Environmental conservationists in Meru County are raising concerns over the destruction of Nkunga Forest, along the lower Imenti zone by the local residents, who are now clearing the indigenous forests for farming.
Led by Upper Imenti Forest/Rural Conservation & Management Organization, Chairperson, Geoffrey Githinji Ruku, the conservationists criticised the Community Forest Association (CFA), which has given the residents a go-ahead to access the area and use the land for farming, for a period of seven years.
Mr Githinji noted that the destruction has led to the disruption of the ecosystem and interruption of food supply to elephants inhabiting Nkunga Forest, with the animals now being forced to move out of the forest in search of sustenance in the nearby homes and farms, hence causing destruction of properties.
However, some of the beneficiaries of the Shamba System, claim that the ongoing clearing, will pave the way for the planting of new trees, as per the directions by CFA.
“We are clearing these trees for now, but we are going to plant new ones as per the agreement we had with CFA. They leased these parcels of land to us for a period of seven years, after which we shall vacate after the forest cover has been restored,” said Benta Nyawira, one of the beneficiaries
According to CFA, the clearing is meant to give the local residents, a chance to utilise the lands for farming for a period of seven years, during this time, any beneficiary will be required to plant trees on the cleared land, while at the same time farming and later on vacate the land after full forest restoration has been achieved.
However, Mr Githinji faults this arrangement, arguing that Nkunga Forest is part of the government gazetted forests of Lower Imenti and therefore, it serves as a corridor for wildlife between North-Imenti and Buuri Sub-counties in Meru and any kind of human activity in the area disrupts the wildlife way of life.
Mr Githinji is now calling on the Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary (CS), Keriako Tobiko, to intervene in order to ensure the forest and properties are saved from destruction from both humans and animals.
He also wants parliament to enact a law to ban cultivation and logging of the forest and make it illegal activity, within the gazetted forest, as was done earlier during the late President Daniel Arap Moi’s regime.
By Erick Otieno and Dickson Mwiti