Tag Archives: Nature Kenya

CELEBRATING A HARD-WORKING CONSERVATIONIST-GABRIEL KATANA

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“I was introduced to Gabriel Katana in 1998 by his brother Safari as someone who would be good to take over the House Crow control fieldwork that Safari was no longer able to do. A tall, quiet and very respectful young man, Katana quickly proved himself to be a very dependable, honest and hard-working conservationist who, despite not having completed primary school, was easily able to understand and carry out the important work of surveying crow numbers together with careful and proper use of a highly toxic avicide to control the alien pest species of crow in Malindi and Watamu. Known to many as ‘bwana Kunguru’ and regularly seen riding his bike through Malindi or Watamu with his binoculars and note book, Katana was single-handedly responsible for reducing numbers of the pest House Crow to five or six birds in Watamu and c.25 in the larger Malindi (which, since the programme was forced to stop, have risen to over 5,000 crows between them). This was achieved by Katana to his credit with no record of any death of other non-target species.

With the ending of the crow control work and at the same time a greater interest being shown in the conservation of the Dakatcha Woodlands which was Katana’s home area and given his clear integrity and passion for conservation, it made total sense to employ him as A Rocha Kenya’s field staff member of our science and conservation team in Dakatcha. Initially he directly assisted the Nature Kenya conservation officer stationed in Dakatcha and was involved in the start up of the Dakatcha Conservation Group. He then expanded his birding from just House Crows to all birds and became a key member of the Conservation Group bird monitoring team and more recently was almost solely responsible for mapping the birds of Dakatcha through the Kenya Bird Map project submitting no less than 45 species lists to the project. Katana furthermore became a key reference person for me to discuss Dakatcha conservation issues with and it was a result of these talks highlighting that people living in Dakatcha primarily needed to be able to feed themselves if they were to stop cutting trees down that led to A Rocha Kenya introducing Farming God’s Way into the area to help boost food production and reduce forest destruction. Katana took to FGW like a duck to water and was incredibly enthusiastic, implementing it in his own shamba and demonstrating just how well it worked – as described and shown in this blog post in 2011.

When a small but critical population of the Globally Endangered Sokoke Scops Owl was discovered literally just down the road from Katana’s village – Africa’s smallest owl and previously only known from Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and a few in northern Tanzania – then Katana went all out to see how to protect the Cynometra forest thicket they depended on. It was he who came to me saying 200 acres of this thicket were for sale and could A Rocha Kenya either buy it – or help him buy it to protect it from destruction. This eventually led to the purchase of the block of forest which Katana took a crucial lead in the negotiations, mapping, discussing with local community members that resulted in the successful formation of the Kirosa Scott Reserve (funded by a kind donation from the Bob Scott Appeal).

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Katana was a unique man in his ability to understand the real issues at stake in the local community and conservation scene – understanding that throwing large amounts of cash at people does no good in the long term and rather knowing the benefits of working alongside people to grow in their appreciation of God’s creation and how to care for it. Katana also had a remarkable thirst for knowing God better and a deep passion for Jesus and all that he had done for him over the years and for studying the bible to learn more about him. His quiet, respectful character of real integrity was something we really appreciated and his love and concern for his family of five was very evident whenever we visited him at home. It is therefore with deep regret that we have lost a treasured and key member of our A Rocha Kenya team but rejoice to know that he is with his Lord Jesus who gave him purpose for living and hope for the future. We are grateful to God for the privilege of being able to know Katana and become his friends and colleagues and give our sincere condolences to his wife Elizabeth, their five children and the wider family.”

By Colin Jackson

KTN broadcast on Tana River Delta

Following the high-level inter-ministerial government and partners team visit to the delta last month, KTN made a short documentary which nicely outlines some of the key issues that the delta is facing. View it here.

THe interviews of the local community members are all in Kiswahili but you can tell a lot from the body language as to what the sentiments are and what is said is picked up on accurately in the ensuing commentary.

