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Logoman Forest Station Scouts volunteer to protect environment | Coastwek

RIFT VALLEY -- Conservation of Mau Forest Complex, Kenya’s largest water catchment, draws much attention due to its multiple benefits to Kenya’s tourism, energy and agriculture sector. Streams emanating from the complex drain into major lakes such as Lake Nakuru, Elementaita and Baringo, which support wildlife attracting local and international tourists. Between 1990 and 2001, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) indicates a destruction of the 107,000 hectares of the forest. PHOTOS - COURTESY: RHINO ARK PROJECT

Logoman Forest Station Scouts volunteer to protect environment

by Robert Manyara NAKURU (Xinhua) -- Emerging need to protect forests from destruction to promote sustainable environment in Kenya has pushed communities into conservation activities as they focus on long-term benefits.

Simon Sururu is the chairman of Logoman Forest Station Scouts, which constitutes of 20 young men from Ogiek community monitoring and rehabilitating 20 hectares of the Logoman Forest, a sub-station of the larger Mau Forest Complex, spanning five counties in Kenya’s Rift Valley region.

"My children will suffer in the future if I don’t take care of the forest," said Sururu who lives on the fringes of Logoman forest in Nakuru county.

In the last decade, Mau Forest Complex has attracted local and international attention due to its exposure to extensive destruction from illegal harvesting of trees for firewood, charcoal and timber.

Although there have been relentless efforts from the government to save the forests, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), state entity responsible for protecting forests, still reports of the existing challenges of degradation.

Review of the forest laws in 2007 brought in a new aspect of community involvement in conservation activities, which created an opportunity for raising awareness on necessity of environmental conservation.

The new drive, which has given way to the establishment of the group of community volunteers in the Mau, now called for forest champions.

"I have seen rivers dry and droughts hit us so badly but I didn’t know it had a connection to the forest until I received training on forest conservation," Sururu said.

KFS, together with a community representative organization, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program, trained them four months ago on the significance of forests to mitigation of climate change and community development.

"We depend on rain to grow crops and if there is none, everybody will suffer.

"Trees bring rain, prevent soil erosion and keep the air clean," Sururu said.

KFS allocated the Ogieks the section of the forest to conserve as part of the process of community participation in safeguarding the natural resource.

Ogiek is a minority community living within the Mau ecosystem, and has, for centuries, lived on forest resources, including wild berries and honey from bees reared on hives mounted on nectar producing trees.

While the community, through forest associations, takes role in replenishing the forest with indigenous trees as agreed with KFS, the scouts working for free.

"It’s challenging to achieve a 10 percent forest cover without community engagement," Daniel Kobei, executive director of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program said.

According to him, communities living adjacent to forests must be actively engaged in conservation activities since their livelihoods are directly dependent on their existence.

He said communities should not only be educated on benefits accrued from forest conservation but also be engaged in every aspect of rehabilitating natural resources, including making decisions on how to utilize them for efforts to control environmental degradation.

He said a lot of work has to be done in creating awareness among Kenyan communities on relative impact of deforestation on climate change.

Sururu said he has started to nurture his children to respect the environment through tree nurseries and planting trees in his homestead, a habit which Kobei emphasizes as a strategy towards creating an environmental-friendly generation.

"It is a good thing to see people willing to protect the forest for free which is what the scouts are doing.

"That means they know the importance of the forests," said Kobei.

Joseph King’ori, KFS officer in charge of the Logoman Forest, says an empowered community is an informed society indispensable to creating and maintaining sustainable environments.

"We need communities to create a Participatory Management Plan which will guide on how they engage in conservation of the forests," he said.


Community land ownership motivates Kenyans to protect forests 

NAKURU (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s new law makes it possible for communities laying claim on ancestral land to acquire title deeds and enjoy right to full ownership.

This comes as a blessing to minority communities which have long struggled to secure legal protection to their inherited land.

Conflicts have often risen over acquisition of land in Kenya some of whom involve minority communities in different parts of the country.

The Community Land Act which came into effect in August gives cognizance to ancestral land and bestows power to any community member to seek for it’s a title deed, the legal document which shows an individual is the rightful owner of a particular piece of land.

Wilson Kipkazi, executive director of Endorois Welfare Council, an organization working around issues affecting members of the minority community of Endorois, said the law would save them the struggle to own land.

“We have been having problems with land ownership as members of Endorois community. Getting the title deeds is the best thing we are looking forward to,” he said.

The community has been creating committees to look into their land ownership challenges which are yet to be solved of which he hopes enactment of the law would address to the advantage of the members.

Actively involving the community at every stage of enforcing the law would also be welcome to eliminate chances of conflicts in allocating the land, he said.

“In areas like Muchongoi (in the Rift Valley region) we have had problems of non-Endorois being allocated land but I believe proper enforcement of the community land law will address that problem fully,” he observed.

Absence of legal claim to a land makes it impossible for the occupant to establish long term investments for fear of future loss. As such communities remain impoverished for centuries due to under development.

Kipkazi, however, observes the long strenuous process of enacting laws in Kenya as a challenge to enjoying benefits of the law immediately.

“There are other policies that need to be put in place to operationalize the law and this takes such a long time,” he stated.

Daniel Kobei, the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program, which advocates for the rights of the Ogiek community, a minority group which largely inhabits within the Mau ecosystem; says establishment of the law serves them well in pushing for land justice.

“The only challenge comes in terms of whether the government is going to implement it as per the law,” he said.

“Some of the Ogiek land is said to be public land and so we will wait to see if they will be given as community land.”

Under the law, the right of ownership to a community land enjoyed by an individual or community before the new regulations came into effect will be upheld.

“No right on community land shall be expropriated or confiscated except by law on the public interest and in consideration of payment of just compensation to the person or persons,” reads Clause 7 (subsection 3) on land ownership and tenure system.

Kobei said they are training the community on how to manage their community land to benefit them while ensuring they are protecting the environment appropriately.

He argues that having protected ownership of community land will motivate the Ogieks to be more proactive in protecting the Mau Forest.

The Ogiek live within the Mau Forest ecosystem, areas they refer to their communal land they inherited from their ancestors.

Mau Forest is a forest complex which covers five counties in the Rift Valley region. It is the largest water tower in the East African region and supports the Maasai-Mara ecosystem, the home of Maasai Mara and Serengeti National Parks, known for the wildebeest heritage. 

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