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Communities near forests seek gov’t guidance on grazing regulations

Members of the Uplands CFA plant trees at Uplands forest in Kiambu county.

People living near forests have asked the government to sensitize them to the guidelines for grazing in public forests.

The communities in uplands Limuru in Kiambu said they needed the education as they do not want to clash or disrupt the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) efforts to restore forests, especially in areas where trees were cut down years ago without being replanted.

This request comes in response to the new grazing guidelines in forests released by KFS on Monday.

KFS stated that the Grazing in Public Forests law, enacted in 2005, was poorly enforced, and the new measures aim to protect trees and vegetation better.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change, and Forestry Soipan Tuya announced on May 13th this year that the state will not allow the grazing of animals in public forests as part of efforts to protect seedlings planted in the ongoing national tree-growing campaign.

Peter Wachira from Githirioni in Lari sub-county, who has benefitted from the uplands forest, asked Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Alex Lemarkoko to start educational forums.

Wachira said, “The CCF is supposed to ask the forest station managers, county forest conservators, and their staff to teach us how to graze in public forests in a guided way not interfere with their work. We want to be law-abiding people.”

Wachira, who revealed that he rears 23 sheep and three cattle in the uplands forests, added that he cannot allow himself to be among those who knowingly break the law.

According to KFS, they will increase efforts to stop illegal grazing, focusing on conservation and community involvement.

Communities benefit from forests through activities like grass harvesting, grazing, and tourism under the Community Forest Association.

Under the new law, grazers need a permit and must register with forest stations, which will track grazing activities.

Uplands CFA official John Mwathi supports the law, saying it will help protect the forests.

“Whenever there is no law, the people who have pride take advantage of undermining people like us in the CFA. Now, the law will assist us in ensuring there is discipline within the CFAs and the grazers,” he said.

Mwathi suggested arranging a meeting for people who graze, including those who want to graze in the forests, to inform them about the law.

“We want to support the government, the CFA, and the KFS in the conservation of forests and the environment at large. We want to ensure President William Ruto’s directive of planting 15 billion trees by 2023 is achieved,” he said.

During last month’s ban, CS Tuya said that grazing animals in the forests would not continue as it was interfering with the government policy of planting trees in degraded areas of public forests, only for livestock to come in and clear them all over again.

The Kenya Forest Service protects around 6.4 million hectares of gazetted forests and another 420 million acres under county jurisdiction.

Kiambu County has six major forests, with Kieni and Kinale forests occupying an area of 426.62 square kilometres.