be granted a producer licence.
Additional information required include tree species used and the type of technology used for production, recommendation from the local environment committee and reforestation and conservation plans for the area under charcoal production.
“Kajiado has made a bold move in that they have set up a management committee and have proposed a system similar to what we have suggested in the charcoal rules and have proposed how they want to manage their charcoal industry,” said Mr Mugo.
“They want to form an association for production and transportation in the same lines that the new rules are advocating so we have told them to finalize that and we will have no problem giving them that allowance,” he said, adding that producers in Kitui were also in the process.
He said legally produced and licensed charcoal coming from the Tana River and Baringo areas was being sold in urban areas adding that by forming associations, producers would be able to access new technologies economically while KFS would be able to promote conservation and reforestation efforts.
Some of the new technologies that are being promoted by the forestry service are kilns that have higher carbonisation rates.
According to the Jim Okutto, head of biomass, KFS, who has been training producers on the use of the new charcoal kilns, traditional methods produce about 10 per cent from the wood that is put in but the new kilns which sell for Sh150,000 can get a charcoal producer up to 50 or 60 per cent.
Value chain
“This adds on to the sustainability and the response from producers has been very good. If initially you used 20 trees to get 20 bags and with the new technology you can get 60 bags, the response will be positive,” said Mr Okutto.
“Unless you have large tracts of land it would be uneconomical to invest in a machine like this as an individual because your land will not supply enough raw materials to feed this machine. The idea is to bring people together and identify this as an enterprise,” said Mr Mugo.
“It is a whole value chain where you start with planting and waiting for the trees to grow and then have a management plan combining several people together. If in a certain year the plan is to get raw materials from a certain area you can keep this machine economically,” he said.
Mr Mugo said charcoal and wood resources are sustainable in nature if they are properly managed.
“You can grow trees and harvest them at a certain point. If you want so many tones of charcoal in five or 10 years from now you can plan and produce it. In that respect it is sustainable. Unfortunately most of what is coming from trust lands is coming from fragile ecosystems” he said.
Kuki Gallmann of The Gallmann Memorial Foundation, which runs a conservancy in Laikipia, said that alternative means of producing charcoal using woody shrubs and bushes like Tarconathus Camphoratus, commonly known as lelechwa and prosopis that was imported in Baringo area and would be suitable for sustainable charcoal production.
She said that other technologies such as the Adam Retort that do not allow the black soot, which is environmentally damaging, to fly out with the smoke during charcoal production, making them environmentally friendly, should also be promoted.

Report Courtesy of Business Daily

Tension Looms in Mt Elgon Forest as Kenyan Eviction Notice for the Chepkitale Ogiek Community Elapses

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Barely a week after governments convened in Cancun, Mexico to chart the way forward on how to reduce carbon emissions without impacting on the livelihoods of millions of indigenous people who inhabit in forests, a hundred million kilometres away, an indigenous community is facing imminent eviction to pave way for forest conservation and reafforestation.

By Shadrack Kavilu for Gáldu
Kenya’s Chepkitale Ogiek, a hunter and gatherer tribe that has since turned to pastoralist and which inhabits in the Mt Elgon forest is a worried tribe as eviction notice issued by the government comes into effect this month.

Early this year the government issued the community with an eviction notice to vacate the Mt Elgon forest by December ostensibly to pave way for forest conservation and reafforestation.

But as the deadline fast approaches, the indigenous community which are the ancestral inhabitants of the Mt Elgon forest are pondering their next course of action as government remains defiant in rescinding its decision.
The government has maintained that Chepkitale Ogieks residing in the Chepkitale area should vacate the forest upon the expiry date of the eviction notice issued by the National Enviromental Management Authority (NEMA).

According to the directive issued by NEMA the Kenya forest service director is expected to secure the forest upon the expiry date of the notice, meaning the Ogieks should have vacated the forest by start of this month.
Over the last two months, the area district commissioner has constantly reminded the community to vacate the forest before they’re forcibly evicted.

For the last 40 years the Ogiek have not had a permanent place of settlement. The place which they thought of as home- Chepkitale was clandestinely gazetted as a national game reserve in the year 2000.
“This entire process of transforming the Ogiek ancestral land to a game reserve at the expense of the minority community’s livelihood is a gross violation of human and land rights of the Chepkitale Ogieks,” said Fredrick Matei, the tribe’s spokesman.

If the government makes true it eviction plans, Matei says the Chepkitale Ogieks would be deprived off their identity and traditional culture. The forest provides the community with rich biodiversity and holy shrines where the tribe performs their rituals.

