Tag Archives: corruption

National Env Management Authority director suspended over Dakatcha biofuel issue

I have been sent this link to a newspaper report on the suspension of a NEMA Director for having given clearance for the Dakatcha jatropha biofuel project when the NEMA Board had not cleared it. There was clearly some dodgy stuff going on (exchange of $$??) that led to this.

This really is an answer to prayer – that the jatropha project in Dakatcha is becoming less and less likely to happen. Katana, our A Rocha Kenya staff member who is from and lives in Dakatcha where he is working on our Farming God’s Way programme and doing bird surveys and helping NatureKenya in their conservation work there, came last week and reported that the vibe on the ground is that the project won’t go ahead. If you pray… please keep praying for a complete stop to this madness and instead for opening doors for us and NatureKenya to implement some really sustainable and good programmes to help the community raise their standard of living whilst reducing their impact on the forest and habitat.

More from Katana later… he’s got some awesome stories.


Unproven biofuel projects given clearance in unique wetlands and forest areas

News has just come through that the Provincial Commissioner for Coast has apparently ordered that the jatropha plantation project for the Dakatcha Woodlands that has been fought for over two years (see other blogs on this) should “start on Monday” – since “the MP and the local people want it”…

In fact there is a significant proportion of the local population who do not want the project and there is plenty of evidence that the crop will fail to produce an economic output that will improve the livelihoods of the people and not damage the environment.

All this comes in the light of the Minister of the Environment, Michuki, who helicoptered into the site last year September for a public meeting and said that “before he would give any go ahead, if Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd want to implement their project, they must furnish his office with scientific evidence that Jatropha is commercially viable in Dakatcha and that it is not harmful to people and the environment.”

He gave an example of a failed “development project” that took place in Tanzania where the proponent clear felled an indigenous forest to cultivate groundnuts. The project failed because by clearing all trees the proponent eliminated all pollinators.

As it is, the Italian company who is behind this project have yet to even address or speak out in support of the economical viability of the crop even when challenged on it. There has been no scientific / solid evidence given publicly about the actual potential of the crop and all the reports we hear are that it doesn’t work here. I have just spoken a few minutes ago with a farmer from Mpeketoni near Lamu who tells me that jatropha has been tried around his area… and totally failed.

He further asked the County Council of Malindi to develop a multiple land use plan and zone all forested areas for conservation. This was agreed that it should be a collaborative effort including the main stakeholders such as NatureKenya and local community.

As it happened, the zonation map has been produced without any input other than from the County Council and done basically behind closed doors and presenting effectively a fait accompli which only those supporting the jatropha project had any input to. The map was produced in a very ‘jua kali‘ (Swahili for rough and ready, unprofessional) way and pretty much sketched by hand – as you can see from an image of it below:

The larger cross-hatch patterned area is the original area that they wanted to put under jatropha but which thankfully has been turned down – at least for now. I’m sure they’ll push for it in due course. The area they are apparently being ‘given’ to do the project is the smaller bold bordered area. Unlike what the project proponents have been saying, the area takes in a significant portion of the Brachystegia woodland habitat – the habitat that the endemic Clarke’s Weaver, found worldwide only in Dakatcha and Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 20kms to the south.

So it is that we are still fighting local government who are insisting in the light of evidence against the cause that it should in fact go ahead. There has been no word to my knowledge from the Minister of Environment’s office that it should go ahead and it would therefore appear that local government officers are being compromised in order for the project to happen.
WHEN will we have anything happening here by government which really benefits the local people and environment?? Those who read this and who pray – please pray that we can stop this project completely and instead bring alternatives for the people which will make a real difference to them and in doing so protect this amazingly precious part of God’s creation.

This is the corrupt system we are fighting against to protect something of the world around us

I received this in an email just recently that was sent out to the AfricanRaptors mailing list in response to a discussion about whether conservation can alleviate poverty. It kind of sums up what we are up against in Kenya when we are seeking to protect a fragile and precious environment that a greed developer has got his eyes on. This is what I fear the case will be for Dakatacha and for Tana River Delta – and for Sabaki River Mouth…

Our hope is to pray and to pray again that somehow we can stop these things which are entirely in the interests of a rich few and not for the poor majority nor the silent creation.

“Dear Rob et al,

It is not necessarily the poor and disadvantaged that have no concern for nature. Here in Kenya, some of the most wealthy are destroying essential environmental resources to enrich themselves further through corruption of Government officials charged with environmental protection. For six years, at great personal financial and emotional cost, in the face of death threats and attacks by gun-toting thugs hired from their day-job as policemen, more than fifty court appearances to defend myself against bogus criminal charges in front of a corrupt judge (I still won!) I have fought to maintain a wetland against greedy property developers. I managed to get the land designated as an ecologically fragile  riparian reserve, a flood plain, a water resource  and a tributary of the Nairobi River. As I write, bulldozers are ripping up the wetland and canalizing the river. The status was secretly changed by the water resource management authority without any subsequent survey and after a visit to the Government body by the developer’s agent. The developer is also cutting a road through public land upstream of the plot he claims in order to dump waste. Such is the weakness and greed of the Kenya authorities the developer acts with impunity. This is only one of many examples of illegal and inappropriate development that is ruining Kenya.

