24,000 ha of Mau forest land recovered and tree planting on-going
Date Published: 09 Dec, 2009
Watchful eye: (File Photo) KWS rangers were instrumental in the recovery, replantation and relocation of illegal squatters of the Mau Forest Complex. 19,000 hectares of the high water catchment value forestland in South Western Mau forest has already been secured
The recovery of 19,000 hectares of high water catchment value forestland in South Western Mau is now complete. The relocation of the illegal squatters who encroached into the forest took place peacefully, with the squatters leaving voluntarily the forest and the forest rangers providing a range of assistance, including ferrying the sick to health centres. The recovery of the encroached areas in South Western Mau was the phase II of the plan of action to repossess forestland in the Mau. The 19,000 ha is largely a bamboo forest, a vegetation cover with high water catchment values, and forms the upper catchment of Sondu and Mara rivers. The catchment values of South Western Mau were recognized in 1932 when the forest was gazetted as forest reserve.
Forest excisions and encroachment led to the destruction of some 50 per cent of South Western Mau Forest Reserve. South Western Mau was originally the largest forest block in the Mau covering some 83,396.57 hectares, an area as large as half of the forest of the Aberdare.
The official relocation of illegal squatters from the South Western Mau Forest Reserve started on Monday 16 November 2009 under the coordination of the Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner. This followed the expiry of the 14-day vacation notice issued by the Kenya Forest Service to illegal squatters on gazetted forestland for which no title deeds had been issued. It must be underlined that these squatters had no documentation to support their occupation of the forest. In addition, the area encroached has never been set aside by the Government for settlement. It is still and remains a protected forest reserve.
In order to ensure a humane implementation of the exercise, the Government has mobilised various Ministries to provide:
- Security (through the Provincial Administration and Internal Security and the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife);
- Transportation for the squatters and their property to be returned to their destinations of choice. Four government lorries are available and stationed at Kuresoi District Commissioner’s Office for this purpose; Food items, including maize, beans and cooking fat (through the Ministry of State for Special Programmes). Each of the districts of Kuresoi, Bureti and Bomet have the following amounts of food available for the humanitarian support to the relocated squatters: maize (330 bags); beans (150 bags f 50 kg); cooking fat (150 cartons of vegetable oils);
- Water (through the Ministry of Water and Irrigation). Three collapsible tanks and six tanks of 10,000 litres have been dispatched on the ground. A water boozer has also been made available for those who carry their own water;
- Health (through the Ministry of Health). Arrangements have been made with the local health centre at Olenguruone and Keringet to assist where necessary.
In addition, the Ministry of Education carried out a survey of the pupils residing in the forest and made the necessary arrangement to ensure that the 213 pupils that have been relocated will be admitted in a school once schools reopen in January 2010.
For the provision of support to the relocated squatters, the Ministry of State for Special Programmes has already spent in excess of Kshs 12 million in food (Kshs 5 million) and non food items (Kshs 7 millions).
This relocation exercise must be placed in the larger context of rehabilitating Kenya’s largest water tower. Our final objective is to replant the Mau Forests Complex in order to secure the ecological services it used to provide to support the economic development in the region, hence contributing to the well-being of our people.To this end, the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has already started replanting degraded forest in the Mau Forests Complex. From July to October this year, over 1,400 hectares of forestland in the Mau have already been replanted. Kenya Forest Service is also preparing to embark into massive replanting efforts in the coming months. Near South West Mau Forest Reserve, KFS has a tree nursery with over 13 million seedlings ready for the restoration programme.
In addition, the Ministry of Forestry in coordination with the Interim Coordinating Secretariat, has developed a number of project proposals for forest rehabilitation, including tree planting. Some of these projects are currently being discussed with development partners to secure additional funding for rehabilitating our forest and water catchments during the rain seasons to come. Finally, I would to thank the encroachers who heeded government call to voluntarily and peacefully. I also call upon the rest of the people in Mau to cooperate with government efforts to restore the degraded Mau.