MANGROVE FOREST
FARM FORESTRY
FOREST PLANTATION
DRY LAND FOREST
PARTICIPATORY FOREST MANAGEMENT
NATURAL FOREST

ULTIMATE SACRIFICE OF FOREST CONSERVATION

 By Benedetta Wasonga

 

Kenya is a land blessed with an abundance of natural capital ranging from minerals to wildlife. However, no resource shines as bright as forests. Forests are the heartbeat of the country, feeding the rivers that flow and nourish lowlands and supply electricity to support the population. This delicate ecosystem is in danger of collapsing or being depleted as illegal logging, deforestation, over grazing, charcoal production, ill-planned settlements agricultural and urban expansion take up more forest land each day. This ultimately creates the risk of human-wildlife conflict and eco-system plundering. For that reason, Kenya Forest Service tasked with managing this threatened resource, has an Enforcement and Compliance Unit that comprises of rangers tasked with protecting this invaluable resource.

 

Nevertheless, as the Service works tirelessly in pursuit to achieve the 10% forest cover through protection, behind it there is a fallen ranger whose family has been left without a son or daughter, brother or sister, an uncle or an aunt and a father or a mother. A bread winner who left this world in the line of duty while robustly defending and protecting this significant and priceless resource. A ranger, who has been maimed, wounded or lost their eye sight. These men and women continue to face many dangers in their day-to-day operations. They risk injuries or death as they perform this noble duty and in some cases, simply wearing a uniform may get them attacked.

 

Incidences of life threatening situations are not uncommon in the line of duty of a forest ranger. Illegal loggers, criminal gangs and cartels, poachers and other enemies lurk ready to ambush the officers. Between 2012 and 2016, over 26 deaths and 18 injuries were reported. Many of whom succumbed to vicious attacks by wild animals, illegal loggers and criminal gangs whose thirst for forest destruction and greed for forest land is unmatched. 

 

They also brave harsh and unforgiving terrains. It is easy to get lost deep inside the forest forcing them to endure harsh conditions for days until they are rescued. Forest fires also pose a danger to them. They are expected to put out forest fires while suffering shortage in personnel and vast amounts of ground to cover. With drier seasons as an accelerant in intensity, size and frequency of these fires, it is usually human activities such as poaching, burning agricultural land before or after cultivation, illegal honey harvesting and illegal bhang farming that are the major catalysts. Curtailing the effects of forest fires is dangerous work involving close encounters with fires which in some cases may cause injuries as well as difficult breathing conditions.

 

With these and many more impediments to the job, it is commendable the level of dedication these men and women display each day as they protect our forests. It is also admirable that every year more and more recruits enlist to the Service. The rangers are unsung heroes with achievements and valour that the average Kenyan will never know and to whom we owe our debt to as a nation.

 

However, this is not to say that there have been no cases of misconduct. Several incidences have occurred and may as well continue to occur in future where a ranger may work against the values, principles and mandate of the Service. However, in the event of a breach in the Service statutes, the enforcement wing of the Service is mandated to carry out investigations and take punitive action as deemed necessary together with the arm of government charged with maintaining law and order.

Working in partnership with the forest adjacent communities, conservation projects such as tree planting and community networks to curb criminal activities such as illegal logging are gaining traction as a result of the favorable cooperation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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