, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 10 – It is all systems go for about 1,500 families that have been living in the South West of Mau Forest as the government embarks on phase one of its rehabilitation programme.
Speaking during a press briefing on the implementation plan in Nairobi, Forestry and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa on Tuesday said the families would be free to suggest where they would like to go saying the first casualties did not have legitimate title deeds.
“We are ready to start moving the encroachers who have been living in South West Mau so that we can commence on our Mau tree planting plan. Most of the people here do not even have any official papers so they must have come from somewhere and that is where they will go,” he stated.
Dr Wekesa called on donors to assist with the rehabilitation of the water catchment complex noting that the entire venture required Sh38 billion.
“We are looking for a lot of money. Whether we will reach anywhere like that I have no idea. We intend to raise money from Treasury and well wishers in Kenya. We will also go on a begging mission and this is why the Kenyan delegation to Copenhagen is very big,” he said.
Director of Kenya Forest Services David Mbugua noted that the government had de-gazetted 35,000 hectares South West of Mau in 2001 on which nine settlement schemes were established. He explained that those living in that area would not be relocated.
“People started encroaching into the forest after the establishment of the schemes. As of today about 19,000 hectares of forest land has been encroached on. Those living on this land are the ones to be relocated in phase one of our programme. We are not touching on any of the areas that were excised in 2001,” he stated.
Mr Mbugua further noted that those who were targeted in the relocation programme did not have any title deeds as they had taken up land that was never de-gazetted.
“These people do not have any documents because the area they are currently occupying was never excised by the Kenya government,” he said.
He observed that the mode of operations would target three sections of the land that had been encroached on- the upper, middle and lower areas.
“The whole area here is about 42 kilometres which we have split into three sections to facilitate our plan. The upper part about 15 kilometres will have a contingent of about 100 forest rangers. The middle will have about 100 Administration Police while the lower area will have 100 forest rangers doing the relocation,” he said.
Dr Wekesa promised that the government would use humanitarian means to move the encroachers observing that transport would be provided on a need basis and that considerations would be given to students who would be sitting for exams.
“Those within the relocation area who will be taking national exams will continue to do so unaffected. Livelihood support will also be given to all encroachers for at least one month by the Ministry of Special programmes,” he explained.
The Minister added that the ministry and other interested stakeholders would participate on a massive restoration programme for the Mau. He also stated that those who were living in the Mau and had food crops that were ready for harvesting would be required to leave the forest immediately.
“Those whose food crops are not yet ready for harvesting will move but will be allowed to harvest them when ready,” he stated.
He also held that the KFS had deployed some of its personnel to the Mau complex to control logging.
“We have had our officers there since last year to contain the illegal logging and we have even boosted their numbers,” he revealed.
He was also of the view that most of the encroachers understood the impact of their presence in the water tower.
“Let it not be seen as if these people do not know what the government is doing. They are good Kenyans who understand the enormity of the problem and some have already started moving out,” he observed.
The encroachers of the Mau were given an official notice to vacate on October 26 and the entire exercise is scheduled to take about three weeks.