Tag Archives: biofuel

Strong local reactions against Jatropha threat to Tana River Delta

There has been a facebook profile set up for ‘Tana River County, Kenya’ that has been interesting to read some of the reactions from local people living either in the delta or in town but it being their home where they come from and so still very concerned about it. This is one recent post that I thought would be good to share. She hits the nail on the head with several of her comments:

“Jatropha BIOFUEL Plant in Tana Delta…NO!NO!NO!

one thing for sure is that if it is a 65,000hectres of an agricultural project then the people shall eat directly from the land thanks to the produce, but if we insist on a Biofuel plant apart from killing the Ecosystem.. Truth is:

1. you cannot Eat fuel.

2 it needs further processing which means it need a production plant, that shall need the water from the river in order to process it.

3 after processing the water is spilled back into the river where fishermen,children and cattle heads drink and fish and fetch water for cooking.

4. the dead carcasses of the trees shall be left to rot and also thrown into the river ,after a month you will have a good part of tree part from the 65,000hectares floating monthly down the river.

5 you will still have to buy the petrol in town that is if it is for kenyans but the truth is,…it is for the europeans.we are just a “cheap” production plant like in china because our leaders are easily lured with a sweet.

6 at the end of the day,..you shall not have neither NSWi nor Matholi because the fish shall die of poisoning.

7. We are now back to square one where people shall not even be able to use the river water, meaning more hunger.so we shall even be meandering further down the rivers of poverty,hunger and apart from this….Displacement because of foreign interest.

8.Fact is that, i really don’t have to care about anybody else since i am in “town” as you could have put it. But i care because i am still a daughter of this land and shall fight against any NON-sustainable “projects”.

9.we are already suffering from the consequences of global warming,why damage further.

10.The european communities are going “green” but all its dirty work is done else where like africa,china,india. they only tell you about the basic structure of a project but notice that they don’t give you the details of the whole process which we are not taking into account….until when you finding them breaking every code.am afraid we are making a grave mistake!!

11.Say YES!! to agriculture!! instead…”

…There are also other options to just agriculture as well – such as conserving part of the area for wildlife and using it for sustainable tourism. Afterall this means the land and habitat will be maintained in the way that God created it to be and to act as – i.e. as a ‘sponge’ for the natural flooding that should happen annually thus providing highly rich conditions for breeding fish / birds / amphibians / mammals etc.. as well as a carbon sink and to prevent erosion. The potential for ecotourism there is huge – it just needs the willingness of the government to support it instead of a biofuel project which will destroy the area and increase poverty levels.

Public hearing for jatropha biofuels in Tana River Delta

Last week a public hearing was held for the Candian biofuel company Bedford Biofuels proposed project of planting 64,000 ha of jatropha plantations stretching from the western edge of the Tana River Delta right to the heart of the main delta and its biodiverse rich wetlands. The hearing was held in Tarasaa, a village within the delta itself and near where the plantations are being proposed to be put on community-owned ranches. Stanley and myself attended the hearing to support others who have realised the folly of replacing large areas of indigenous woodland and wetland habitats which are home to a significant population of wildlife including buffalo and elephant with a project which is effectively a desert in terms of biodiversity and water retention, will release more carbon into the atmosphere through the production of the biofuels than will be saved through the use of it, will dry the land out where it’ll be grown in an area where people are already crying out for water – all for a crop which has been shown to fail in production at plantation levels at all attempts through East Africa and many beyond.

  There were a lot of people at the hearing…

There was, however, a very vocal and quite aggro large crowd of people who were pro the project – for the one and simple reason that they have been promised jobs in an area where it is true there are no jobs immediately available. There were dances saying how wonderful Bedford Biofuels are, and speeches waxing lyrical about the positives of the project. It was very very interesting to note how the guy who was translating from English into Swahili for the Canadian manager added a lot of his own words and embellished what was being said by the manager to drive home how positive it was and yet when he translated for me (since I had agreed with NatureKenya that it would be less ‘hot’ if I spoke in English rather than Swahili), he hugely minimised what I was saying such that I had to add some bits in Swahili to fill in what he had left out. If ever there was a mightily biased presentation of one side over another by a translator, this was the prize winner!

