Author: eawls

EAWLS Helps Develop Community Forest Management Rules

The Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) in partnership with Nature Kenya undertook a national review of the implementation of Participatory Forest Management and recommended developing regulations to enhance community participation. To achieve that objective, a team was set up to draft the regulations and present them to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry for approval.

The Ministry, through a notice published in the September 18 issue of the Daily Nation newspaper, called on stakeholders, including the public, to submit comments on the Draft Regulation of Forests (Community Participation in Sustainable Forest Management) Rules 2020. Rules, also known as subsidiary legislation, are meant to operationalize an Act of Parliament. This is because Acts of Parliament do not usually go into the finer implementation details and require subsidiary legislation to facilitate enforcement.

In response to the public notice, the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS), through the Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG) convened a virtual meeting of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to review the rules. Seventeen CSOs participated in the meeting and the following are some of the key comments and recommendations from the meeting.

  • The Rules speak more about public forests and leave out other types of forests, particularly community forests. They should therefore encompass all types of forests, including Mangroves and the coastal ‘Kaya’ woodlands.
  • The interpretation of Community Forest Associations (CFAs) in the Rules is different from that in the Forests Conservation and Management Act, 2016. It is therefore, important that reference is made to the Act with regard to this interpretation.
  • A community is not clearly defined hence the need to explicitly define what a community is for operational definition. It has always been argued that Section 63 (1) of the Kenyan constitution provides the basis for defining a community but does not precisely say what constitutes a community. That section can therefore provide guidance in defining a community in the context of forests.
  • The transfer of rights of the CFAs need to be clearly explained. In this regard, it should be indicated whether the transfer of rights by CFAs is absolute or of a defined period of time. Besides, there should be criteria to guide the preference of one CFA over another in cases where more than one CFA exists in one forest block. Furthermore, what will be the fate of the CFA that is not selected yet it had put a number of mechanisms in place for its existence?
  • The Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) should not be solely responsible for the registration of a CFA. The process should be rather subjected to a committee. In this regard, what is contained in the Rules should reflect what is in the Forests Conservation and Management Act, 2016, which states that it is the community that shall facilitate the formation of CFAs and not KFS.
  • Preparation of Forest Management Plans should not be a preserve of KFS. CFAs should also take part in the process.
  • A Forest Conservancy is too large and nominating only one person to sit in a Forest Conservation Committee (FCC) is too limited. It was proposed that the number of representatives from a conservancy should revert to four as it was in the Forest Act, 2005. The nomination should also consider gender balance.
  • The funding cycle for CFAs should be defined, including consideration for funding their activities. This is because CFAs are required to do a lot in forest conservation yet they have very limited resources. They are often demoralized and need to be re-energized and their potential unlocked. Fees collected by CFAs and channeled to KFS, for example, grazing fees and those related to Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme (PELIS) activities should be included in these Rules.

The EAWLS wishes to thank all stakeholders who participated in the meeting. Moving forward, the EAWLS will consolidate all these comments and put them into a Memorandum that will be submitted to the Ministry by the due date of 17th October 2020.

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Ugandan Lawmakers Reject Plans For Murchison Falls Hydropower Dam

Nairobi 11th October – In a move hailed by conservationists in Uganda, the country’s lawmakers have unanimously rejected the government’s plan to construct a hydropower dam at the country’s biggest tourist attraction.

Backed by a report by the parliamentary committee on environment, the lawmakers unanimously adopted the report’s rejection of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development’s proposal to build a 360MW at Uhuru Falls on Murchison Falls national park aimed at boosting the country’s electricity supply in order to achieve the “desired socio-economic transformation”, per Uganda’s vision 2040.

“Whereas the benefits of hydroelectricity are numerous, the country needs to pursue means of sustainably utilizing its natural resources, a feat that requires a delicate balance of trade-offs,” said the report, presented by Keefa Kiwanuka, the committee’s chair.

“The Uhuru project, while promising to add to the generation capacity of the country, poses irreversible impacts on the already constrained Murchison Falls national park and other sectors of the economy,” it said.