There are also some excellent blog posts about the Tana River Delta issue from the RSPB and BirdLife International which are worth reading:

Saving Special Places

Planning process for delta underway

and the RSPB page on the Tana Delta is also very worthwhile reading.

Colin Jackson

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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.

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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Minister for the Environment, Hon Michuki, visits Dakatcha to assess jatropha project

On Monday 27th Sept, Hon Michuki, the Minister for Environment, visited Dakatcha in order to listen to what was going on and see for himself what the situation was and to give direction on the jatropha project that has caused so much alarm and outrage. In classic government fashion the news that he was coming was given late on the previous Friday and as such I didn’t get to hear about it until too late so missed the event.

NatureKenya, however, were on the ball and were able to mobilise staff to get to the meeting that Michuki helocoptered in to and make some presentations giving reasons for why the jatropha project should not go ahead.

In particular Serah, the Advocacy Officer for NK, was already in Malindi having been in Tana River Delta and was able to delay her return to Nairobi so as to attend.

This is what Serah reported:

On Monday Kenya’s Environment Minister the Hon. John Michuki visited the Dakatcha Woodland. The Minister was accompanied by the area Member of Parliament (MP) and Fisheries Minister Amason Kingi, NEMA Director General, Environment Ministry Permanent Secretary and other NEMA officers. The County Council of Malindi (CCM) and the provincial administration were also heavily represented. Nature Kenya was represented by Francis Kagema, Dominic  Mumbu, and me. We travelled with a KTN reporter  in our car, the same one who was attacked with
Kagema and KWS staff in June.


We arrived to a hostile reception. Some rowdy youth tried to rough us up and even threw soil on us. Members of the Dakatcha SSG stood on our side but there was no confrontation between the two groups.

When the minister arrived stakeholders were invited one after the other to make comments. The area councillor, clerk and chairman of the CCM and the area MP told the Minister that they were in support of the project that will bring development to the local people. They said that the project proponents have promised local people good roads, water boreholes, a dispensary and jobs. They also spoke ill of Nature Kenya to much ululation from their crowd. Nature Kenya was also given a chance to speak. I said we were not against development and have been calling for a multiple land use plan that will safeguard the interest of all groups. The Environment minster made his decision as follows:

  1. The minister said he did not come to approve or reject the project.
  2. He appreciated that there was still a lot of intact forest land in the area.
  3. He spoke against politicizing development issues.
  4. He asked the local leaders to identify 3 schools where his ministry will dig water boreholes for community use. This was in answer to the chairman of the CCM who said that if the Minister rejects the project
    his ministry should provide Dakatcha residents with water. He added that his ministry’s water is “free”.
  5. He advised local people not to wait for anyone to bring development to them but to use their God-given skills and talents to better their livelihoods.
  6. 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. 
  7. He asked the CCM to develop a multiple land use plan and zone all forested areas for conservation.
  8. Finally the minister said that if they want to implement their project, the Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd (KJEL) 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.
By the time the Minister got to point 8 above all the ululation from the CCM and area MP crowd was gone. The minister declared that as long as he remains the environment minster he will make decisions based on science. He declared that he will not be swayed by the amount/volume of noise that some people are so wont to make. He
said he will not listen to NGO’s just because they advocate, but that he will consider the facts in their message.

Given that existing scientific findings by Kenyan and international research organizations show that Jatropha is not
commercially viable in dry lands KJEL have a difficult task of convincing the minister otherwise.

Clearly our message over the last many months got through to the Minister and NEMA. Obviously the NEMA Director General advised the Minister appropriately. We now await NEMA’s decision on the proposed 10,000 ha pilot project. The Minister’s decision today is a victory for conservation. About 4 media houses were represented so I hope it will be in the news tonight.

Thank you for your support

With renewed hope

Serah”

Kagema took some photos which he as shared with us:

Hon. Michuki speaking at the meeting on site


Serah of Nature Kenya giving her presentation


General scene of the meeting at Dakatcha

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