Saw millers from Mt. Kenya region are seeking a refund of millions of shillings from Kenya Forest Services (KFS) that they had deposited to buy mature trees in government forests before a ban on logging was imposed.
The millers speaking on Tuesday in Nanyuki town claimed it was now close to two years since they deposited the money to buy trees aged 33 years about in Mt. Kenya forest before the government imposed the ban.
Last week, the Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary (CS), Keriako Tobiko extended the moratorium on forest logging for another year.
“We are staring at being auctioned by financial institutions from where we had secured loans. The losses have been huge since the ban was imposed considering that the government is holding our money and yet we cannot harvest trees from the forests,” Kariuki Mugo said.
Mugo noted that for the last 22 months, he has laid off 37 employees who depended on him directly, adding that he had bought logs worth Sh.1.6 million from KFS.
He added that some of his colleagues in the sector had fallen into depression due to loss of business following the logging ban two years ago. “Others have resorted to alcoholism to drown their sorrows,” he said.
Another saw miller, Simon Kahara from Burguret area expressed similar sentiments, saying that they were not opposed to the ban but they want their money back to invest in other sectors of the economy.
“I have machinery worth over Sh.13m lying idle because sawmilling was stopped by the government. They include machines for cutting timber, Lorries, tractors, and loaders,” said Kahara.
Catherine Wanjiku, another saw miller from Nanyuki town said commercial banks are after them because they cannot pay loans.
She asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene so that they can get their money back if it is not possible for them to remove the logs.
Wanjiku said the ban was so abrupt such that they could not remove the trees they had felled and regretted that the logs were now rotting in various government forests yet the economy is in need of timber.
They called for the speedy refund of their money to enable them to import timber from other countries or venture into other businesses. The forests include Gathiuru, Kahurura among others.
By Martin Munyi