I, on the other hand, have been summoned to the High Court to respond to the same charges successfully defended and dismissed in the criminal courts. It is said of the Kenya judiciary “Why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge”!

I shall fight on with hope if not expectation of success.

I write only to suggest that theoretical conclusions crafted in institutions of higher learning and published in scientific journals, are not always consistent with reality.

If any of you feel concern, then the Natioal Environment Management Authority has the power to overturn this situation. NEMA has a new Director-General, Ayub Macharia (his two predecessors were dismissed but not prosecuted for corruption). Dr Macharia is considered to be honest and is looking into the matter but has stated that he believes nothing can be done. His email is  [email protected]


Peter Usher”

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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.

A greener, wetter Tsavo brings hope for more migrants

It’s time for the second session of migrant ringing at the legendary ringing ‘hut’ of Ngulia Safari Lodge in Tsavo West National Park for 2009. I was up early in Nairobi after having got back from Naivasha and the work there over the weekend to get out to Nairobi airport to meet David (Pearson) and Ian (regular, solid pillar of Ngulia night-time ringing) and several others (Phil and Dave from Icklesham in Sussex, UK – over for a ‘holiday’ in that they’ve just ringed 52,000 birds at the farm there this year!!, Maria from Greece and Sergey from Kazakstan) and to head straight down to Ngulia to arrive for late lunch and start to put nets up.

Well… the best laid plans often don’t work out and sure enough, I was stopped by the police at the gates of the airport in my wee blue car (that was once Graeme Backhursts and used almost solely for this annual Ngulia trip…) and told that the insurance had expired. “No, it hasn’t”, says I very confidently as I know we’d renewed it in October when we were also stopped by the police and told the same thing. “Oh yes it has”, says Madam Rose (as it turned out her name was – “That’s a very pretty name” says Jackson trying his best to sweeten her up later on in the ensuing half-hour conversation! – it certainly helped, I reckon!).

“Oh no it hasn’t” says still ever confident Jackson, but now beginning to wonder ‘What on earth…?!?”

“Come and have a look” says Madam Rose – so Jackson switches off and gets out and sure enough, the insurance expired on 15th November… and it is now the 8th Dec. Hmmm.. (three months mandatory jail sentence I’m later told by a friend!). Then followed a long conversation of how grateful I was to her for showing me it, how it meant it was going to upset my plans for going to Tsavo to catch birds… “To do WHAT?” – which then opened the chance to talk about ringing and migration and how these tiny birds fly so far with no compass or GPS etc etc… which always impresses anyone and can distract from the issue at hand! and so eventually I persuaded her that really the best thing was for her to allow me to go and meet the wazee I was meant to meet and then I would zip back into Nairobi, get the correct sticker for the insurance since I had paid for more than just a month, and then I would proceed and all would be well. The only thing was she told me to stop on the way out of the airport and talk to her again.

So it was into the airport I went thanking God sana for letting me off and was able to meet up with David et al OK though now had to explain that there was a hitch in that I had to head back into town first… Ian had organised to hire a Suzuki from Concorde and so he and Phil, Dave and Maria decided to head off and get down to Ngulia while David, Sergey and I went to do battle with insurance. All was well until I stopped to talk to Madam Rose again only for her to say (for the 3rd time) “Let us go to the station – I will book you there now”! Ah. Not what was expected! “on the other hand, you could give me some ‘lunch’ to say thank you so I can let you go”… Here it was, then, the sadly totally expected outcome of being stopped by the police – asking for a bribe. However, I politely and quietly explained that as a Christian I really couldn’t do that (she then argued that Jesus gave lunch to people!!) and that really I could just thank her very very much for understanding and helping me… Thankfully it didn’t take too long before she was once again persuaded and we were on our way to fight traffic and eventually get the insurance. It’s too long to go into now why, but it took five hours to get it when it should have taken one, but got it we did and we were away.

The other excitement of the morning was that half way through the morning we get a call from Ian saying “errr… are we on the right road – we’re in a place called Namanga?”. Namanga for those who don’t know is the border town with Tanzania south of Nairobi. To get to it you turn right just outside Nairobi and head a very different direction to Tsavo – and for a good 2 hours of driving! I seriously thought he was joking with me – but he wasn’t! So as it turned out we ‘left’ Nairobi only about 1/2 hour behind them…

No other incidents happened. KWS at the Mtito Andei gate welcomed us with open arms and very friendly smiles and the same was true at Ngulia when we eventually rolled in at about 7pm. A green green Tsavo it has become since November and as you can see from the pics, a very different situation. I’ve immediately noticed the huge increase in Afrotropical birds – along the road from the gate we had literally dozens of trees laden with Chestnut Weaver nests – c.100-200 nests per tree. There must be 5,000-8,000 nests along that stretch!! An outrageous number – and in November we didn’t hardly even see a Chestnut Weaver!



Needless to say we didn’t put any nets up last night and I hit the sack as soon as possible. There was no mist so it was a solid night’s sleep (except for Ian who stayed up all night to wait for mist!) – but that takes me to “tomorrow’s” blog which will have to wait since it’s already half midnight and I need to get some shut-eye…

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