The District Commissioner who was in charge of the event handled the crowd and the sense of aggressiveness extremely well

However there were a number of community members who were really concerned about what the project was going to mean to their livelihoods and lifestyle, to their forests – “if our forest is cut down for the jatropha, where will we go to for our building materials and to graze our cattle? What will happen to the water supplies for us in an area that is already dry?”. Key questions which, to be honest, I don’t think were properly addressed nor answered by the Canadians.

One thing claimed by Bedford Biofuels was that jatropha has been shown to “use less water than other trees”. This, of course, is a perfectly accurate statement – but which species of trees?! It will most certainly be true for eucalyptus and other species that use a lot of water, but was that study carried out looking the species of trees that are found in the Tana River Delta? Given that the report apparently came from South Africa, it is highly unlikely that this is the case. This statement is therefore misleading and inappropriate for this discussion and was clearly a further attempt at giving half-truth information to the community to persuade them jatropha is a good thing when in fact concealing the truth that by planting wide open plantations of small trees, significantly greater quantities of water will be evaporated from the surface of the exposed ground together with that which the jatropha will use than would be lost from the ground when covered in native woodland and bush. Not only that but by clearing all the vegetation it will lead to huge runoff, and in running off you get erosion which leads to rivers being filled with silt which then leads to large deposits of silt in the ocean. This can already be seen from the Sabaki River near Malindi – where erosion upstream from uncontrolled clearance of ground cover for agriculture has caused excessive erosion and as a result the land has extended almost 2kms into the ocean from where it was in the 1970s as well as the once stunnning coral reef of Malindi National Marine Park is now often covered with a layer of muddy silt.

We head out today to do the annual waterbird counts of the Tana River Delta for the 6th successive year – counts which have really proven how hugely important the delta is for waterbirds, both for the region (hosting breeding populations of herons and storks that probably travel and forage as far as Tanzania in the non-breeding season) as well as for Europe and Asia. This is, in fact, and international affair as the destruction of the delta by jatropha and sugar cane will mean that we are impacting bird populations across East Africa, Europe and Asia – they are not just ‘our’ Kenyan birds…

Tarasaa post office – the village where the hearing was held

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“Farming God’s Way” in threatened Dakatcha Woodlands

We’ve been somewhat quiet over Christmas and New Year – getting away and having a much-needed break, though many times this is when developers like to take action because they know that there are fewer people looking. This seems to have been what has happened in Dakatcha with the jatropha project – just before Christmas, new machinery was brought in and activity levels at the Italian jatropha project picked up. The worry is that the project will go ahead at a level which is still unacceptable for a) a crop which has overwhelming evidence that it will fail and only bring problems and greater poverty to the site and b) a site that is globally important for rare and endangered biodiversity.

NatureKenya have continued to do a great job at highlighting what is going on though there hasn’t been much news from them either of late… will have to do some ferreting to find out what’s going on.

However the great news is that the Bountiful Grains Trust based in South Africa but working throughout southern and eastern Africa have decided to continue working with us as A Rocha Kenya on the Farming God’s Way (FGW) work amongst farmers in the Dakatcha area. This is awesome and Pius Mutie has just come back from Dakatcha with our A Rocha Staff member Katana where they’ve done ten days of follow up training with the farmers and church members who have been involved already and anyone else who is keen to learn about it.

The beauty of FGW is that it not only works really well in hugely increasing productivity for farmers who practise it correctly, but it also gives excellent teaching on core life principles based on solid biblical teaching. Katana has been putting the FGW techniques he has learnt into practice and has reaped the benefits – as can be seen in the photos below of his shamba (farm) and the size of the maize / corn he managed to grow last year. For comparison, his neighbours crop is shown which shows how traditional farming techniques really do serious harm to communities still trying to live by them.

Katana in his FGW-farmed maize

Katana’s neighbour’s maize – taken the same time

What is the difference with this form of agriculture? The main principles taught by FGW are that you should do your farming with excellence, do it on time (apparently the main reason there is hunger in Africa – farmers plant late and so miss the full benefit of the rains and thus get under sized crops and sometimes none at all), do it with joy and without wasting anything. Following these and applying them with the core techniques of no ploughing, lots of mulching of dead vegetation on the crops and rotating your crops are the key ingredients to getting a bumper harvest from your fields.

