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Daily Nation : January 30th 2014
DAILY NATION Thursday January 30, 2014 Opinion 13 HOW TO MAKE MONEY GROW | Gachuhi Waringa If private plantations are encouraged, public forests and money will be saved glance I am doing better than the government’s effort of only 6.9 per cent tree cover which is a major improvement from the earlier two per cent. My forest should be good I news all round, but it is not. I planted my trees with a profit motive. In fact, the proceeds from the sale of timber, poles and fuelwood were supposed to be my children’s ticket to university. I figured that at about 800 trees per acre, I would end up with 400 mature trees per acre after eight years. I am on track for the first selective removal of weak trees to improve the growth of the remaining ones. That will earn me some little money for my trouble, but I am looking forward to the day I sell 2,000 trees at the current unit price of Sh3,000 which will earn me Sh6 million. Well, enough of day- dreaming! It seems like the government is hell-bent on ensuring that my dream of a profitable future goes up in smoke through the National Forest (Conservation & Management) Bill, 2013. The Bill will see Kenya continue wasting precious forex importing timber from Finland, China, Tanzania or Uganda. own a five-acre forest which constitutes 90 per cent of all my land. At a A Nyeri farmer waters her tree seedlings: Future is homegrown It means that the poor in urban areas will continue spending Sh60 per day on cooking charcoal which is dearer than the Sh20 used by the middle class on the cleaner LPG and electricity per day. Instead of the State agencies charged with forestry coming up with ways of expanding our current resource of 135,000 hectares of plantation on private land to over one million hectares, they want us to focus on “protecting” what is in government forests. The Bill seems to advocate staying on the same lane with its predecessor, the Forest Act, 2005, that hardly achieved anything but cosmetic reforms. One of the most glaring anomalies that should have been addressed in the Bill is a review of representation of key stakeholders. For instance the proposed Kenya Forest Service Board will comprise representatives from the Land Commission, forest research, forest professionals, community forest associations, sawmillers and NGOs under the Public Benefits Organisation Act. Private forest growers feel that the Bill puts too much emphasis on conservation of public forests at the expense of the potential that private forests portend for the sector. In my view conservation of public natural forests which currently constitute 85 per cent of State forests, is paramount because it will ensure we continue enjoying ecosystem services like water catchments, carbon sinks, and biodiversity. The elephant in the room is who, how and where from do we satisfy our insatiable hunger for firewood, charcoal, building timber, processed timber, support poles, building poles, furniture and for industrial use from the meagre 15 per cent of 1.7 per cent of our land mass that is reserved for plantations of cypress, pine and eucalyptus. It is, therefore, only natural that the main thrust of any legislative instruments proposed should focus on ensuring that a viable alternative to public forest resource is cultivated and encouraged. At the moment, Kenya Forest Services plantations are selling a building pole of 15cm diametre, popularly known as fito, at Sh80 while the market is retailing it at Sh700. It costs about Sh300 to grow the same for 2-3 years and many farmers are willing to sell such timber at a wholesale price of Sh250-450, depending on the origin. This is distorting the market by selling the pole at a subsidy funded by the public coffers. KFS should get out of the retail market for timber and leave it to the private sector. If that was done, the policing costs would not be necessary in the future. If wood products like charcoal, timber, fuelwood can be supplied by private individuals and enterprises, government forests would be safe and my trees would have a ready market and not be subjected to unfair competition by Chilean or South African private forests. I hope my MP will ensure amendments are made to make the Forest Bill a marketoriented instrument that encourages private enterprise. Mr Waringa is a communications specialist and tree farmer in Nakuru County A boy selects shoes at a Bata outlet THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX | Mohamed Omar country. The recent announcement that the Amosing-1 and Ewoi-1 exploration wells in Block 10BB, onshore northern Kenya, have resulted in the discovery of two new large oil fields is big news. These two wells continue the 100 per cent success rate in the South Lokichar Basin. In particular, much has been said and Planning key to projected oil boom in Kenya T here is a distinct focus on the role of oil, gas, and minerals sector in socio-economic development of the written about the oil in Turkana and the potential of other sites on account of preliminary analyses done in those places. The excitement is real and palpable, but that is now increasingly tempered with a cautionary note on the pitfalls of oil and gas if not well-managed or planned. To ensure that the country optimises the potential of its resources and avoid the kinds of challenges faced by other nations, there are a number of imperatives that must be in place. Some of these preconditions are currently being addressed to varying degrees while others need to be developed afresh. First, a successful extractives industry hinges on a clear vision and long-range planning. On account of the potential significance of the sector to the economy and also of the complex nature of the industry with respect to timelines, need for skills development, and infrastructure, a clear vision and policy direction becomes vital. It is in recognition of