KNA Kitui County Assembly has asked the County Executive for Environment and Natural Resources to present to the Assembly a draft bill on sand utilisation and harvesting to be enacted into a law to regulate sand mining in the County.
Speaking on Wednesday during debate on a report by the Committee on Environment, Energy and Mineral Investment Development on sand harvesting sites in Kitui County, Committee Chairperson Jacob Kavolonza, Mui Ward, said that the Act should cater for the interests of the local community adding that funds raised in sand harvesting are to be used in repairing roads.
“The County government through the relevant ministries is required to come up with sustainability programmes such as stop gaps, sub-surface dams and tree planting to reduce sand erosion to the dams,” said Kavolonza.
He urged the administration to ensure that the public is involved and made aware about matters to do with extraction of natural resources in the County.
Kasee Musya of Kisasi Ward reiterated the importance of responsible and sustainable sand harvesting as a means of income to enhance the local economy.
“Illegal charcoal production and sale is thriving in Kitui County despite an existing ban to safeguard the county’s dwindling forest cover that is a paltry seven percent below the national target of 10 percent,” said Kasee.
The Kisasi Ward Rep noted that rural communities in Kitui County depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, with charcoal production being an additional strategy to secure income during the dry season.
According to Kitui County Ecosystem Conservator Joyce Nthuku, charcoal production is largely indiscriminate and the danger is that loggers prefer trees that take decades to mature yet there are no efforts to replenish the environment after the wanton destruction.
Nthuku notes that without alternative means of livelihoods, people tend to ignore the ban and engage in illicit charcoal production and trade rather than complying with formal processes to control production or improve production methods.
Nthuku lamented that increased demand for charcoal is linked to unsustainable production since the ban was enforced.
“The links between charcoal and forest and land degradation are complex, with charcoal production often a by-product of other activities such as clearing land for agriculture,” the Ecosystem Conservator lamented.
“Unsustainable charcoal production will lead to serious land use changes, especially dryland forest and woodland degradation,” she said.
Nthuku says that making the charcoal sector more sustainable will require more efficient charcoal production technologies, improved forest and resource management plans and effective governance through environmental assessments, production licenses and movement permits.
Over the years, the Ecosystem Conservator noted that the demand for charcoal has increased due to a combination of rapid population growth, urbanization and the increasing cost of alternative fuels.
These alternatives such as electricity and liquefied petroleum gas, however, energy activists say that these remain the preserve of high-income households only, whereas charcoal is a main cooking fuel for both rural and urban households across all income levels.
Nthuku decried the wanton destruction of many water catchment areas saying that communities no longer cared about environmental conservation, which was the source of their livelihoods and that of future generations.
“Deforestation, degradation and encroachment of water towers and other catchment areas, uncontrolled human activities including wanton logging have threatened and undermined the county’s capability to ensure food security,” Nthuku lamented.