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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Earning a living from forest spoils

By Moses Ndungu

The Lariak forest stretching on the undulating expanse of the Lariak-Karandi ridges is a major source of livelihoods to many communities living around the resource. Though awash with wild animals, ranging from the mighty elephants to the ferocious lions, residents around the natural resource have taken it to heart as a God-given resource, leading to unchecked exploitations. 

Adjacent is Sipili trading centre that has proved to be the most faithful market for products smuggled from the reputed forest. Charcoal has also found its way through the main roads to faraway places like Nairobi and Nakuru. Logs have been split into timber and firewood chopped in staggering quantities.

The destruction meted on the forest has continued in spite of the dangers and hazards hanging over the exploiters. The presence of elephants and lions has neither daunted their interest in the forest. Patrols by the officers from Sipili and Karandi have neither budged them off. Instead, log harvesters have continued in their gleeful pursuit to earn a living. 

Though it appears to be a game of cat and mouse, the unscrupulous officers have also had their hand in the illicit trade, hence misuse of power. A thirty to sixty percent tip off to the officers has become sweater than the environmental beauty. 

Cartloads of logs leave the forest in the wee hours of the morning while the unsuspecting officers are asleep. Sometimes the forest officers patrol the area that is when residents employ most unheard of tricks, they sneak their donkey carts into the forest and sleep there, once certain that patrols are over, they wield their tools of trade and cut down piles and piles of wood and before cockcrow they are out of the forest.

 By sunrise, the wood is already marketed and beautiful structures increases in the market every dawn while the beauty of nature diminishes every morning. As the wood is exhausted, the cutters move to the next ‘pile of wood lot’ and for some days play their game of cutting and selling. Unfortunately, this trend affects wild animals negatively forcing them to migrate in search of shelter and pasture. This leads to their visiting farms and grazing on food crops hence perpetuating human wildlife conflict.    
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