Mau Forest Complex puzzle! It is time we solve it.
The controversy surrounding the evictions of persons living inside Mau Forest and whether those persons are there legally or illegally has been active for several years.
It gets more juicy and messy at the same time when the two critical issues “eviction of the people and conservation of the forest” are brought to the table.
Mau Forest Complex is an indigenous forest and an important water catchment area in Kenya that has been home to many people. The forest now faces massive degradation as a result of human presence. Deforestation resulting from illegal logging, charcoal burning, timber harvesting, need for agricultural land and settlement areas as well as the establishment of infrastructure is the main issue affecting the forest.
The realization of the extent of degradation in the forest has for many years triggered a need to conserve Mau Forest. One of the ways thought to solve the problem is to evict all the people living within it.
Now, here is the problem; will the issue of forest restoration and conservation be prioritized? Or will the concerns of relocating or rendering about 60,000 people homeless be given a priority?
Each of the prompts above is vital. We are talking of a natural resource that if not saved the consequences will be far-fetched and often than not irreversible. Similarly, evicting the current inhabitants is a human rights issue of concern.
I am pro-forest conservation. Essentially, I support the eviction. However, the evicted persons should be relocated to other areas that they can call home and continue their regular activities — a place where the children will be able to continue their education.
If the forest is not protected, then we risk clearing all trees that act as windbreaks, carbon sinks and regulate climate among other functions. A forest of such a vast magnitude like Mau if deforested will turn into a desert. The springs, rivers, and lakes whose tributaries start from the forest will dry up. Underground aquifers will dry up. Water is life, without it might be the end of us.
Given the complexity of the issue, politics should be removed out of the equation. Politicking is making the whole process hard to crack. Thus, all stakeholders should take part in finding a solution with the government spearheading it.
Land ownership has and still is a source of disputes in several communities and especially those living in areas designated for parks, conservancies, and forest. As for the Mau Forest Complex, an urgent solution is needed. Postponing the problem will worsen the degradation that is already evident.