We really hope to spread this news far and wide and get more and more farmers using it so as to not only help them get more from their fields, but also to stop erosion, retain moisture in the soils, reduce the area of land required for farming and thus saving some more indigenous habitats. We hope to introduce FGW with our ASSETS community project around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek and even at the Sabaki River Mouth with the communities there – but that’s a wee way into the future from now.

The recent training has gone pretty well though the turn out wasn’t as high as we’d hoped but there was an enthusiastic reception from those who were there. Our vision is to spread it to as many people as possible and have many of the community being able to feed themselves as well as having food left over to sell and in doing so protecting the forest from further destruction.

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Tana River Delta under increasing pressure from ‘green wash’ biofuel developments

It seems we’re being hammered on all sides here on the north coast of Kenya in terms of unique and precious biodiversity being threatened with destruction in the name of ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ developments. As in the Dakatcha Woodlands, the highly misleadingly named ‘green fuel of Africa’, Jatropha curcas is being proposed for vast plantations to produce biofuel in the Tana River Delta by a Canadian company, Bedford Biofuels.

This is going to be a massive ecological disaster as the Tana River Delta is an incredibly special area for wildlife as well as for local communities that have existed for generations as pastoral people herding cattle in and out of the delta.

Bedford Biofuels have produced an EIA that initially was not being made available to the public unless you went in person to read it in the office. We do however have a pdf of it now and will post it on the www.tanariverdelta.org website. I received this from NatureKenya regarding the project:

“An EIA for the Bedford Biofuels jatropha project in Tana Delta has been produced. (It weighs 2 or 3 kilos). It was sent to the East African Wild Life Society with a cover letter (attached). They kindly loaned it to Nature Kenya, and we made a copy of the relevant pages. (However, when we phoned NEMA, they said the EIA is yet to be advertised for comments….)

Maps showing the location of the project are attached. The land is leased from Group Ranches. One Group Ranch is adjacent to the Tana River Primate National Reserve, while another one is in the heart of the Delta on the coast.  However, only a part of each ranch will be used to plant Jatropha. “

The section that is the ‘heart’ of the delta is truly in the heart – right up against the sea front bang in the centre of stretch of beach and bush from Kipini down to the Tana Delta Dunes Camp. THis is something which really must be stopped. I understand from friends in Calgary that Bedford Biofuels is promoting itself over the TV and other media as being an eco-friendly company that ‘helping poor communities in Africa’ to improve. This is surely not going to be the case when we know for a fact that jatropha plantations have been failing all over Africa. Read this as a quote from someone who has been doing a lot of research into jatropha as an economically viable crop:

“The major contention that exists with the plans for planting Jatropha
curcas for biofuels is that in much of Africa it has been
categorically shown to fail as an economic crop when planted in
plantations. Jatropha or castor companies that have closed, are seeking
reinvestment or funds, or have been sold on in Africa include: Energem,
ESV Bioafrica (unpaid wages for 9 months with local councillors
arriving the appease the workers, sold in November 2009 to two Italian
companies, Api Nova Energia SrL and Seci Energia SpA), CHEMC Agri,
Bachir Jatropha (closed – Mozambique), Icecap (Namibia – closed) ;
FloraEcopower reportedly 70% bankrupt (Ethiopia, after clearing 10,000
has forest/ allocated 80% Babile elephant sanctuary), Bioshape and
Biomassive Lindi Tanzania (allocated coastal forests with large logging
components). Furthermore, in Brazil – who have vastly more experience
in biofuel production probably than anyone else, they are putting up
just one test mechanised farm of 5,000 hectares after 20 years of
research in Jatropha and intend to wait four years and see.

The sober facts are that, at the moment, based on African (and many
international) experiences so far, there is no scientific or evidential
basis for supporting large-scale jatropha plantations, especially on
uncleared, communally owned and/or environmentally more valuable land.”

This is surely something that we do not want to have in Kenya and to destroy our biodiversity for nothing more than allowing some project proponent get away with large sums of investor funding and leave a desert behind them (…or am I being too cynical??).

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Jatropha as agroforestry as opposed to monoculture??

Thanks to HM for your comments. Jatropha has indeed been shown to be a viable crop for farmers to grow, but really on when grown as a fence or hedge crop – set in amongst other plants and not, as you say, in a monoculture. This is effectively agroforestry.

