Kilifi suspends selling and uprooting of baobab trees

Baobab tree

Uprooted baobab tree ready for export to Georgia is transported along the Mombasa-Malindi Highway in this photo taken on November 20, 2022.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit I Nation Media Group

Kilifi County government has suspended issuance of licenses for selling and uprooting baobab trees and warned buyers of stern legal action after President William Ruto’s order to end the activity.

The Department of Environment and Forestry has been ordered not to authorise the uprooting of trees which gave room for a foreign company Ariba Seaweed Company and a Georgian, Mr George Gvasaliya, to uproot and export baobab to Georgia, United States.

Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung’aro faulted an earlier move that allowed the uprooting and export of the baobab tree in Kilifi.

“The county government will not issue permits for cutting off trees. We were confused because Nema allowed the farmers to uproot the baobab trees to create space to plant maize, but it was a lie. They intended to use the document to sell the trees for export,” said the governor.

Speaking during the flagging off of a consignment of drugs and Pharmaceuticals worth Sh400million at Karisa Maitha grounds which were meant for 150 hospitals in Kilifi, governor Mung’aro said they had alerted the public to report any uprooting of the baobab tree in the county.

“We are monitoring any uprooting of the baobab, and we are going to arrest the farmer and the buyer for legal action,” he said.

According to the Governor, the County has suffered massive deforestation due to charcoal production, leading to severe drought.

“Unfortunately, the land in Kilifi is bare due to the massive cutting down of trees for charcoal, and now we are uprooting the baobab tree for export. Sadly, we are selling our shrines and places of worship,” he added.

On Monday, the Cabinet Secretary of Environment and Forestry Soipan Tuya said the Ariba Seaweed International Limited was uprooting the Baobab illegally.

“Plant variety protection is a form of intellectual property. The uprooting the baobab trees needed Adequate authorization and a clear and transparent benefit-sharing formula for the community, which evidently were not obtained regularly in this case,” she said.

Ms Tuya said baobab trees were unique species and part of the natural heritage protected under the Constitution of Kenya,2010

“The state is obligated to protect and enhance the intellectual property in, and indigenous knowledge of biodiversity and the genetic resources of the community under Article69©of the constitution,” she said.

She instructed the Kenya Forest Service(KFS)to cancel the Movement Permit that allowed for the transportation of the Baobab trees, pending a comprehensive assessment of the case.

“I have consulted the Cabinet Secretary for Roads, Transport and Public Works, and we have agreed that the Baobab trees should not be exported until the agreement between the parties is well regularised, and the adequate authority, as well as benefit sharing formula in line with the Convention for Biodiversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol, are obtained and executed,” she added.

Ms Tuya said government officers within the ministries and agencies that did not follow due process would face administrative action.

She said the government was on course with plans to increase the national tree cover to 30 per cent in 10 years by planting 15 billion trees.

"As a ministry, we will not condone any retrogressive steps that would derail these efforts," she said.