Tag Archives: NatureKenya



“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).


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

Mapping Kenya’s birds – website now operating!

In January we reported on the start of the Kenya Bird Map an ambitious project that A Rocha Kenya has been instrumental in getting started that is mapping the current distribution of Kenya’s bird species and comparing it with the atlas of birds that was carried out in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The project has continued to grow and whilst it has been a slow start to get going, the website is now functional to the level that it is possible to upload data and already over 2,600 records from 54 cards covering 37 atlas squares (known as ‘pentads’ as they are 5 mins of latitude by 5 mins of longitude in size). However there are another c.8,960 pentads still to be covered – so there is plenty more work to be done!

DSC00538 Chin-spot Batis is a common species in the Kenya highlands (Photo by Patrick L’Hoir)

Atlassing is in fact a LOT of fun and to be highly recommended. Yesterday I had to travel to Nakuru for a meeting but thought to “add value” the trip and do an atlas square en route – and not only that, but do it with a local birder and get him enthused and trained up to do lots of atlassing in his area! So I met up with Doug ‘Tchagra’ Gachucha from Naivasha – a leading birder and conservationist in the community around Naivasha and a lot of fun to spend time with! – and on our way back from Nakuru stopped near Lake Elementaita to do the minimum 2 hours of birding for it to count as a Full Protocol card submission. A ‘Full Protocol’ card simply means that with a minimum of two hours focussed birding, that data is now useable for doing much more than simply mapping species distribution. It can be used for estimating abundance of a species to work out if it is becoming more or less common and so flag any possible problems that might be happening in a species’ population.

2014-05-24 Coverage map – Part of the Google Maps map showing where some of the pentads already covered are. The different colours indicate how many cards have been submitted for that pentad – the more the better! Clicking on a pentad shows it’s code and clicking on that takes you to a separate window that zooms in on the pentad and gives you a chart showing which month the records have been submitted and the full species list of accepted records.

The fun of atlassing is that it not only takes you to new sites – you can go online and see which pentads have not been done yet or had only a little effort and then make a plan to go birding there, but it also stimulates you to really keep your eyes open to look for any new species you can find even as you are going about your normal business. How? Well, once you’ve done the minimum two hours, you can keep adding species to that list or card for up to five days thus giving you a chance to add much more than what you otherwise might have seen in just a two hour period.

Not only that, but even common ‘boring’ species become of interest since each species counts afresh for each new card you start. It is amazing how often you think a bird is common but when it comes to actually looking for it and recording it, you discover it perhaps isn’t around at a certain time of the year etc. By atlassing, you get to see this.

Despite it being the heat of the afternoon yesterday and by far not the best time for birding – in fact, I would never normally have stopped to bird at that time… nor even have thought to driven down the couple of tracks we followed off the main road, we actually managed to record 66 species in just two hours including species such as Little Rock Thrush, Red-fronted Barbet and Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting. There were dozens of Rock and Plain Martins skirting the cliffs by Mwewe Camp overlooking the lake – and the view from there was stunning – again, not a place I have ever stopped at before, but by atlassing we did and it was beautiful (see below)!

WP_20140523_001 Lake Elementaita mid-afternoon – there were White-fronted Bee-eaters on the hill to the left…

If you’re a birder and in Kenya or ever visiting Kenya – please do sign up and get involved!! Even if you only contribute one or two pentads worth of bird lists, it will be worth it! To register, wrote to kenyabirdmap(at)naturekenya.org and ask to be registered. You’ll receive an email with your Citizen Scientist number and more information.

Dakatcha Woodlands finally safe from Jatropha biofuel threat

It has been a long haul to try and stop the Jatropha biofuel threat of at first 50,000ha of land being cleared for plantations, then 10,000ha and now finally NEMA have officially stopped the project from going ahead and the Clarke’s Weavers and Sokoke Scops Owls and other endangered wildlife as well as the community members who would have had their lifestyles and societies dramatically changed and poverty increased can breathe a sigh of relief. NatureKenya led the fray and often were very much in the hot seat with threats and even attacks being made on them (and A Rocha Kenya was included in some of these too) by the supporters of the project. NatureKenya deserve a lot of thanks for their effort and there is an excellent write-up by Birdlife about this with further details.