However this will take much more time and effort for the investor / developer to bother with as they are interested in profit for themselves (which is reasonable as a business, I guess!) – but in this sort of situation, you are doing NO FAVOURS to the local community by clearing their environment and planting a crop which is 90% unlikely to succeed. The hedge system is something for the likes of us as conservation organisations committed to the long term benefit of the local communities together with protecting threatened habitats and species to take up and introduce – and to perhaps link with developers / investors who want to put in the refinery plant…but in a place where it really will not impact the environment.

Unfortunately this project has none of these sorts of genuine objectives for the community, proven by the fact that they have gone ahead with the clearing and project before the EIA was even out – and are continuing to work on it as I tap this. Not only that but by not wanting journalists and conservationists to see the project and in fact using violence to chase them off – surely tells a loud story.

Dakatcha Woodlands jatropha biofuel threat continues

This threat to the Globally Important Dakatcha Woodlands continues unabated from all accounts we hear. From what we hear, the local Administration are trying to get a title deed to now c.30,000 ha of the proposed 50,000 ha in a bid to ‘satisfy’ the conservationists that the forest will be excluded from the project. However we are fully aware that putting in a 30,000 ha of jatropha plantation which has been shown to not work in East Africa will only bring massive pressure on all adjacent habitats from the large influx of human population from elsewhere and will very likely bring about the degradation of the sensitive woodlands through additional charcoal burning and tree cutting. There is still no clear-cut map from the project that we have seen that outlays where exactly the project is proposed – and certainly if there are 30,000 ha being set aside for the project.

I’ve heard today too that Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd are today employing more staff to work on the plantation – this is before any clearance has been given from NEMA and before the EIA has been approved (as far as we are know… and by law it should be a public announcement, I believe). This implies that either the company is going ahead in direct indifference to the laws of Kenya or that NEMA has given a go ahead in some other way than publically.

It is also said that those employed at the project are not from within the proposed area of the project but come from outside it – and will therefore be quite positive about it since they are not going to be losing land to it.

Word has it also that the President himself has requested that the Intelligence dept (CID) make an in-depth enquiry and produce a report for him on the issue. This may be a good thing for the protection of the forest if indeed those making the enquiry are not corrupted by the someone with interests in the project as well.

All of these news items would need to be fully substantiated, but from our experience, these sorts of items tend to have a strong element of truth in them.

If you are at all concerned about it, please do write letters of concern to those listed on one of our earlier blogs found at this link.

Conservation staff threatened and attacked by Jatropha project mob

I have been away for almost a month since the public hearing on the jatropha project proposed for the globally important site for biodiversity conservation, the Dakatcha Woodlands. During that time, things have not cooled down or been sorted out at all. NEMA were meant to have produced a report and the proceedings from the meeting but we are still waiting for it. In the meantime last week, the NatureKenya manager for coast, Francis Kagema, together with two reporters and two Kenya Wildlife Service rangers went to the Jatropha plantation site to interview the man in charge. They were met by a mob of 30+ people armed with clubs, pangas (machetes) and stones who attacked them and damaged the car and injured two people. This attack was apparently provoked by the Provincial Administration, which if true is particularly alarming that the government is taking this approach to support a project which has been clearly shown to have little hope of success, but rather will have a very significant negative impact on the area and human population.

Paul Matiku, Director of NatureKenya wrote this brief update on the event last week:

“I write to inform you that following our aggressive campaigns against the setting a side of 50,000 ha for Kenya Jatropha Energy LTD to plant Jatropha in Dakatcha Woodland IBA, there are unpleasant developments.
 
Nature Kenya staff, KTN reporter and KWS rangers in a Nature Kenya car were attacked on Thurs 1st July by armed people from the community supporting the jatropha project mobilized by the area provincial administration. The bad news is as follows:

