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The PS for Environment and Forestry, Dr. Chris Kiptoo accompanied by EU Ambassador Simon Mordue, UNDP representative Khalid Badawi, CAS for Agriculture Linah Kilimo and Hon. Alex Tolgos Governor Elgeyo Markawet presided over a public baraza in Embogut forest on 25th June, 2020. The baraza was aimed at providing an opportunity for the Sengwer and Marakwet communities to air their grievances concerning the rehabilitation of Embogut forest as a water tower. Embogut forest covers 21,933 hectares and is one of 10 forests in the county. The forest provides a lifeline from Kenya all the way to Egypt.
|Aerial view of the degraded Embogut forest||Sengwer and Marakwet community members during a public baraza at Embogut forest.|
The Sengwer community leaders outlined various grievances including forced evictions, arbitrary killings and maiming by forest rangers, loss of identity as a people and various human rights violations. They called upon the EU not to restart the WaTER Towers project that covered 11 counties until their demands are met. Marakwet community elders on their part stated their willingness to work with Government and donors to rehabilitate the forest but with the assurance that they will not be evicted from their homes and that the arbitrary killings would stop. Dr. Kiptoo thanked the community elders for making time to meet with him and the donors. He pointed out that Embogut forest covers 93,000 hectares of land yet 10,000 hectares have been encroached on. “The government cannot sit back and watch as this wanton destruction of the forest continues. We recently lost 28 lives to landslides as a result of degradation and more lives will probably be lost if we stubbornly refuse to take responsibility for our actions,” he said.
EU Ambassador Simon Mordue stated that the EU is willing to reinstate the WaTER Tower project but only with the goodwill of all affected communities. “These landslides, loss of life and destruction of property that we have witnessed, is a grave reminder that nature is unforgiving and that humanity and nature must find a way to co-exist. We need to dialogue and amicably find solutions which will benefit everyone,” he stated.
Dr. Kiptoo set up a task force comprising of community elders, human rights groups and state agency representatives to look into the community grievances and report as to how the WaTER Towers project can be reinstated before the EU September deadline expires.