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The county government of Kwale plans to plant one million trees

This would be one of its efforts to conserve environment, says the County Executive in charge of land, environment and natural resources Ali Mafimbo.

“Out of this target, fifty thousand trees have already been planted,” said the minister adding that his ministry has projected to increase the forest cover by 10 per cent. The minister was addressing stakeholders during the official launch of Kwale County Natural Resources (KCNRN) strategic plan at Kwale Cultural Centre in Kwale town.

Mr Mafimbo who was holding brief for the deputy governor, Fatma Achani, informed participants that his ministry was developing a policy that would regulate charcoal burning. While acknowledging that majority of the residents of Kwale were low income earners who depended on charcoal as a source of energy, he said the activity could seriously degrade the environment if sound policy was not put in place.

The Chairperson of Kwale County Natural Resources Network, Ms Mwanahawa Salim presents the organization's strategic plan for 2014-2018 to CEC for Lands, Environment and Natural Resources Mr. Ali Mafimbo

The Chairperson of Kwale County Natural Resources Network, Ms Mwanahawa Salim presents the organization’s strategic plan for 2014-2018 to CEC for Lands, Environment and Natural Resources Mr. Ali Mafimbo

The minister revealed that the county government had set aside a budget to use in purchasing land from residents who were willing to sell their land at competitive rates. He noted that the county government did not have adequate land for expansion and so would resort to buying land from members of the community. He said three companies including East African Exploration Company and Rift Energy were already exploring for oil and gas in Kwale County.

Despite being endowed with enormous natural wealth, Kwale County is rated among the poorest counties in Kenya. The level of poverty and unemployment has skyrocketed with the official national poverty index putting the local poverty level at more than 70%. Not even the proposed mining bill of 2014 seems to have taken into account the wishes of Kwale people as the bill is structured in a way that has got very little, if any, to do with the county governments.

The minister lauded the leadership of KCNRN for its effort to sensitize the community on the need to participate in the natural resources ownership and management.

“ You cannot separate Kwale people from natural resources „

“You cannot separate Kwale people from natural resources,” said the minister adding that his ministry had already given its views on the proposed draft mining bill yet to be tabled in parliament for debate.

“What we have in Kwale is wealth in the midst of poverty,” said Mafimbo. In a recent forum organized by Human Rights Agenda (HURIA) at Hillpark Hotel in Tiwi, participants criticized the bill which they claimed gave the cabinet secretary for mining excess powers while completely ignoring the county governments. The forum was also attended by Mr. Mafimbo and the chairperson of mining committee in the county assembly Mr. Meruphe Ndoro,

In an effort to improve the bill, participants recommended among other things to establish a County Dispute Resolution Board to comprise small scale miners, chief geologist, Chairperson of the mining committee in the county assembly, two members of the county assembly (MCAs) coming from the mining zone and one representative from the national government. The board, they proposed, should be chaired by the County Executive Committee member in charge of mining. The bill as it is currently, gives dispute resolution responsibility to the cabinet secretary for mining.

Today’s forum was also addressed by the county executive for community development Mr. Patrick Mtsami and the chief officer for lands, environment and natural resources Dr. Mohamed Pakia. Others were the former permanent secretary for forestry and wildlife Mr. Mwarapayo Mwachai, the Matuga Sub-county deputy county commissioner, Msambweni Sub-county administrator Mr. Hamisi Mwandaro and a host of representatives from organizations, government and private sector.