The Genesis of the Mau forest crisis


The Genesis of the Mau forest crisis

In Summary

  • The unending story of this vast canopy that was gazetted as a forest reserve way back in 1954.
  • The Maasai Mau was initially a trust land under the defunct Narok county council, that many observers say failed to secure the integrity of the forest during its existence.
  • Maasai community seem to be fully behind the action since they see the influx as a direct threat to their livelihood that greatly depends on the Mau.

For decades now the country is still grappling with a lasting solution to saving the complex Mau forest.

A red alert has already been issued regarding the state of the Maasai Mau with its current state said to be due to careless land subdivision by members of group ranches.

At the heart of East Africa’s largest forest complex, the battle is on with officers determined to kick out settlers, the settlers refusing to go without a fight and in between, a government divided right down the middle.

The unending story of this vast canopy that was gazetted as a forest reserve way back in 1954 but the historical problem of the Mau is best captured in the Maasai Mau, to the south, one of the most threatened blocks of the entire Mau forest complex.

The Maasai Mau was initially a trust land under the defunct Narok County Council, that many observers say failed to secure the integrity of the forest during its existence.

Tubula ole Karia has been one of the forest activists for over two decades now. When Citizen Digital visited his home on the edges of the Mau forest, he was preparing for a meeting with environment CS Keriako Tobiko the following morning over the state of the forest.

According to ole Karia, the forest was set up for destruction by powerful Maasai elite who were allocated thousands of acres of land through group ranches.

“The Maasai Mau could not have been invaded as is now if it was not for the chairmen of the group ranches who decided to extend the forest boundaries and sold the land,”said ole Karia.

One of the affected group ranches was Reyio in 2004. The group rank requested the then Narok County Council for a green light to subdivide the land.

Despite this approval, Nkoben area that falls under the Reyio Group was worst hit by the latest evictions after the settlers were accused of farming, clearing trees and erecting structures deep inside the forest.

“We also have title deeds, why are we being evicted? we moved here over 20 years ago…the land subdivision was done in collusion,” said Reyio evictees.

Powerful political families then took advantage of the influx of non-Maasai groups into Narok South the group ranches that include Sisiyan, Nkaroni, Enoosokon and Reyio and illegally increased the sizes of the ranches from the original allocations opening the floodgates to forest encroachers .

These new arrivals mainly included members from the Kalenjin community from Bomet and Transmara as well as members of the Kisii community from the Nyamira Bomet border.

Sisiyan Group Ranch was expanded from the initial 447 hactares to 1,215 hectares.

Nkaroni Group in Ololulunga also increased its size from 1,597 hectares to a whooping 5,582 hectares an excess area of over 3,000 hectares.

All the five group ranches increasing their sizes to a total of over 20,000 hectares that the elites took advantage of and set the stage for the current problem in the Mau.

Sierra Leone, Kosian and Chemogoi sections of the Mau also had a similar story.

These settlers from afar, have over the years become the subject of heated political exchanges since they form part of a critical voting block in the rift valley.

But leaders from the Maasai community seem to be fully behind the action since they see the influx as a direct threat to their livelihood that greatly depends on the Mau.

For now, the forest evictions are ongoing, with every structure found beyond the cut line being destroyed.

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Story By Stephen Letoo
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