The Star (Nairobi)

11 January 2013

Kenya: Villagers Guard Embu Forest Against Logger

Villagers leaving near the Njukiri Forest in Embu West district are keeping guard to stop agents of a dealer from harvesting trees. Early this week the dealer's lorry was rescued by police officers when his agents defied a court order and entered the forest to cut more trees.

Acting principal magistrate Robinson Oigara issued the court order on December 31 against the director of Forest Services in Embu barring further harvesting of the Blue Gum trees on a 26-acre part of the forest.

This follows the controversial awarding of a contract to the dealer to log trees. The villagers are angry that they were not consulted or considered before the tender was awarded.

They have sued the government through one of them Martin Mbogo and their forest association. A hearing scheduled for yesterday had not taken place by the time of going to press due to the absence of some parties.

"This community has protected the forest. We have watched over seedlings as they matured to trees. It's very sad that instead of them (the villagers) benefitting from their labour someone else is. This is quite wrong and irregular," said a resident.

They want the whole exercise stopped and the community involved or be told how they will benefit from the trees harvesting. Two months ago they confronted the Embu county forest coordinator Samuel Waweru and demanded to know why they were not involved in the harvesting despite the role they played in protecting the forest.

Waweru, however, said due process had been followed before awarding of the contract. The villagers have vowed that they will not allow the harvesting to continue until the dispute is resolved by the court.

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