In response to this we are keen to get some further work happening with the Dakatcha communities to help them improve their own incomes and ways of living in that special environment without impacting it too negatively. We are looking at building on the initial efforts we’ve had of introducing “Farming God’s Way” or “Conservation Agriculture” to some of the communities which, for those who have taken the training on board and followed it, has made a huge difference in the outputs from their farms. Below is a shot of Elizabeth in her shamba (farm) who’s husband Katana works for us in Dakatcha and who has really got excited about Farming God’s Way. They have carefully followed the simple method of a) no ploughing, b) use plenty of mulch and c) rotate your crops and as a result their maize (corn) in the last short rains was huge and dense as you can see in the photos.


Elizabeth in her shamba showing how high and dense the maize has got – and beans adjacent to the maize.

Their neighbour’s crop which was planted in the traditional way was a very different picture…:

…there is therefore a lot of hope if we can persuade people to take it up. Unfortunately we’ve heard rumours of a response from community members to assistance the Red Cross is offering people in the form of ‘food for work’ – which is a great programme to have and certainly helps those who are really destitute, but what they have not counted on is that people are apparently purposely not planting maize well so that it fails and so that when the Red Cross team pass by that place they see only poor crops and therefore offer bags of maizemeal in return for digging 2’x2’x2′ holes in which to plant 9 seeds… this method may work in kitchen gardens, but it certainly hasn’t worked in Dakatcha. So whilst the Red Cross programme is designed to help people, in the long run it actually hampers growth and keeps people in a state of poverty. this has meant that very few farmers have kept coming to our training sessions and fewer still are actually implementing it. However we are convinced it is the Way to go and will pursue raising funds to support the project in Dakatcha – donations greatly received. A single 2-day training workshop for 20 farmers costs only $12 per person so do join us in this effort to assist the farmers and communities in Dakatcha.

Great potential from high-level government planning team visit to Tana River Delta

On Thursday and Friday last week the Inter-Ministerial Consultative Team met for an all day meeting that included most of the relevant governmental ministeries: Water & Irrigation, Agriculture, Env & Mineral Resources, Information & Communication, Fisheries, Finance, and Lands together with NEMA, a large delegation from the Office of the Prime Minister, KWS, Kenya Forest Service and then NGO’s including NatureKenya (who catalysed the whole thing) together with RSPB and BirdLife International and some Dutch delta management expert consultants in particular from Deltares (a not-for-profit knowledge institute). It was hugely encouraging to see and hear the positive take from the government regarding developing a national Board to deal with deltas nation-wide starting with the Tana River Delta. An introduction was given to the SEA process (Strategic Environmental Assessment) which would appear to be an excellent approach to major developments in assessing the overarching impact it might have on the environment, economy and local communities.

The full day of meeting was followed by yesterday – a field trip right into the heart of the delta to actually get to see what it looks like and especially to meet some of the community groups and hear their issues. Strict instructions were given on what time we were leaving, 7:30am – and anyone not there then would be left behind – so I got up early & left in a hurry… forgetting hat and sunglasses… and of course got there to end up waiting for over an hour! A good chance to talk with Kristy who is employed by the Delta Dunes Camp to work with the Lower Tana River Delta Conservation Trust that is trying to set up a conservancy that can be used for tourism as well as protect and conserve some of the remaining wildlife – especially the elephant, lion, topi, hippo and birdlife.

We piled into three buses and headed for Garsen on the Tana River where the road for Lamu crosses the river. After a stop to greet and brief the District Commissioner for Tana River District, we headed to the TARDA guest house for tea before being divided into groups for visiting three different sites and community groups.

stopping by the DC’s office

Serah Munguti organising participants

I ended up in the group that went to meet with the Lower Tana Delta Conservancy Trust. This was a very interesting meeting with about 200 community members where the key issues raised were firstly getting the land back that had been grabbed by outsiders – the ranch was put up for auction earlier in the year.

Welcome committee from the ladies at Marafa

Another issue was getting rid of the squatters that the MP had brought onto the southern area of the land in order to get votes (I was told this from two different sources that same day). They are clearing forest and killing the wildlife and basically destroying the area. Another issue was the huge number of cattle being brought in from outside the delta and finishing off the grass and adding massive pressure to the already stretched resources of grass and water. They were also keen that the river be re-routed to it’s original channel that flowed past where they are based – it now flows c.10kms away and they no longer experience the regular flooding that would happen annually.