Environmental groups, the tourism industry, and climate change networks have hailed the parliamentary decision. It remains to be seen whether Uganda’s cabinet will respect parliament’s recommendations.

Murchison Falls national park is home to some of the most famous and powerful waterfalls in the world and the site is responsible for a third of all tourism in Uganda. The area is listed as one of Unesco’s wetlands of international importance. But last June, Bonang Power and Energy, a South African company, applied for a license to build a 360MW hydro plant at Uhuru Falls – adjacent to Murchison Falls. It was a further blow to conservationists, already concerned that energy company Total E&P Uganda had been approved to develop six oilfields in the park.

The East African Wild Life Society urges the Ugandan government to invest in other, less impactful renewable sources of energy including solar, wind and biomass.

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Win For Renewable Energy, Loss for Lamu Coal Power Plant Project

Plans to build a coal-fired power plant in the Kenyan Indian Ocean archipelago of Lamu have hit another setback with General Electric (GE) announcing its intention to exit an agreement to design, construct and maintain the plant because the American multinational is ending its involvement in the coal power market as it shifts to renewable energy.

Implementation of the project became doubtful in June 2019 when a Kenyan court ordered the cancellation of a licence issued to the implementer, Amu Power, after the tribunal found that the permit granted by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) was issued without due regard to all provisions of the laws governing the execution of such enterprises.

A critical review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study for the coal plant had revealed major inadequacies that range from inaccurate definition of the project scope, insufficient analysis of environmental impacts, incomplete technological options analysis and inadequate mitigation measures.

The proposed coal-fired power plant was expected to cost $2 billion in Kwasasi, an area that the proponents consider ‘remote’. It was intended to produce 1,050 Megawatt of coal-fired thermal electricity to contribute to the government’s blueprint for 5,000MW of affordable and reliable power on the national grid.

Environment protection groups, however, noted that Kwasasi is home to indigenous people, a fragile ecosystem for mangroves, fish, coral and other marine life. The coal plant has the potential to destroy more than just the aquatic life. It could also harm people’s health by contaminating both the air and water. It also posed a threat to Lamu as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the limestone and coral centuries-old architecture of the oldest settlement on the East African coast that has been continuously inhabited since the 13th century.

“Kenya’s pursuit of its ambitious carbon reduction goals through clean energy cannot be derailed by a coal-powered plant that is harmful to people’s health and is environmentally destructive,” said Nancy Ogonje, Executive Director, East African Wild Life Society.

“We urge Amu Power and other investors in the Lamu coal power plant to renew their commitment to environmental health and deliver clean energy solutions for consumers to create long-term, sustainable value for all stakeholders,” she added.

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EAWLS Stand on Reported US Oil Industry Bid to Erode Kenya’s Ban on Plastic Waste

 

A lobby from the petroleum industry in the United States is reportedly urging Washington to influence Kenya to water down its legislation against plastic waste in an effort to ensure that the East African country continues to import large quantities of plastic garbage from the US. The two countries are currently negotiating the terms of a bilateral commerce agreement aimed at boosting trade between them.

Documents reviewed by the New York Times contain a request from the American Chemistry Council – whose members include major oil companies – to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, demanding that Kenya reverses its strict limits on plastics.

American exporters shipped more than 1 billion pounds of plastic waste to 96 countries, including Kenya in 2019, ostensibly to be recycled, according to trade statistics. But much of the waste, often containing the hardest-to-recycle plastics, instead ends up in rivers and oceans, according to the New York Times report.

In 2017 Kenya outlawed the production, sale, and use of plastic bags with a maximum penalty of $40,000 or four years imprisonment.  Before the ban, some 100 million plastic bags were handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone.

The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) Executive Director, Nancy Ogonje, says that if Kenya is pressured to reverse course on plastic waste, the country’s efforts to combat plastic pollution for the benefit of its people and the environment will be greatly undermined. Kenya could also become a transit point for plastic waste from the West destined for dumping in other African countries.

