Kenya: Charcoal Burners and Loggers Deface Kijabe

Kijabe’s beautiful valleys and water springs could soon be no more if the current wanton felling of trees for charcoal is not stopped. The estimated 110,000 people in the area could continue living in fear of landslides as the trees that have covered the undulating valleys for years are ferried at night as timber while some are converted into charcoal.

The Kijabe forest strip is one of the six blocks that make up the 37,620ha Kikuyu escarpment forest. Craig Sorley, who works with Care of Creation, a non-governmental organisation, says that erosions have posed a great danger to villagers as the road from the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway in Gichiingo to the Kijabe mission hospital is narrowing and gaping cracks are evident as the rains pound the hills.

At the same time, the mudslides that have rocked the forest are threatening the future of a railway line passing through the area which may be left bare. He said: “There has been enormous erosions at the edges of the road and further landslides will see the end of the roads because they have become narrow. The train at the same time has not been spared either.” Gerge Gitau, a matatu driver, said: “We have never seen anything like this before. I have been on this road for 20 years but we fear that the road would be eaten up. Last week, we experienced the train stopping on its way for the first time.”

According to Craig, the road leading to the old Kijabe town is blocked as well as the railway in many parts. During our tour, the crew destroyed two kilns. “We have seen massive deforestation taking place, burning of charcoal everywhere in the forest and just a few people are benefitting one time from one sale of cedar polls or a bag of charcoal and they are ruining the future of the entire community,” said Craig.

Water springs have not been spared. They provides about 60 per cent of water which goes to Kijabe station area. Kijabe Station Environmental Group Chairman John Njuru and Vice Principal of the Moffat Bible College said that they have been running without water for the last two months after the mudslides broke the pipes. “The spring is our livelihood. Now the pipes are damaged and there is no water in going into the station.

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