Marmanet Forest encroachers likely to go next
“‘Marmanet is the area of interest,’ chief forest conservator Julius Kamau tells the Star
• Much of the gazetted forest is decimated, encroached, overgrazed and contains illegal settlements.
•The forest is — or was — a key elephant migratory corridor and water catchment area.
Following the eviction of illegal settlers from Maasai Mau, the government has set its sights on other encroachers inside gazetted forests.
The Star has learnt that illegal settlers within Laikipia’s Marmanet Forest could be the next to be evicted.
The forest is a key elephant migratory corridor and water catchment area.
“Marmanet is the area of interest,” chief conservator of forests Julius Kamau told the Star in a phone interview on Thursday.
“The forest has the same scenario of encroachment and overgrazing as it borders the drier part of this country,” Kamau said, adding that there are also illegal settlements.
Herders take large numbers of cattle into the forest reserve, he said.
The exact area of encroachment has not yet been assessed.
On November 9, Tobiko toured the encroached areas of Marmanet Forest.
The National Prison Service and Safaricom have expressed interest in partnering with KFS to rehabilitate the forest.
Some of the five million seedlings committed by Safaricom over the next five years will be used to restore the forest reserve.
The Marmanet forests are on the eastern escarpment of the Rift Valley, north of Nyahururu. They comprise five reserves: Lariak, Marmanet, Ol Arabel, Rumuruti and Uaso Narok.
Before disputed 2001 excisions, the Marmanet forests covered 107,549 acres.
Some 59,305 acres of South Marmanet was forested before it was invaded by settlers who destroyed he forest.
The Marmanet forest bloc was set aside as a water catchment in 1932, long before the Aberdares, Samburu, Mau, and Mt Kenya blocs.
Government efforts to recover encroached land have been slowed by settlers laying claim to sections of the gazetted forests. Some claim to have unknowingly bought titled parcels.
The depletion of Marmanet has caused water stress-shortage downstream, subjecting the areas to constant conflicts — some instigated by cattle rustlers —over the resource.
A task force report on ‘Forest Resources Management and Logging Activities’ in April 2018 said illegal logging of cedar trees was prevalent in the Marmanet Forest Reserve.
On November 1, the government flushed out illegal settlers from the Maasai Mau Forest, causing a huge uproar. It then began a massive restoration and tree-planting drive.
Environment CS Keriako Tobiko oversaw the initial manal planting of 200,000 indigenous seedlings.
He hinted that the government will move in to secure other forests that have been grabbed.”Kenya is a water-scarce country largely due to destruction,” the CS said.
Four million trees were planted by aerial seeding in the Mau.
They include pencil cedar, Nile tulip, black ironwood, parasol tree, Meru oak, African satinwood, Cape chestnut, muringa and African redwood.
A total of 1981 kgs from the 13 tree species was broadcast in Maasai Mau.
The 1,981kg were estimated to contain 60 million individual seeds, yielding 30 million seedlings at a conservative germination rate of 50 per cent. About 7,500 seedlings are expected to take root per acre after losses by birds and rodents are factored in.
During the first Mau evictions, 11,000 acres were recovered. In the second phase, 22,000 acres were recovered.
Tobiko said it will take many years for the entire area to be recovered.
An estimated 7,000 households were evicted. Fifteen schools were declared illegal and shut.
(Edited by V. Graham)