Paradox of Villages with More Trees than the Forest

A view of village
  Mention a chief, and the mental image you have is that of a village tyrant, or a carryover from the colonial era, whose roles may seem ambiguous at times. Not long ago, a friend of mine was pruning his trees, when two people walked up the path to his home. At first, he mistook them for visitors, until they identified themselves as from the local administration camp. To be specific, the unheralded visitors were an assistant chief and an administration policeman.

  As my friend was trying to figure out what brought the pair to his home, he was put on notice that he was breaking the law. What law? He wondered. After a bit of dilly dallying, it was laid to him plainly that one needs a permit to either cut down or prune trees in own compound! In short, he was needed at the chief’s office to explain himself, but the ‘problem’ was solved through a Sh200 bribe that had the unwelcome visitors marching out of his compound.
 When the wanton destruction of forests went unchecked, the authorities of the day turned a blind eye. No wonder today the Dundori forest in Nakuru County is a fraction of its former glory, with empty patches between trees that had been farmed. To find a needle in a haystack, so the saying goes, is to attempt to do a difficult thing. But in literal sense, if you were to drop a microscopic needle in the centre of the current forest, it would take a little for an eagle soaring in the stratosphere to locate it. A collection of a couple of trees littered here and there doesn’t pass for a forest!

  Tellingly, if one stands at an elevated place, say Wanyororo Hill, and takes a look down the outlying villages, he or she will be of an opinion that the villages have more trees than the gazetted forestland! Wanyororo Hill, to be frank, is devoid of tree cover, and had been subdivided into minuscule plots, with farmers from surrounding areas benefitting.

Wanyororo Hill
  I’m told a local administrator has somehow turned the hill into his commercial venture by charging anyone who wants to excavate red soil to either plaster the house or make clay bricks with.

  Does anyone with a long memory recall when, once upon a time, schoolchildren, drawn from surrounding schools like Tabuga, Wanyororo, Kamurunyu, Bavuni, Mugwathi, among others, were exploited to plant trees on a specific day in a government’s initiative (but through a NGO) to reforest the hill? If the hundreds of the trees planted then took root, where are they today? Would not there be a carpet of green trees enveloping the whole hill completely?

  Former president, Daniel Moi, may had been famous for encouraging environmental conservation through his clarion call of ‘kata mti, panda miwili (cut one tree, plant two)’, but his regime is to blame for the disappearance of thousands of acres of forestland countrywide, with the Mau Forest often cited as such an example. As noted here, anyone who owned a power saw was a licensed lumberjack, and would indiscriminately cut any tree within sight.

  My friend wonders whether a mere village chief has powers to legislate and enforce archaic laws through barazas. If so, where in the constitution is this stipulated?


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