30,000 families dependent on mangroves demand to know fate

Chairperson of the Lamu Mangrove Community Forest Association-CFA Abdulrahman Aboud at his work site. PHOTO: NATASHA NEMA.

Lamu, KENYA: Communities dependent on mangroves in Lamu county have asked Environment CS Keriako Tobiko to let them know whether or not he plans to lift the ban on mangroves in the region.

At least 30,000 families are directly dependent on the mangrove trade in Lamu with many now wallowing in poverty since the ban started.

In February, the government banned logging in public and community forests for 90 days.

Tobiko, however, extended the ban for another six months in May to allow for the appointment of a new Kenya Forest Service board and also allow for the finalization of the interim reform implementations committee.

However, communities that rely on forests for a livelihood say they have been hit hard.

Speaking in Lamu town on Monday when they met to deliberate on their fate, the locals said a majority of their children hadn’t gone back to school for the third term due to lack of fees as they had no money owing to the ban.

The chairperson of the Lamu Mangrove Cutters Association Abdulrahman Aboud said Tobiko’s silence on the matter was too loud.

Aboud asked CS Tobiko to have mercy on the poor communities and lift the mangrove ban to enable them to recover their livelihoods.

“We don’t know what else to do. The CS asked for a month to consult and its long overdue. Let him tell us what his consultations yielded. Our kids haven’t gone back to school. We can rarely afford to take care of our families. The CS should take pity on us and lift this ban,”said Aboud.

Locals now claim that there is a spike in drug use and peddling especially among the youth as they grapple to device desperate avenues to generate an income.

“The mangrove business had absorbed hundreds of youth and had managed to keep them safe from drugs. However with the current situation, many are now doing drugs because they have bills to pay,”said Haroun Lali.

In August this year when appearing before a parliamentary committee on Environment and Natural Resources,Tobiko indicated that he needed at least a month to consult before making a decision on whether or not the ban would be lifted in Lamu.

Tobiko’s summon had followed a tour of Lamu by the committee led by its chairperson Kareke Mbiuki who promised locals that they would push to have the mangrove ban lifted having seen how locals dependent on mangroves were suffering.