Baobab: Save our heritage

The country’s natural heritage, including forests, rivers, and mountains, are too precious to be left to a few greedy people to exploit. Unfortunately, this has been happening over the years, with the clandestine harvesting of rare trees, logging and other forms of deforestation. As a result, the country’s forest cover is below the 10 per cent globally recommended by the United Nations.

While the authorities deserve kudos for conservation, they cannot do it alone. There is a need to sensitise the people to protect this natural wealth. The latest threat is happening in Kilifi County at the coast, where baobab trees are being uprooted for export to the European country of Georgia. 

Environmentalists and local leaders are up in arms over the biopiracy by a Georgian firm. Baobab trees are among the country’s most valuable and unique vegetation and a major tourist attraction. The mature trees could be up to 200 years old and can survive much longer.

Their felling unfairly strips the area of its unique identity and destroys the ecosystem. 

President William Ruto has instructed the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to investigate the matter. Allowing the wanton uprooting of baobab trees negates the government's plan to plant billions of trees in 10 years to boost forest cover.

Baobabs provide a home to numerous species of insects, reptiles and birds, and their destruction could have a serious ecological impact. This is precisely why environmentalists are livid about the uprooting of trees for export.

The government should revoke the licence issued to the Georgian company. The protection of indigenous trees helps to mitigate the effects of climate change. Sanctioning baobab exports violate the Nagoya Protocol, an international agreement of which Kenya is a signatory that sets conditions for the protection of genetic resources.

Laws protecting heritage sites, artefacts and scarce and rare natural resources must be strictly enforced at all times.