14 March 2005

Kenya: Logging Threatens Cultural Forests

Nairobi — Cultural forests in Western Province are threatened with extinction due to massive logging.

Consequently, the residents have appealed to the Government to gazette the forests to curb the menace.

During an extensive tour of the province on Saturday, the Public Complaints Committee on Environment was shocked at the extent of destruction of the cultural forests, mostly found in Vihiga District.

A senior local environment official, Mr Francis Inganga, who accompanied the team, said part of the forest land had been grabbed by people who were felling indigenous trees with impunity.

The committee later held a public baraza at Hamisi area, during which it assured the residents that it would recommend the gazettement of Tiriki forest to save it from extinction.

Committee chairman Kenneth Akide said the gazettement would classify the forest as Government property, hence protecting it from further plunder. The forest has a lot of significance to the Tiriki people, who use it for circumcision rites,

Earlier, local leaders, led by Mr Javan Vuleemi of the Tiriki Union of East Africa, threatened to forcibly evict people who have encroached on the forest land.

"This forest is an asset to the Tiriki people and once it becomes extinct, circumcisions among the community might even stop," said Vuleemi.

There is a stream that runs through the forest, which the community uses for ritual purposes.

The community holds it circumcision ceremonies in the forest, whereby the initiates are bathed at the said river. They are then secluded in the forest for the entire period until they are healed.

The residents also urged the complaints committee to crack down on people involved in the destruction of Maragoli Forest. They said the forest was of great economic and cultural value to the Maragoli people but had been plundered by certain individuals "who are enjoying Government protection."

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