Tea agency wants logging ban lifted as farmers' losses loom

Sunday March 18 2018

Keriako

Environment CS Keriako Tobiko, KFS officials and other leaders inspect Kabaru forest on February 21, 2018. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By IRENE MUGO
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By BARNABAS BII
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Tea farmers might lose Sh5 billion due to the ban on logging, with the Kenya Tea Development Agency asking the government to lift the order in its forests.

KTDA chairman Peter Kanyago said farmers would lose in their net pay should the ban remain in force.

Mr Kanyago criticised the order saying it would affect production in the industry that relies heavily on firewood to dry the leaf.

“We would like to urge the government to lift the ban on our forests because we planted the trees and it is going to affect production of tea,” he said.

NULLIFIED

The KTDA boss added that the government should allow factories to receive firewood from local suppliers.

Mr Kanyago was speaking after his victory in Zone IV Nyeri’s repeat election, conducted at Iriani tea factory on Saturday.

He won by 28 votes against his sole opponent, the vice chairman of Gathuthi tea factory, Mr Peter Wanjau.

The repeat elections were called by KTDA company secretary Kennedy Omanga after he nullified the poll in November 2016.

TASK FORCE

Logging was banned for 90 days by Deputy President William Ruto.

He also urged Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko to form a task force that would propose measures to deter destruction of forests.

Mr Kanyago said alternative methods of energy could contribute to degradation of the environment.

“Factories use firewood for their boilers. Trees cut for this purpose are replanted,” he said, adding that the 68-KTDA affiliated factories used about 58,000m³ of wood energy.

PROTEST

He said some factories had planted trees in more than 200 acres of land.

At the same time, Mr Kanyago urged farmers to continue delivering their produce to Toror factory as the agency deliberated on the way forward.

Farmers at the factory staged a protest demanding to break away from KTDA and channel their produce to private factories.

Meanwhile, a dispute has erupted between Community Forest Associations and the Kenya Forest Service over implementation of the ban on logging.

SUPREMACY WARS

The CFAs on Sunday took issue with the recent changes by the KFS service board chairman Peter Kimathi Kinyua where several forestry officials, including chief conservator Emilio Mugo, were suspended.

Mr Kinyua appointed Ms Monica Kalenda to replace Mr Mugo in acting capacity.

“At KFS, we are committed to ensuring that Kenya achieves a more than 15 per cent forest cover by 2022 by leading efforts to plant more than 170 million trees in the next five years and the management changes are geared at providing impetus,” Mr Kinyua said.

CFAs said the dismissal of the senior KFS officials "without justifiable reasons" was likely to undermine afforestation and hamper the ban on logging activities.

They said supremacy wars among senior KFS officials would derail forest conservation.