   1. A KTN reporter wanted to cover the issue in Dakatcha so Mr Francis Kagema, Nature Kenya Conservation Programme Officer, requested security from KWS and in a Nature Kenya car they left Malindi to go to Dakatcha Woodland. Their going was not a secret, so people in Dakatcha knew they were going.
   2. On the way within Marafa Division where Dakatcha woodland is found, they met a group of local people armed with pangas, clubs and stones. They charged to attack them but the KWS rangers cocked their guns and the crowd receded. They stoned the car and also injured two local people who were passing by the scene and who are known to oppose the project. They escaped unharmed except the damage to the car that could still be driven.
   3. The Margarini District District Commissioner (DC) called OCPD (Officer in Charge of Police Division) Malindi and ordered the arrest of Mr Kagema and the Nature Kenya car. On their way they met the OCPD security team who stopped them – all they wanted was Mr Kagema who they said was wanted by the OCPD. Kagema said he also wanted the OCPD. They both drove to the OCPD in Malindi.
   4. At the OCPDs office in Malindi, Mr Kagema was joined by Kenya Wildlife Service and other staff who together with the rangers totalled five and who then explained to the OCPD the background behind the attack. The two injured community members and the KTN reporter were also there. They recorded their statements with the OCPD and the OCPD did not see any reason to arrest Nature Kenya staff nor the car.
   5. Later the scared DC, who did not know that there was a KTN reporter in the car, called repeatedly pleading with the reporter not to cover the incidence.
   6. No arrests have been made.

Background to the attack:

   1. During the public hearing of the EIA, Area Councilors were heard talking publicly in the meeting chaired by the DC saying that Nature Kenya and any people opposed to the project should be killed.
   2. The councilors have also been heard saying that if Nature Kenya continues to oppose the project, they will evict Nature Kenya from the division.
   3. The County Council of Malindi has tried to stop Nature Kenya conservation activities in the area but a meeting before the conference we held last week on Monday had allowed some activities to take place especially if Nature Kenya agreed to setting a side of 32,000 ha to be allocated to the county council for jatropha growing.
   4. The press conference and the wide media coverage was badly received by the County Council, the Councelors and the Provincial Administration who have allowed illegal destruction of the Dakatcha Woodland to start ahead of the EIA approval process. Nature Kenya strongly objects to the EIA and the project and that stand remains.”

So this is a major increase in the heat of the event. Matiku has spoken to Dr Mwinzi, Director General for NEMA who promised that the EIA will not be approved. He also said he will talk to his staff on the ground and that he is aware that the developer has gone ahead and planted jatropha on the illegally cleared land ahead of the EIA approval process. Let’s hope that NEMA for once will have the teeth to really do something about this. My name was brought up in the whole affair, apparently, with me being accused to have gone to the jatropha site on the 2nd to take photographs together with Kagema – and apparently a police car was sent to arrest us there! As it was, I was in Nairobi that day…

We have been praying very much for this whole issue and it is amazing that Kagema and the reporters were not hurt as it could have been a lot nastier. We continue to pray for God to really intervene in this and are looking to take what action we can at international levels as well as locally. Please join us in this and in raising what storm you can to have a stop put to this project which really will not bring anything to the anyone in the area except increased poverty and habitat degradation.

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Public hearing for jatropha project in Dakatcha Woodlands

It’s over a week since the Public Hearing for the Dakatcha Jatropha biofuel project and there has been some good feed back about it (including apparently today a full article in the Daily Nation about it). The meeting was held in Sosoni which is in the heart of the Dakatcha Woodlands IBA (Important Bird Area) and when we got there it was already getting crowded though nothing much was going on. There was a tent where the authorities and invited guests were to sit including the District Commissioner for Malindi District and for the newly formed Magarini District which is where Dakatcha Woodlands now lies (Magarini has been split off from Malindi in the past year and has very little infrastructure to it yet so much still comes out of Malindi).

Some of the Dakatcha community members at the meeting

There was quite a crowd of community members already there and the local Dakatcha Woodlands Conservation Youth Group were there wearing their group T-shirts. In the end there was probably a good 1,000 people present and as the meeting went on it was apparent there was a large contingent of women in particular who were very vocal in support of the project. Stanley (our Community Conservation manager) wandered around a bit and made some enquiries and discovered that a womens group had been bussed in by the county council to support the project and make lots of noise in support of it… However there was also a strong group of people who stood very strongly against the whole project with some extremely passionate presentations by some who had been lied to by the project proponent: in initial discussions they had been told that the project would only be put in areas which were nobodys land as such and where no-one was farming – only then to have land demarcation beacons placed right in people’s farms. Also they were told that the project was going to open up a road to access the plantation site, which the community thought was OK only then to find the bulldozers opening up an area of c.30ha in size and very much wider than you would need for a road. That was when they then forced the bulldozers to stop work and a court order was put in place.

