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Conservation group wants KWS, forestry bases in Boni Forest

Boni Forest in Lamu County
An aerial view of a section of Boni Forest in Lamu County. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NMG 

Conservationists in Lamu County want the government to establish Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and Kenya Forest Services (KFS) camps and bases in Boni Forest as a move to end the war on Al-Shabaab in the region.

The conservationists say it is high time the government changes tack in dealing with insecurity in Lamu.

They say instead of the government spending billions of shillings on Al-Shabaab crackdown in the dense forest, establishment of camps and bases would make it hard for the militants to live inside the forest.

Ali Shebwana, the Lamu County Conservation and Compensation Committee chair, opposed a suggestion to bomb out Boni forest to get rid of Al-Shabaab militants believed to be hiding there.

“If we want to have Boni forest free of Al-Shabaab, we need to set up operations there. The government should think of setting up permanent KWS, KFS and conservationist camps and bases inside the forest.

"It’s all about strategy. I don’t think this issue requires too much militarisation or weapons and use of billions of shillings daily, which even subjects the taxpayer to a huge burden," said Mr Shebwana.

Mr Shebwana insisted that bombing of the Boni forest will not only destroy ancient flora and fauna but will also render homeless the host Aweer/Boni communities, who have already been displaced by the military operations.

The thick Boni forest extends from Lamu, Garissa and Tana River counties and all the way to the Somalia border.

Hunters and gathers

The Boni minority community has for decades used and depends entirely on the forest for their livelihood.

The Bonis are traditionally hunters, honey harvesters and wild fruits gatherers.

The expansive forest was previously frequented by researchers and conservationists for research purposes due to its rich ecosystem.

It is known for its numerous fresh water streams and uncountable species of wildlife and trees.

The forest has scattered thorn bush, indigenous open canopy trees, acacia woodland, marshy glades and ground water forest.

The forest has turned to be a notorious sanctuary for Al-Shabaab militants who use it as a launching pad for incursions into Lamu and neighbouring counties including Garissa and Tana River.

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