Peter Odhengo, Office of the PM speaking to LTDC Trust
It was excellent to hear their views and I hope the government ministries heard what was being said and that action will be taken. The other groups had a very different experience, especially the group that went to Dida Waride – where the people had been primed beforehand by those against the planning initiative to condemn and reject the whole process. It’s a little uncertain quite what their problem was though one thing for sure was they wanted TARDA, the sugar-cane project, to give back their land and to hand back the actual title deed – and to have it now, not next week! It’s hugely short-sighted of those behind the stirring as this process is fully intending to ensure the local community benefit suggesting there are personal benefits to gain from those doing it… Anyone out there who prays… we need to pray that  these people would see the sense of the planning initiative and would support it whole heartedly. There’s a lot of potential for real good to happen, but if a small faction is against it, in time they can cause a lot of problems.

Paul Matiku of NatureKenya addressing the group
As should have been expected, we got back to the place we were to have lunch, not by 2pm but 4:30pm and ended up leaving nearer 6 and I got home just after 10pm in the end…! A communique was put together to make a statement about the intention of the team gathering. I’ll try and get this onto the tanariverdelta.org website in due course.

Inter-Ministerial Consultative Team for Sustainable Management of Deltas in Kenya to visit Tana River Delta

On 3rd August there was an  Inter-Ministerial Consultative meeting that took place on the Sustainable Management of Deltas in Kenya at which it was resolved for the team to make a site visit to the Tana River Delta on 13th – 17th September, 2011. This is a very welcome move by the government and is encouraging to see the positive action being taken to address the issue of managing deltas effectively. The rationale behind the team’s visit is that with the delta being such an important biodiversity, tourist, bird, mangrove forest, farming and oil exploration hotspot, it “requires an integrated approach that enables comprehensive and objective planning of the competing development needs, an ecosystem-based management approach for sustainable development and a coordinated, integrated and co-management strategy for livelihood support”.

The site visit will start with a full day of stakeholder input and discussions in Malindi on the 15th and is intended to “give the members and stakeholders an opportunity to appreciate the challenges facing the delta and chart a common way forward with all resource users such as farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, and tourists among others”.


A Rocha Kenya welcomes this initiative and recognises NatureKenya and the RSPB’s role in encouraging this to happen. I will be attending the stakeholder meeting and hope to be able to give some good input to it.

Anyone reading this has, I hope, visited the www.tanariverdelta.org website where there is a lot more information on the delta. We would welcome any comments and input on how the website could be improved and if anyone has further relevant information about the delta which could be posted on the site as well.

Colin Jackson

Tana River Delta threats continue

The Tana River Delta is still under significant threat of major destruction by investors and individuals who seem bent on their own short-term interests and not the long-term survival of the delta and its sustainable use. The threat of the 65,000ha jatropha plantations is still very much there though thankfully NEMA have decided to look more seriously into the actual effectiveness of jatropha as an economic plantation crop. This is good because all evidence from East Africa and further afield points very strongly at it being a total disaster for a viable biofuel crop.

Fishermen on the Tana River Delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

There are other threats, however to the Delta including insidious charcoal burning which is creeping into every corner of habitat that has any sort of biodiversity value and degrading sometimes entirely. There are also a number of squatters moving into the southern end of the delta coming from further south where they hear stories of land being offered for dirt cheap, will pay someone – the ‘owner’ – for the land and move on and clear the forest and bush while all the time the ‘owner’ was just someone pretending to be owner making money from people who don’t know better. Meanwhile they then go ahead and slash, burn and destroy precious habitat and kill wildlife.

Probably the largest threat now to the delta as well is that of plans by the government to build another huge dam on the Tana River upstream – the High Falls Dam – which apparently has been given the go ahead even though to my knowledge noone has seen an EIA for it, nor has there been any stakeholder involvement or consideration of its impact on the delta and its inhabitants, both human and wildlife. Dams seem to be one of the other major curses on our planet, in fact – there’s another I just heard about that the government has also given the go ahead for in prime indigenous forest in western Kenya – Nandi South – where over 1,500ha of pure forest will be flooded in the name of irrigation of land. This, in the light of grand government statements about protecting forest and making every effort to stem the destruction of forest and instead plant trees and increase forest cover!!

A homestead with cattle in the Tana River Delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

NatureKenya continues to do an excellent job in the Tana River Delta and are looking to procure funding to extend further the livelihood improvement projects that they have already started and increase capacity building for communities living in the delta. The Delta Dunes Camp are also doing what they can to support the community and help them to make decisions that will protect and sustain the wilderness of the delta that will attract tourists who can bring income to the communities. One of the local community groups is in fact one of the partners in the Delta Dunes Camp and therefore benefits directly every time a guest visits.