The first presentation was by an Italian developer, a Mr Ivan, representing Jatropha Biofuel Energy Kenya, who presented the project to those gathered. He gave a very unplanned, unstructured presentation and almost appeared uninterested in it with his main point being that as from the day the licence is granted they would immediately hire 150 people and in 3 years would employ 1,500. He gave the classic spiel about how good jatropha is because it has been shown to grow in very arid conditions – and was therefore perfect for Dakatcha. He also called Dakatcha an ‘abandoned area’ and that Jatropha Energy Ltd wanted to ‘develop it’ When challenged as to where the land the project was taking actually lay (none of the community members were at all clear about the boundaries and if their area was or wasn’t included in it…), he brought out a photocopied and selotaped together map and vaguely flattened it out on a chair for the few people who went forward to have a look at it.

The Italian developer from Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd with his colleague and interpreter
…jatropha is apparently 100% renewable…

This was followed by a chance for 5-10 community members who were for the project to come and give their reasons why followed by the same number who were against it. The County Council for Malindi was there in force and for some reason the chairman of the proceedings sat down and the Head of the Council took over introducing and controlling the speakers and called up 3-4 councillors who each spoke for 30-40 mins uninterrupted but with much whistling and clapping and shouting from the ‘yes’ group of the audience. In their presentations they also made very direct and almost personal attacks on NatureKenya and ‘two people’ who they accused of trying to prevent development in the area and who were bringing no benefit to the people. I was actually really shocked at how almost vitriolic they spoke against NatureKenya but told Kagema that he should be proud of it as it really showed that he had been doing his job to protect the woodlands from destruction. The councillors claimed to have followed all the correct procedures for acquiring the land and stated that sufficient public community meetings were held to inform the community – it is interesting to note that at a meeting of community leaders for the NatureKenya project that was held after the EIA had been carried out for the Jatropha, the 20 or so people at the meeting were asked how many were aware of the EIA process having happened… just two had even heard about it. Who were they? The two Chiefs present who have been in on the project since the start. Interesting.

The main case ‘for’ the project was that it was going to bring employment and jobs to people who otherwise had no form of income. It is true that poverty levels are very high and there is precious little for people to earn an income from. Over the past five years charcoal making has really taken off that has raped and destroyed large sections of the forest (and continues – there were three lorry loads of charcoal driven past the meeting site in just two hours…) but apart from farming there isn’t a lot for people to earn off. And farming is a challenge as the soils and rainfall are so poor – hence why we as A Rocha Kenya have been introducing Conservation Agriculture to try and improve fertility of soils and increase productivity. The really sad thing, however is that by bringing jatropha to the area in plantation form, it will definitely increase poverty, not reduce it. There are now a number of examples of how it has failed and instead brought problems. In the light of this, it was amazing to hear some of the ‘for’ speakers telling the community to ‘consider the future.. and choose jatropha!’.

Following the county council speakers, a chance was given to the government institutions and NGOs and other ‘technical’ organisations. The Zonal Manager for Malindi Kenya Forest Service spoke very clearly and strongly about how procedures had not been followed since even to that day he had yet to receive an official letter informing him about the project. Anthony Githithu of National Museums of Kenya followed this up with further clear examples of how jatropha as a crop would not succeed and highlighting the importance of the biodiversity of Dakatcha and how we need to conserve it rather than clear it for plantations.

Anthony Githithu of NMK speaking

The councillors gave some heckling to several of these latter speakers – though not the government officers except they did try to get them to stop talking saying their time was over after about 6-7 minutes including when I spoke. I guess we came away with a concern that there did seem to be a larger number of project ‘supporters’ than those who were against it and also a horror of how people have had the wool pulled over their eyes as to what jatropha really is like and how it will do. However it was good that we were the ones to present after the councillors as it meant that the political hype they spoke was followed by some more calmly presented facts as to how jatropha really will NOT succeed as an economic crop but will lead to further poverty. There was less heckling from the crowd when we spoke and there’s a chance people started to think that there may be a truth to the other side of the coin which they had never had presented to them. We’ll see what happens next…

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Public hearing for jatropha biofuel project that threatens to destroy globally important Dakatcha Woodlands

The Dakatcha Woodland fiasco continues unabated. As an internationally important forest for biodiversity conservation and as an area that is a marginal agricultural area due to poor soils and low rainfall, you would have thought it a no-brainer for the Government to put its money where its mouth is when it has talked very eloquently about both conserving biodiversity and, (take note of this) increase forest cover in Kenya from where it stands currently at c.1.5% cover to “over 10%” – and therefore set aside this area of existing forest for conservation rather than clear fell 50,000ha of forest, woodland and scrub that holds globally important populations of threatened wildlife let alone is a major water catchment area and carbon sink.

