Tobiko raises red flag over forest damage

By Kurgat Marindany

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has for the umpteenth time raised a red tape over the on-going destruction of government forest.
Tobiko who after flying on a chopper to Thogoto in Kiambu, Oloolua and Kibiko in Kajiado County recently and made several stopovers, expressed dismay that those mandated to guard Government forests are actually the ‘enemy’ of the country’s resources.
He pointed an accusing finger at Kenyan Forest Service (KFS) for allegedly making him to believe that licenses issued to members of community forest association to practice shamba systems in Government forest land are bound by conditions.
“Now, I have just learned that there is nothing like that. Communities adjacent to forests are the best protectors and must benefit from the forest. They are allowed to get in the forests and plant their crops and at the same time take care of tree seedlings,” Tobiko pointed out.
The CS said he was shocked when he went to Kibiko only to find out that the locals who are tilling Government forest land are not members of the community forest association.
“In fact they pay money to members without receipts and agreements. You have an association that has been given a responsibility to guard the forest but they subcontract and double charge others from outside,” notedTobiko.
“KFS is a good institution working under tough conditions, limited capacity and resources. We will ensure KFS is empowered to have necessary resources, personnel, tools and competency,” said the Minister in Kibiku Ngong.
The minister said while he is striving to empower the institution, he is perturbed the Government department has been living in self denial and continue with the narrative of ‘no destruction was going on in Government forests’.
“It is time; it is in fact overdue that radical changes are necessary within KFS. We made changes and others were made earlier, but they are only face-saving actions. I am convinced beyond any doubt that unless KFS is radically overhauled, the country cannot be able to reclaim our pride,” said the CS.
Tobiko had earlier warned that he would weed out rogue KFS rangers and empower those found fit to fully protect forests, water towers and wetlands.
He had said he was unhappy with reports that forest rangers were colluding with traders and harvesting timber in Government forests without permits.
He said millers who would be caught logging beyond their permits would be prosecuted for economic sabotage.
“There are saw millers who are not following the laid down procedure. Their licences will have to be revoked,” he said as he assumed office at Mazingira House in Nairobi.
At the time, Tobiko said environmental conservation is a matter of life and death and asked officers in his ministry to take their work seriously. He said communities living around water towers would be empowered in conservation, saying the majority care about the environment.

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