“Less than 4 percent of plastic waste is recycled in Africa, and, unlike paper, glass, and metal, most plastic waste isn’t recycled into similar quality items. It is often downcycled into lower-quality plastics like insulation material, clothing fiber, and furniture – many of which are not easily recycled again,” Nancy Ogonje pointed out.

“The bulk of waste plastic that is not mechanically recycled is either sent to landfills or incinerated. This incineration process releases cancer-causing pollutants into the air and creates toxic ash, which also needs to be disposed of somewhere,” she added.

The East African Wild Life Society supports Kenya’s ban on single-use plastic and the upholding of the United Nations-backed Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. The Convention obligates states to observe the fundamental principles of environmentally sound waste management and outlines limits on plastic waste entering low-and- middle-income countries.

In 2019, nearly every country in the world agreed to a new provision in the Basel Convention that aims to limit plastic waste pollution, but the United States was not among them, as it has not ratified the Convention.

 

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Alarm over tented camp on the path of migrating wildebeest in the Mara

Video courtesy: Cabinet Secretary Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala

EAWLS has learnt through a Facebook post by the Cabinet Secretary Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala, that a tented camp has been erected on the banks of the Mara River in the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR), and that the camp is preventing migrating wildebeest from freely crossing the river.

In 2016, the Narok County Government commissioned the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) to conduct a comprehensive and independent audit of all tourist facilities within the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR). The audit revealed some cases of non-compliance with laws, policies and regulations, especially those that relate to tourist facilities’ statutory requirements with regard to business registration, ownership and environmental management.
The audit established that as at 2016, the reserve had a total of 31 permanent tourist facilities, including 29 lodges and two camps, with a total bed capacity of 1,382. It was noted with great concern that in some facilities the bed capacity limit was breached during the peak seasons. The extent of that breach could not be established during the audit.
Not only did this audit contribute to the development of Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR) management plan – which is yet to be gazetted – but it also presented some key recommendations.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 stipulates that no development project will be approved in the absence of a Management Plan that has been approved and gazetted by the Cabinet Secretary. The increasing number of tourist facilities built within MMNR in the absence of a gazetted Management Plan is alarming and is in contravention of the Act.

The MMNR is globally regarded as a premier wildlife viewing destination. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1989. In 2006 US broadcaster ABC News named MMNR the seventh New Wonder of the World. An expert panel at ABC’s Good Morning America programme cited the spectacle of the annual migration of more than a million wildebeests, half a million gazelles, and 200,000 zebras constantly on the move from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to MMNR in search of fresh grass and water. The Maasai Mara ecosystem holds up to 30 percent of Kenya’s wildlife.

To read the audit policy brief, click on this link: https://bit.ly/3hhiOq3

 

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EAWLS Opposes Proposed Expansion of Nyandarua Town into Aberdare Forest

The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) participated in the review of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report of the proposed expansion of Ndaragwa Township.

Pursuant to registration 21 Environmental Management and Coordination (Impact Assessment and Audit ) Regulations 2003, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) had received the Environment Impact Assessment Study for this proposed expansion and was thus seeking comments from the public before issuing a license.

The proponent of the expansion of Ndaragwa Township, Honourable Jeremiah N. Kioni, is proposing to hive 300 acres off the Aberdare (Ndaragwa Block) forest to allow expansion of Ndaragwa Township in Ndaragwa Sub-County Nyandarua County.

In response, the East African Wild Life Society brought together stakeholders in the forest sector through the Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG) for a virtual meeting on 30th June 2020 to review the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report with the following observations:

  1. No specialist(s) on plants and animals was involved in the team conducting the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), hence the findings on the impacts of the project on biodiversity cannot be depended upon.
  2. The proposed greening of all the streets, parking areas and other infrastructure of the town using indigenous tree species found in the Aberdare Forest (Ndaragwa Block), in order to attract birds and other wildlife including monkeys back to the town fails to take into account that monkeys have the potential to become a menace in the town.
  3. Proof of public participation including signed participant lists that should be annexed to the report are missing. Photos do not qualify participation. Concerns about whether the participants were clearly informed of the impact of the decision have been raised.
  4. Stakeholder participation reports on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report are missing. These reports inform how stakeholder participation is conducted and indicates whether the relevant lead agency; Kenya Forest Service (KFS) was adequately consulted. It is also not clear whether other relevant lead agencies including the Kenya Water Towers Agency (KWTA), the Water Resources Authority (WRA) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) were consulted.
  5. Considering the nature of the project, the level of authorizing officers should rank from the Ecosystem Conservator (EC) upwards. What appears in the report are the individual comments of a forest officer and a letter from the Director of Forests of the now defunct Department of forests of Nyandarua County. Additionally, comments from FCC (Forest Conservation Committee) should have been sought that would then have made recommendations to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) board.
  6. The proponent of the expansion of Ndaragwa Township into Aberdare forest has not explicitly cover the impacts of cutting down the forest on the environment. For instance, as much as the proponent admits that variation of the boundary as proposed will significantly negatively affect all the three rivers (Mbombo, Pesi and the seasonal stream) the report does not go to further explain the ripple effect of this impact, say, to downstream users like the communities in Samburu County who will undoubtedly suffer water supply shortages.
  7. The proponent of the expansion of Ndaragwa Township into Aberdare forest has not considered total economic valuation of the forest and the subsequent economic loss of hiving off the forest. Forests provide direct and indirect benefits that should be quantified during conversion.
  8. The proponent has not explored alternatives/options to hiving off forest land. For example, there is a lot of private land that is available yet this land is not clearly shown on the map. The map only shows forest blocks.
  9. It has been determined and confirmed from the Ndung’u report that the land intended for the expansion of the town was illegally acquired.
  10. Expansion of the township would cause a lot of pressure on the adjacent forest ecosystem and many resources including but not limited to, fuel wood and water. For instance, the expansion will mean more people coming to settle-in hence increased demand for fuel wood and water.
  11. The ESIA report keeps referring to documents in the appendices yet they are not attached to the report hence difficult for reviewers to verify/make proper references.
  12. Hiving 162.52 acres of forest land in Nyandarua County will set a bad precedent for other counties who are likely to demand more forest land. This in contradiction to the government’s efforts, through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, to recover areas of Mau and Ngong Road Forest.

With the above observations, the stakeholders concluded that conversion of the forest to a township will have un-repairable damage to the environment and lives of the people in the long run. They consequently opposed the conversion and urged NEMA NOT to approve the ESIA report. This position was stated in a Memorandum to NEMA which will be followed by lobbying the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) not to allow excision of the forest for the expansion of Ndaragwa Township.

 

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China Raises Protection For Pangolins By Removing Scales From Medicine List

Nairobi, June 15 – The latest version of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia for 2020 does not include pangolins, which means the mammals will no longer be used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

The move came after China upgraded all species of pangolin from second-class to first-class protected animals on Friday considering their rapidly decreasing numbers due to over-hunting and habitat destruction.

According to the latest version of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, “depleted wild species will be withdrawn from the pharmacopoeia.”

Pangolins are believed to be one of the world’s most endangered animals and the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal, according to TRAFFIC, an international wildlife trade research organization.

“Removing the animal from the pharmacopoeia would effectively reduce consumption demand for pangolins and curb illegal hunting and trading,” Sun Quanhui, a scientist from World Animal Protection, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Sun lauded the move, saying it complies with the calls for enhanced protection of pangolins.

In the late 1990s, the number of native pangolins in China was about 60,000, widely distributed in 11 provinces and regions, said a report from China’s first national survey of land wildlife resources.

But the number has declined by about 90 percent, estimated by the Species Survival Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

China started banning pangolin hunting in the wild in 2007 and stopped commercial imports of pangolins and pangolin products in 2018.

But the animal’s unique value as a TCM medicine and lax punishment for eating them have led to the continued hunting of Pagolions.

In TCM, pangolin scales are believed to be able to promote blood circulation and remove stasis as well as diminish inflammation. But the use of pangolin scales has become one of the main threats to their species, Sun noted.