However that is not the case and instead the Government is prepared to:

# Give away c.1/3 of Marafa Divisions land surface to a foreign company (Italian, called ‘Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd’ here, but according the EIA, “100% owned by Nouve Iniziative Industriali sri (NIIsri) of Italy”), an area of land that according to the EIA is 40% an Important Bird Area (Dakatcha Woodlands) and 70% occupied by local communities

# Allow 500 square kms (that is 20% larger than Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, mainland Africa’s 2nd most important forest for bird conservation that lies only 15kms south and with which Dakatcha shares much of its biodiversity) to be clear felled

# licence a project that has broken the law and continues to do so

# support a project that has evidence showing that it will impoverish the existing communities living in the area

# approve a project for which the EIA is scanty, was carried out in a very flawed, non-transparent procedure with none of the major stakeholders consulted including the majority of the community living in the area

# approve a project which has never been discussed and passed by the District Environmental Committee – where all and any projects of any significance must be passed by first.

# The EIA once finally produced was then not easily available to the public. People we know who went to the NEMA offices in Nairobi to get a copy were refused the chance of copying it and told if they wanted to read it they had to stay there and read it. No soft copy was made available and only through some other means did NatureKenya manage to get hold of a pdf of the EIA and circulate it some days after the notice was put in the newspaper as required by law.

# approve a project for which not even the government’s own local conservation and forest management authorities were consulted – and in fact to date have yet to receive any official communication regarding the project: the Malindi Zonal Manager (previously known as the District Forest Officer until government madness split the country into too many districts to make it viable to govern… but that’s another story!) for the Kenya Forest Service said today that he had only heard rumours and through information in the public domain regarding the project and had been waiting to receive a communication from the project proponents or at least the County Council in Malindi but did not get anything. It was when he heard that the forest was now being bulldozed that he then wrote to the County Clerk in the Council requesting clarification – but has yet to have a reply from him. KEFRI (Kenya Forest Research Institute), Kenya Wildlife Service and National Museums of Kenya furthermore had not been consulted during the EIA process, institutes in whose hands the welfare of our environment has been placed for management on the ground.

# Allow this destruction for a commercial plantation of a crop which:

  • has now been shown categorically to be completely uneconomical to grow in commercially (see next blog)
  • where the carbon cycle balance for the project is actually negative (i.e. it will release more carbon in the making of the biodiesel than will be saved through the mitigating effect of the fuel being used as opposed to normal fossil fuels)
  • not a single large plantation of jatropha has been shown to be viable in East Africa
  • in Tanzania a jatropha biofuel project by Bioshape, a Dutch biofuel company, has just gone bust (reported in our meeting today by WWF rep) and in so doing has destroyed a significant area of hardwood forest

To underscore all of this, reports have it that our Minister for Environment apparently has stated that “so far he has not seen one good
reason not to give the project the full green light”…

Early in 2010, therefore, bulldozers were brought in (as previously reported on a blog) and an area of c.10ha have been clear felled of trees. Apparently the project proponents had told the villagers that they wanted to open up the road to their project site, but once they got going, the breadth and scale of the clearing was clearly more than a road and the community members insisted the destruction stop. Thankfully no more has happened since then but this public hearing would appear to be an attempt to ‘open the way’ again and given Mr Michuki’s comments about green lights, there is a serious need to make it very clear that there are many very good reasons why the project should get the full red light.

So tomorrow (Thursday 20th May 2010) the County Council are organising a Public Hearing where in theory all and any stakeholders can attend and give their opinion and where majority concensus should lead the day. It was very interesting today to learn that members of the County Council had admitted to the NatureKenya manager that they were not calling people to the public hearing because they were afraid of too many stakeholders coming to the meeting and being the majority and thus able to do more to stop it. They are basically planning to threaten and intimidate stakeholders into agreeing on the project. However they hadn’t reckoned on the NatureKenya manager who is a tough fighter and a good man and who has garnered a lot of support to fight this project!

