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Man arrested for denuding Maragoli Hills

17 September 2013, 14:30 Dareel Eric

Vihiga - A man in Vihiga County has been arrested for uprooting the trees that were planted on Maragoli Hills in a bid to reclaim the deforested hills.

Alfandus Ondeto is suspected to have uprooted trees on close to ten hectares of land on the Hills, in the company of others.

Vihiga County Forestry officer, Mathew Ogutu, said that the man is a resident bordering the hills and is one of the people who normally sell seedlings to the forestry department, on top of being employed as casual labourers to plant the trees when need arises.

“We suspect that the man and his accomplices have been uprooting the trees so that they can continually benefit from selling seedlings and working on the hills as casual labourers,” Ogutu said.

He further expressed disappointment over the locals' habit of thwarting the efforts of the department.

“It has been difficult rehabilitating the Hills because the locals are not fully cooperating with us. They continually frustrate our efforts any time that we plant trees on the hill,” he said.  

The initiative to rehabilitate the Maragoli Hills was commissioned by the area governor, Moses Akaranga, two months ago.

The governor had sent stern warnings to the residents who will be found on the hill uprooting the trees that they would be prosecuted.

Ogutu said that despite the efforts by the department to provide alternative sources of making a living to the locals, they were not cooperating with them.

“The only best solution to rehabilitate the hill will be by resettling the locals who live on the hills because they cannot practise any productive farming,” he said.

Maragoli Hills covers 461.6 hectares of which 395.1 are Gazetted Government Forest and belong to Kenya Forest Service.

Of the remaining hectares, 66 is Trust Land belonging to communities living in Muguva, Dabwongo and Ludonyi villages.

Ogutu revealed that the trees had covered 80 percent of the hills but their rate of growth is slow due to incessant denudation.

He also said that despite the extensive region, the Hills are only manned by two rangers who find it difficult to monitor the activities around it.

He noted that the hills are a rich source of water for the locals as 22 springs have the hills as their source.

“We want to encourage our people on the need for a sustainable management of the Hills and their utilisation,” he said.

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