this fact that the oil, gas and minerals sector has been incorporated into the Vision 2030’s second medium-term plan, as the seventh sector of the economic pillar. The implication here is that a transformed and competitive extractive industry will be a key driver of the successful implementation of Vision 2030 and making Kenya the focal point of the region and a frontier for foreign direct investment. The idea is to look upon oil, gas and minerals as an ecosystem that has several components, including exploration, production, research and development, trading, services, training and skills development, as well as logistics and supply chain management. Each of these elements will eventually generate revenue, thereby diminishing the reliance on the extractives alone. Should the natural resources be depleted in years to come, there will still be a vibrant cluster of related economic activities to contribute to the country’s economic growth. The second element is the development of robust legal and regulatory framework to govern the industry. This may include tax regimes, criteria for sharing proceeds from the industry, mechanisms for undertaking geophysical survey, and possible incentive packages for investors. Third, what is today a nascent industry revolving around oil and gas is expected to grow in the coming years if the designated oil wells are proved to have reserves that meet the threshold for commercial viability. Transparency and accountability will have to be the defining features that characterise the approach to governance among all stakeholders including investors, communities, counties, and the national government. The fourth imperative relates to the status of human capital development of the population to actively participate in the industry, particularly in terms of vocational and entrepreneurial skills. Engineers who can conceptualise and design projects will be required but equally important are middle-level technicians with hands-on vocational training. Indeed, a critical mass of young people should immediately be enlisted to join apprentice-type vocational programmes to prepare them for the task. Similarly, people with entrepreneurial zeal to act as contractors, suppliers, and logistics providers need to be trained and supported in anticipation of the numerous opportunities. Infrastructural and institutional development forms the final pre-requisite for a successful oil sector. A series of facilities and support infrastructure will have to either be developed afresh or upgraded if they already exist. Dr Omar is the director, Economic Pillar at the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat BATA, YOU’VE SLIPPED. What happened to the good, old quality Bata shoes? asks a disappointed Carol Mutuku. The shoes sold these days, she claims, do not last as long as the old ones. She bought three pairs during their much publicised sale late last November and the soles are already cracked. “If they must import shoes from China, can’t they source for quality? I was a faithful customer, but I need to quickly look for an alternative.” Her email is email@example.com. FORENSIC LAB URGENT. No matter how good police are at combating crime, the lack of a forensic laboratory will continue to hamper their efforts, says Dave Mungai. According to him, using white powder to dust for fingerprints has been the key method since the 1960s, “and the accuracy depends on how quickly a crime scene is cordoned off to avoid any interference”. With a well-equipped forensic lab, he adds, investigations will be more accurate and chances of courts acquitting criminals for lack of evidence will be reduced. NO FORESIGHT. The most glaring evidence of lack of foresight by planners is the high number of excavations of streets and pavements in the towns, says Martin Wahome. To install new water pipes, fibreoptic cables and general beautification, various spots are usually dug up, and when the trenches are filled in, the job is often done poorly. “I have nothing against initiating progress, but we must ensure the future convenience of those to be affected.” His contact is Martin.Wahome@kprl.co.ke. Have a considerate day, won’t you! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Watchman, POB 49010, Nairobi 00100. Fax 2213946. THE CUTTING EDGE BY THE WATCHMAN TAXING TREES! The people advising most of the counties on taxes are doing a hopeless job, says Julius Wairegi. Among the bizarre taxation proposals that they have come up with, he adds, is Nairobi City County requiring residents to pay Sh5,000 to plant a tree in one’s compound and Sh3,500 to prune a tree. While the government is encouraging tree planting to conserve the environment, the city county leadership is doing the opposite. “Who will advise the counties to come up with reasonable taxes?” His contact is email@example.com. NO FORMS, NO DEALS. For nearly three months now, Stella Kidagula claims, land transactions in Machakos County have almost come to a standstill because of lack of land board consent forms. She wonders how the lands office could just sit back and let things grind to a halt instead of simply ordering new forms. “Without the forms, almost all the land transactions cannot be carried out. Can Lands Cabinet secretary Charity Ngilu intervene to solve the problem?” Her contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. REBUILD WESTGATE FASTER. The terrorists had no public hearing before striking the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, remarks X.N. Iraki, adding: “There was no public hearing also before the mall was built. Why should we have a hearing to open it? By prolonging the opening of the mall, we are handing victory to the terrorists, considering the number of jobs lost and economic inactivity.” Iraki would rather the military was ordered to restore the mall in a month, followed by a public hearing.” His contact is email@example.com.
January 29th 2014
January 31st 2014