We (A Rocha Kenya) are going to take a good crowd of our team to attend the meeting as many of them are passionate and concerned about the outrage of this project and want to lodge their outrage. It’s crucial that we have as many people there as possible so since our landcruiser is currently dead in the garage waiting for a new ‘heart and lungs’ which we’re trying to find US$2,500 to fix, we are having to hire a matatu minibus. The trip is going to cost us about Ksh 7,000 (c.$95) – if any reader feels able to assist towards the cost of this, we would really appreciate it as we don’t have a budget at all for it. If so, please donate via the A Rocha International website and where it gives ‘Designation’ select ‘Kenya general fund’. If possible put a remark so we know what the gift was for. This will make a real difference. Any additional funding to what the trip costs will be put towards other costs for the Dakatcha work and campaign. THANK YOU in advance.

Today we had an Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Management Team (ASFMT) meeting with a particular focus on the public hearing tomorrow but also to bring all the government partners up to scratch on what is happening in Dakatcha. In the meeting it was pointed out that the Dakatcha land has apparently already been leased to the Italian company for a period of 33 years. Strictly speaking, if a company leases the land, they become the ‘owner’ of it meaning all people living there will legally be ‘squatters’. They are planning to ‘buy out’ the land owners but many are not / will not be interested to sell. They are therefore going to try and have them as ‘out growers’ of jatropha but legally speaking they will be squatters… It all sounds very messy.

ASFMT meeting at Kipepeo offices earlier today

Overall, with the increasing evidence that Jatropha is not a viable crop for plantations (I’ll write more in the next blog on this), then the project is doomed to fail from the start. And yet it continues. Why? Word on the ground has it that the proponents of the project are after the extremely valuable timber in the form of Brachystegia spiciformis which is already used hugely (and 100% illegally) in Malindi by mainly the Italian market for furniture production.

It will be very interesting to see how the public hearing goes tomorrow and I’ll try my best to blog a report on it for those of you who are interested. I promised to put up a template letter to assist people to write and complain – and still plan to do so. Please write anyway. Whatever noise can be made to stop this madness is necessary and very appreciated.

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Take action to save the Tana River Delta

More and more people and organisations are becoming aware of the plight of the Tana River Delta. Here is something that you can join in on and take action. We are also posting on the www.tanariverdelta.org website other letters which you can copy and paste into an email or print and send to a list of critical people… I’ll let you know as soon as it’s up.

Forwarded from NatureKenya:

To take part in the email alert, please go to http://www.climateark.org/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=kenya_tana_biofuel

TAKE ACTION

Let the Kenyan government know destroying ecosystems for toxic sugar monocultures is unethical, and ask them to please follow their own environmental laws, and permanently cancel the project.

Kenya has recently approved plans to destroy some 20,000 hectares of the globally important and ecologically sensitive Tana Delta for sugar and biofuel production. Covering 130,000 hectares, these wetlands’ diverse riverine vegetation — forests, swamps, dunes, beaches and ocean — will be forever altered by widespread vast fields of toxic, monoculture sugar cane and biofuel mill. The project threatens 350 species including birds, lions, hippos, nesting turtles, elephants, sharks, reptiles and the Tana red colobus, one of 25 primates facing extinction globally.

Mumias Sugar Company, the nation’s largest sugar company, owns 51 percent of the project, while most of the rest is owned by state-run Tana and Athi River Development Authority. Local people live in an intricate relationship with the delta’s ecosystems, and are generally opposed to the mill. Irrigation would cause severe drainage of the Delta, leaving local farmers without water for their herds during dry seasons. The Kenya Wetlands Forum is calling on the Government to cancel its approval given to the project. “We cannot just start messing around with the wetland because we need biofuel and sugar,” Kenyan Nobel laureate and environmentalist Wangari Maathai has said.

Biofuel production worldwide continues to destroy crucial natural ecosystems required for local and global sustainability. While hailed as a climate change remedy, this destruction of natural habitats for biofuel production almost always releases more carbon than saved. Using food such as sugar for fuel has raised food prices, leading to riots globally, including in Kenya. Let the Kenyan government know destroying ecosystems for toxic monocultures is unethical, ask them to please follow their own environmental laws, and respectfully request the project be permanently