Police begin crackdown on illegal logging, charcoal burning in Kajiiado 

Kajiado charcoal trade

A multi-agency security team at Ilbisl town during a crackdown on charcoal trade raid on February 17, 2023.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

A multi-agency security team in Kajiado on Friday raided charcoal stores in Ilbisil town as a crackdown on illegal logging and charcoal trade in the region intensified.

The raid comes after a crisis meeting between Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku, County Commissioner Felix Watikila and Kenya Forest Service officers on Tuesday over the massive charcoal burning across the county.

The leaders agreed to re-introduce police roadblocks along the Namanga highway to stop the trade.

Illegal logging and charcoal burning has escalated especially in rural areas as residents grapple with the effects of drought. The locals are cutting down trees to make quick money from the charcoal trade.

During the raid, 103 sacks of charcoal were confiscated in 12 different stores.  

Kajiado Central Deputy County Commissioner told Nation.Africa the crackdown will be extended to rural areas where illegal logging and charcoal burning is intensive. He said three notorious charcoal traders are on police radar.

"We will not relent in our anti-charcoal burning and trade campaigns. We have already identified three notorious traders who ferry charcoal to Nairobi and other major towns,” he said.

Kajiado County Director of Environment Nathan Kobaai said illegal logging and charcoal burning in the region have contributed to drought.

"The erratic climate change has taken its toll on Kajiado residents. It's high time we stopped illegal logging and charcoal burning as one of the major long-term drought mitigation measures,” said Mr Kobaai.

The security team will have a daunting task in their efforts to dismantle an illegal charcoal trade cartel said to be controlled by senior police officers, politicians and rich individuals.

A bag of charcoal retails at Sh3,000 in Kitengela town. Bags of charcoal are ferried from Kajiado central and Oloilelai sub-counties using motorcycles.

Motorcycle riders who carry between four and six bags of charcoal operate early in the morning.  

A boda boda rider told Nation.Africa that 50 motorcycle riders are hooked into the lucrative business with each rider making two trips in a day.

"Most of us supply charcoal to hotels and households but some are paid to ferry the charcoal to waiting vehicles on the Namanga highway. The charcoal is then transported to Nairobi,” he said.