Category: October newsletter

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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