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Land grabbers paradise as half of city forest ‘vanishes’

About half of Ngong Forest has been grabbed, top Kenya Forest Service officials say.

Only 1,224.4 hectares of the woodland remain from an initial 2,850 at gazettement in 1932, said Mr James Gitonga, the KFS head of conservancy in Nairobi.

“There has been pressure for excision. Were it not for the 2005 Forest Act and the 2016 Forest Conservation and Management Act, the land was going fast,” said Mr Gitonga.

The revelation was made at the launch of a management plan and signing of the management agreement last week.

A LOT OF PRESSURE

KFS chief conservator of forests Emilio Mugo said being a peri-urban grove, Ngong Road faced a lot of pressure.

“Some people have acquired title deeds fraudulently. With the National Land Commission, we are reversing the allocations,” he said.

“We have engaged those we know and three are part of an ongoing case.”

Mr Mugo said part of the contentious land was next to Lang’ata Cemetery targeted by the city county government for conversion into a graveyard.

“Some people have titles for land in areas that have not been degazetted,” said Mr Mugo.

“Even then, degazetted forest land is not available for allocation by the Lands Ministry. These are the ones that we are challenging.”

SH100 MILLION PER ACRE

The conservator said an acre of land in the area sold at Sh100 million “so if you get just one, you know you’re miles ahead of everybody else”.

He added that Nairobians had the wrong notion that the land was idle.

The two officials said what complicated the matter was the fact that some grabbers were selling the land.

Some of those duped into buying the land, according to Mr Mugo and Mr Gitonga, included the Kenya Medical Association and Sun Valley estates, both in Lang’ata.

Management agreements give communities permission to use the forest for income generation as long as they conserve it.

ELECTRIC FENCING

Mr Simon Woods, the chairman of the Forest Association, said about 3.5 kilometres of electric fencing had been erected to protect 53 hectares.

Almost 1,214 hectares remain unfenced. KFS is looking for Sh50 million to fence off the remaining 50 kilometres.

He said for every kilometre of fencing, Sh1 million was needed for management annually.