Mau issue not political, says Minister

April 7, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 7- Forestry Minister Noah Wekesa has said conservation of Mau forest should not be politicised because it was taking place in Kenya’s five water towers.

Dr Wekesa said on Tuesday that the preservation efforts had nothing to do with targeting particular communities living around the Mau forest, adding that the Mau needed to be conserved because 11 rivers emanate from it.

“We did not start with evicting people in Mau; in fact there has been a lot of effort in Mt Kenya and then we have been to Mt Elgon (and) Cherangany’s and this is to preserve our natural resources,” the Minister said.

“We cannot destroy these water towers because if we do so, we will be killing the nation called Kenya,” he added.

The Cabinet Minister said a report by the 21- member taskforce formed by the Prime Minister(Raila Odinga) mid last year to formulate concrete actions of restoring the forest, would be made public in two weeks time.

“I have no idea what the report says but I am just hoping that one of the recommendations will be that a certain fraction of the people who have settled in Mau and even in other areas are going to be removed so that we can plant more trees to restore our water towers,” he said.

When inaugurating the taskforce last year, the Prime Minister reiterated that all actions taken to conserve the Mau forest complex including resettlements would be done in a humane manner.

Although the report is complete, it has faced a setback after four members failed to append their signatures to the report saying it was not extensively done.

At the same time the Forestry Minister advised Kenyan farmers to engage in commercial tree growing to improve their livelihoods.

Dr Wekesa said commercialising tree planting would not only change the economy for the better but also help in saving the country’s water sources.

“Take a farmer who has got five acres of land and he plants fast growing eucalyptus trees. Over the six years the total income is Sh266, 000 per acre while the maize farmer will make close to Sh40, 000 per acre,” he said.

He was speaking at the launch of the long rains tree planting season, where he said they would also target institutions like schools to engage in tree planting.

The tree planting season is aimed at increasing the country’s diminishing forest cover.

“Sometimes we don’t appreciate what Kenya is, 80 percent is arid land so as much as everybody would like Kenya to have 10 percent forest cover, we are not all arable and what we now want to do is to develop arid and semi arid lands to have some special plantations there to cater for the forest cover required.”



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