300 saw millers lose licences in regulator’s review

The KFS said groups permitted to harvest trees ought to pass the test in areas like equipment and tax compliance. PHOTO | FILE
The KFS said groups permitted to harvest trees ought to pass the test in areas like equipment and tax compliance. PHOTO | FILE 

Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has revoked licences of close to 300 saw millers after a three-month appraisal.

KFS director Emilio Mugo said the operation has sparked protest from briefcase operators who have not met the criteria for pre-qualification.

Firms allowed to harvest trees are required to have financial capability, be tax compliant, have the required logging and treatment equipment, and operation sites of the approved sizes.

“We have gotten close to 300 of those calling themselves saw millers having to fall off because they have nothing to show. You cannot visit them in a site and tell whether it is their industry. We expect they are going to fight back but we are waiting for them,” said Mr Mugo.

KFS only deals with licensed millers and dealers when harvesting forests to remove speculators, he said.

The list of those in the industry, Mr Mugo added, is reviewed regularly to also accommodate new investors.

“We want those who have invested and those willing to invest to be the ones who have access to the public resources that we are managing on behalf of Kenyans,” said Mr Mugo during the launch of the National Tree Planting Day for the Eastern Rainfall Regime at Thege Primary School in Meru.

In Rift Valley, the Timber Manufacturers Association has denied accusations of destroying public forests that is posing a threat to water towers.

The association says it has been working closely with KFS and other stakeholders in forestation and conservation of the forests contrary to claims by critics that they were undermining the efforts.

Mr Mugo assured that the KFS is working to protect all forests, saying they were dealing with “small issues” in different parts of the country as they come.

Environment secretary Judi Wakhungu asked counties to finalise and implement devolved forestry functions.

“Based on experiences from elsewhere, it can be projected that if all counties devote adequate resources for forestry development, the sector can contribute significantly to employment creation for youth and support industrial development, thus spurring economic growth for all our regions,” said Prof Wakhungu.

The CS asked county assemblies to use the recently enacted Forest Conservation and Management Act, 2016 to develop legislation for forestry.

The legislation provides for inclusive engagement between the national and county governments and other stakeholders.

It also provides for registration of private forests and creates a raft of incentives for persons with an interest for investing in forestry development.

It also creates forest conservancy committees whose membership also includes the county executives responsible for the sub-sector.