NatureKenya is working alongside local community members to oppose the destruction of a vitally important woodland for biodiversity and people at the Kenya's coast. In total 50,000 ha have been identified for conversion to grow Jatropha - a plant used for biodiesel production which is largely untested and potentially destructive. The area identified poses a threat to Dakatcha Woodland Important Bird Area (IBA) which lies within the proposed development.
Dakatcha is an extensive tract of relatively intact coastal woodland, north of the Sabaki River and between 25 and 50 km inland from the Kenyan coast. It is an IBA and Key Biodiversity Area for many Globally Threatened species such as Endangered Clarke's Weaver Ploceus golandi.
Dakatcha is also the ancestral land for the indigenous minority Watha community. The Watha gain invaluable ecosystem services from the forest such as clean stream water for drinking, and a sustainable supply of firewood for cooking and lighting.
NatureKenya works with many community groups called Site Support Groups in and around priority conservation sites across the country. At Dakatcha, Nature Kenya - in collaboration with various partners - has initiated alternative livelihood activities including promotion of bee keeping, ecotourism and development of sustainable forestry management to conserve the Dakatcha Woodlands IBA.
Sadly, the County Council of Malindi and Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd. have announced the setting aside of 50,000 ha of land within Dakatcha and the surrounding areas for conversion to Jatropha Plantations. "Jatropha curcas is an untested and potentially destructive plant", said NatureKenya's Director - Paul Matiku. "Large scale clearing of land for plantations in the Dakacha area will erode the fragile soil and take up scarce water".
NatureKenya is working alongside the Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group SSG and Dakatcha Woodland Community Forest Association to fight the plans which endanger the future of both local people's livelihoods, and Globally Threatened biodiversity.
Speaking about the felling of indigenous trees before the completion of an Environmental Impact Assessment report, Paul Matiku warned: "any further cutting of forest, woodland or thicket in Dakatcha will damage the ability of the landscape to be a water catchment and protect the soil from erosion; and threaten with extinction plants and animals which Kenya has a global responsibility to conserve".
The local conservation group and the general community have held demonstrations in Mulunguni area, and communities in Chamari and Mulunguni villages have filed a court case against Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd. to stop alienation of their land.
This week NatureKenya, the East African Wildlife Society, Youth for Conservation and community representatives held a press conference to oppose the project where local people spoke out. Joshua Kahindi, a representative of the Dakatcha community, decried the: "alienation of land from local communities to be given to the Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd". "The community was not adequately consulted", said another member of the local community - Jacob Kokani. "We are against the project as it will displace us from our ancestral land", he concluded.