Residents feel pinch of charcoal, firewood ban

By Kurgat Marindany

The Kajiado County Government has remained tight-lipped over what measures they have put in place to provide alternatives to the banned charcoal in the region.
Deputy Governor Martin Moshisho avoided the question we fielded and said he will provide an answer “another day”.
Even as Moshisho refused to comment on the matter, boarding schools, county hospitals and homes that have been using either firewood or charcoal have remained perturbed and do not know where to turn to next.
The local people in the villages entirely depend on firewood, and the County environment chief officer, James Sankale and his CECM Florence Waiganjo have said he ban on firewood will affect ‘everybody.’
All the charcoal stores in Kajiado and Kitengela have closed down and consumers are now turning to cooking gas.
Most affected are hotels in major towns in the county, which depended entirely on charcoal.
Waiganjo said use of dead firewood in the villages will be regulated when the policy will have been published in the next few weeks.
“Those using dry firewood will be required to be licensed. This means homes in the villages will be required to seek permits from the County Government,” said Waiganjo.
During a devolution conference in Kajiado recently, Governor Joseph Lenku, vehemently refused to respond to inquiries on the state of charcoal.
The County Government has insisted that those seeking to use dead wood will be required to have permits.
“Even schools have to look for alternatives to charcoal and firewood. We are not relenting on the ban on charcoal and those institutions that have been using firewood will have to seek permits from us” stated Waiganjo.
Target Hotel, which is the main eatery for roast meat in Isinya has exhausted its charcoal and customers are now forced to eat boiled meat.
The owner, James Musana, envisages low business in weeks to come owing to the shortage of charcoal.
Musana said half of the meat supplied to his butchery is consumed by meat roasters and that if the ban on charcoal continues, he will miss out on clients who prefer roast meat.
Another common place for meat roasting, Enkare Resort in Kitengela has a huge customer base for meat eaters and relies entirely on charcoal.
Schools in the county will be the most affected by the ban on charcoal and dead firewood.
Olooseos Girls Secondary School in Kajiado North uses six truck-loads of firewood per term at a cost of Sh120, 000.
While speaking to us on the ban of charcoal and firewood, the school’s Principal Wanjiku Mutinda, said she is in dilemma on what she will do when schools open next term.
“I do not know what we will do in terms of firewood between now and then. Using gas to cook githeri cannot be sustainable. I will sit down with the school’s Board of Management (BOM) so that we can see what step we shall take as schools open next term,” noted Mutinda.
While launching an operation aimed at putting an end to charcoal trade Lenku said the county has put measures in place to stop the rampant felling of trees.
“We have started war on illegal loggers of trees and those burning charcoal for commercial purposes. I am tightening the noose on them for posterity purposes,” said Lenku.
Lenku formed a multi-agency team of county environment officials, Kenya Forest Service officers and administration police mandated to crack down on illegal burning of charcoal, transporters of such products and people felling trees for commercial purposes.
Kajiado Central Sub-county Deputy County Commissioner, Charles Chege is leading the provincial administration police officers in the crackdown.
Consumers are now crying foul over the new rules, saying the County Government did not give sufficient notice before enforcing the rules.
The high cost of charcoal is most likely going to affect sale of cereals from stockists in the country because dry beans and maize, which is a low cost diet for low income earners, require charcoal or firewood to cook.
Lenku recently ordered that all vehicles found transporting charcoal or timber must be impounded and owners charged in court. So far, at least two transporters have lost their vehicles to the State.
Elvis Omari had his Isuzu truck impounded after he was allegedly arrested by multi-agency officers with 88 bags of charcoal along the Kajiado-Namanga high way. Omari was arraigned in a Kajiado court and fined Sh60, 000 or served six months in jail in default.
While sentencing Omari, Chief Magistrate Susan Shitubi, said trading in charcoal is a serious offence which should be discouraged at all costs.
County environment assistant director, Kennedy Oseur, who is leading the operation on behalf of the County Government, said more than 20 vehicles could be lost to the State in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, Kitengela residents are mulling over death of Nyama Choma due to charcoal ban.
Nyama choma business persons in Kitengela, Kiserian and Ilbisil in Kajiado County are crying foul that the ban on logging and charcoal burning has adversely affected their business prompting to hiking of roast meat prices.

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