Tourists on a boat trip through the delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

All of these initiatives are only good for the delta and it is our prayer that somehow we can stop the outright destruction of habitat, water courses and livelihoods by the projects like the sugar cane and jatropha, and instead have conservancies set up that are professionally and efficiently operated that can really bring good benefits to the people.

Riverside village, Tana River Delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

Baby crocodile amongst mangrove breather roots, TRD – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

There is a case in court that the communities have taken action on to try and stop the large destructive projects. As all of these things it is a long slow process and we’re just praying that it will succeed and the delta will be protected.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“Green” Africa Foundation meeting on Dakatcha jatropha promotes plantations despite evidence against

Yesterday in Malindi there was a relatively small meeting held (with only invited people, I understand) that was convened by the Green Africa Foundation (GAF) with the purpose of apparently “to bring together various interest groups who have been in a tug of war over the proposed setting aside 50,000 ha of land for jatropha cultivation in Dakatcha woodland” according to a report of the meeting from NatureKenya. Unfortunately I couldn’t be there as I’m away from Watamu currently, but the report on the meeting that we have received clearly seems to suggest that the Green Africa Foundation, represented by its Director, Dr John Kalua who claimed to have the blessing of the President among other authorities, is fully behind promoting jatropha in plantations and that the proposed project by Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd is a good one and should go ahead. He did say that 10,000 ha was too much and the outcome of the meeting was to suggest that a ‘pilot project’ of 5,000 ha should be started – but after various further investigations / info had been provided.

It is the blatant promotion of a crop which has been shown to be extremely bad news for communities, food production and biodiversity which astounds me. Having read the report commissioned by the German Aid organisation GTZ on jatropha farming in Kenya where it states in no uncertain fashion in the summary:

“Therefore, we recommend that the government – through the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, KEFRI and others – reevaluate its current biofuel policy promoting Jatropha. We also urge all public and private sector actors to cease promoting the crop among smallholder farmers for any plantation other than as a fence. We believe doing otherwise would be extremely irresponsible and could exacerbate existing food security throughout the country.

…I can only start to think that either the unbiased fact-finding report by GTZ together with other reports on examples in East AFrica where jatropha has been shown to fail in plantations – even trials on the Kenyan coast in Kilifi just down the road from Malindi / Dakatcha (but in fact more moist than Dakatcha) where jatropha plants just didn’t grow – that either these are totally wrong and are trying to cheat communities and the country of something good, OR that an NGO which is able to get funds from biofuel investors to grow and promote jatropha – is looking to get something out of this project.

It is interesting to note that GAF have not been involved in this discussion about the project at all up till now – and only recently have come on the scene… in the company of Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd and amazingly supporting the project. It raises a lot of questions about how come they’ve appeared right now and who brought them on board?

No idea.. but certainly makes one wonder.

The fact remains that there is a heck of a lot of evidence showing that jatropha is NOT the magic green fuel of Africa, that it will lead to increased overall poverty in local communities, that it will lead to further attrition and degradation of natural habitats even if it doesn’t clear them completely – by attracting more people to the plantations and factories, it leads to greater human population densities all of whom need fuel wood and like to eat (bush)meat…

Given the report by Peter Usher that I posted a couple of days ago re the corruption levels in our justice system, it presents a tall order and huge challenge for us to keep fighting to protect the Dakatcha Woodlands. 5,000 ha is a massive area – though it is just 10% of the original 50,000ha they were trying to get to start with. This will be 5,000 ha of denuded habitat – an area larger than the size of Nairobi National Park.

There is further evidence that IKEA Italy has been the final destination for the biofuel produced by Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd, though they apparently claim that they don’t have any plans for this. If any readers know anyone in IKEA or want to write to them to get clarification of this and a promise that they really won’t buy the biofuel from Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd / Dakatcha – please do.

Overall, however, we, as A Rocha Kenya, believe that there is Hope. The Dakatcha Woodlands really matter to the amazing God who created them – and he is a God who really cares for the world he made and that he also hurts hugely when he sees it being destroyed for human greed. We are hoping and planning to start working with churches in the Dakatcha area to teach people about the importance of caring for God’s creation – not because it will benefit them / us primarily, but because it belongs to Him and He has given it to us to use but to use wisely. We want to help people get a balanced worldview on the value of the environment around them and then to bring on top of that practical ways of surviving and in fact thriving from the natural world in a sustainable way. In this way there really is hope – and knowing that we can trust in a living God who has all things ultimately in his hands.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

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.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,