The eviction, Matei says would further compound the tribe’s problems which stem back the colonial period when they were evicted from their ancestral land and settled in native reserves which the colonial government considered unproductive.

Most of their land was converted to crown land (forest reserves) which was later gazetted by the government as national game reserves.
“It’s a pity that even in the wake of global call to protect indigenous people who live in forest, we are still being forcefully evicted from our ancestral land to pave way for what the government calls reafforestation and conservation of the Mt Elgon forest,” observed Matai.

The spokesman admits that they have exhausted all avenues of convincing the government to rescind its decision and they are now appealing to the international community to intervene.

Since the eviction notice the tribe has expressed fears that if proper mechanisms to safeguard their land rights are not put in place their livelihoods, traditions and culture would become extinct faster than it is previously projected. 

He observes that for a long time in Kenya minority and indigenous communities have been characterized by poor access to resources and opportunities, insecurity of tenure and alienation from the state administration.

The Chepkitale Ogieks, he says have been ignored, their plight overlooked, and their very existence endangered in many ways that include lack of social amenities such as hospitals and schools.

The community is now calling on the government to nullify the gazettment of chepkitale as a national game reserves and the area be reversed to its original owners the Ogiek.

“Our indigenous land rights for Mt. Elgon forest should be restored. We should be given full access to the forest for grazing since this pose no danger to mature trees. We should further be allowed to harvest bamboos as we used to before,” avers Matei.

During the just concluded climate change meeting in Mexico, several non governmental organisation expressed fears that in pursuit of reducing carbon emission through the REDD initiative indigenous people are most vulnerable to losing their ancestral land. 

The group urged the governments to come up with a strategy that would safeguard the land rights of indigenous communities and other forest dwellers.

According to a recent report by the Friends of the Earth International, 1.6 billion people in the world rely on forests, including 60 million Indigenous peoples whose livelihoods could be directly or indirectly impacted by plans to cut emissions through the REDD initiative. 

The community spokesman fears that if proper mechanisms to safeguard the land rights of these people are not put in place, their tradition, culture and livelihoods are endangered.

Globally the land rights of indigenous people and forest dwellers have been grossly violated as governments intensify efforts to conserve forest and cut down carbon emissions.

But the process has been widely condemned by human rights activist as it displaces these indigenous communities and infringes on their fundamental rights.

In Kenya and other parts of Sub Saharan Africa, several indigenous tribes have lost their ancestral land which have been either converted to national game reserves or protected areas. 

Report Courtesy of  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Royal Media Services Visit Karura For Football Tournament

A friendly football tournament sponsored by the Royal Media Services was held on Saturday 6th November 2010 at the Kenya Forest Service Headquarters Grounds from 10 am to 5pm promptly. Teams from the Royal Media Services, Synnovate (steadman) group and Kenya Forest Service took part in the event.

After a brief welcoming speech by the RMS Catherine Kasavulli and some serious and explosive entertainment from the Hot 96 FM Dee Jay unit  on site ,ladies teams from Synnovate and RMS battled it out in a thrilling first match cum curtain raiser of the day which ended 3;2 in favour of the synnovate team.

The RMS men’s side took to the field immediately thereafter to battle it out with a youthful looking Synnovate team. True to form, Synnovate took the lead in the 12th minute. They controlled the proceedings very well but just before halftime RMS almost leveled it through their deadly towering striker Mike Okinyi who was put through but shot wide. The Citizen TV Senior sports reporter was at it again only to see his feeble shot attempt taken care of by the Synnovate’s keeper. However RMS managed a late consolation goal as they lost the match 3-1.

After the match the master of ceremony Catherine Kasavuli welcomed all teams and to the catering tent for some refreshments and more entertainment.

The match of the day was between our very own KFS team against a strong combined team comprising of Both RMS and Synnovate. Our boys dominated from the whistle as captain and midfield maestro Larrisson Latome put through fast footed Silas Musambai in the 9th minute to put the home team ahead and stern the visitors combined team.KFS was at it again in the 23rd and 29th minute as overlapping right full back Harron Simwa and captain Larrison Latome finding the net to put the icing on the cake. The match ended 3-0.

The event ended with short appreciation speeches from the sponsors promising to make the event more bigger and better next time. it was truly a fantastic fun day out!..and as the day proceeded the super Hot 96FM Dee Jays continued doing their thing as the crowds left happy with new friends and at will.

Report by Finlay Mocheche