Wang Chengde, an expert from the China Association of Chinese Medicine, told media that scorpion, chilopod and pig nails can be used as substitutes for pangolin scales in TCM therapy.

Pangolins are not the first animals whose medicinal standards have been outlawed. Rhinoceros horns and tiger bones are also banned from being used in TCMs after China banned the trade of these goods and related products in 1993.

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Kenya Reviews Forest Policy

Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry has initiated a review of the country’s National Forest Policy with a view to amending the existing Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016.

Subsequently, the East African Wild Life Society under the auspices of the Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG) and in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Kenya office,  convened two multi-stakeholder virtual meetings.

The forums, held on 22nd and 24th June 2020, brought together stakeholders in the forest, wildlife and water sub-sectors at county and national levels.

Some of the issues raised in the two meetings included:
• A disconnect between the objectives outlined in the National Forest Policy 2020 document and the actual policy statements – with objectives being too many and in some cases repetitive
• Inadequate information of how public participation was done
• The planned phase-out of the Plantation and Livelihoods Improvement Scheme (PELIS). There was concern that getting rid of PELIS will lead to the eviction of communities from forests that they have been involved in protecting. Such a move could lead to retaliation and destruction of forests.

EAWLS partnered with the Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK) to host a panel of experts on 30th June.

Key recommendations at the third meeting included:
1. Suggestions to flesh out the forest policy formulation process to clearly demonstrate linkages between sectors, targets, actors and objectives.
2. A review rather than abolishment of the PELIS system with suggestions that a substantive reform process be established to mitigate systemic corruption and institutional incompetency that have crippled the scheme.
3. Effective facilitation of community participation incentives through clear demarcation of county and national government roles. Youth involvement and gender balance must be strategically formulated with clear guidelines on how to mainstream and ease implementation.
4. Sustained engagement of the private sector as partners in forest conservation.

All the above issues and recommendations raised in the three meetings were consolidated into one document and submitted to the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Environmental and Forestry.

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Adopt An Acre In The Mara!

Africa’s wildlife is one of the continent’s biggest attractions. Game reserves and national parks welcome millions of visitors every year, who want to experience wild animals up close.

They rely on that revenue to pay for conservation projects. But now, revenue flow has stopped entirely because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. And many rangers who protect the animals from poachers have lost their incomes.

Conservationists are worried the economic toll could push more people into the illegal wildlife trade.

As one solution to the collapse of global tourism revenues during this crisis, Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camps have come up with their own way of ensuring that animals and wildlife habitats are protected, and that rural communities are supported until things return to normal with their new Adopt an Acre plan.

Through the “Adopt-an-Acre” plan, contributors can adopt an acre of land in Kenya’s Maasai Mara conservancies for a year with a donation to the Wildlife Habitat Trust- a fund set up to help to pay the wages of the local staff working in the conservancies as well as the land leases so that Maasai families continue receiving land rents for conservancies to exist. The Trust is audited by a reputable firm of auditors in Nairobi, Grant Thornton Kenya, thus, contributors to the Wildlife Habitat Trust can be confident that 100% of the money collected is going directly to the Maasai community.

In total, there are 42,500 acres to be adopted: Selenkay 13,500 acres, Ol Kinyei 18,500 acres, Naboisho 3,500 acres, Olare Motorogi 7,000 acres.

These 42,500 acres leased by Gamewatchers Safaris provide an income of almost US$1.5 million to the community annually. Every acre of conservancy land supported creates a protected habitat for wildlife and also generates US$35(per acre) that goes straight to the Maasai people with US$20 going to payments for land rents and US$15 to wages.

Today, you have the special opportunity to Adopt an Acre and help ensure that nature’s most vulnerable lands and waters are given the care, love, and the protection that they need.

As a special incentive, anyone adopting 30 acres or more will receive a credit from Gamewatchers Safaris for the same amount donated, to be used for payment of a stay at any of the Porini Camps in 2021 or 2022. So, for example, a donation of US$ 1050 to adopt 30 acres will receive a travel credit worth US$ 1050.

See more details on how to Adopt an Acre: https://www.porini.com/adopt-an-acre-2

 

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