As a follow up to the tree planting exercise conducted in early May in two locations in Migori country, CRTP conducted a monitoring visit and advocacy workshop involving participants from Migori County.
Monitoring visit ~ 29th June 2022
Led by the local coordinators in Migori, CRTP representatives visited three locations where trees were planted. During the tree-planting exercise CRTP coordinated the planting of over 1200 trees in Mirema Hills, and the area was the first location for the monitoring visit. As noticed by the CRTP team the trees were doing well. The Nyatike Community Forest Association (CFA), the group taking care of the trees, had recently conducted a replanting exercise to replace the trees destroyed by rabbits in the area. This being a dry season, it was identified that the new trees will need to be watered to ensure they survive the harsh weather conditions. In addition, after having a meeting with the CFA members, it was advised that there is need to provide the trees with a form of fence/ tree spot fencing to prevent the animals from destroying them.
The second and third location were at Wiga ward and Kopanga ward whereby the team visited specific locations, where three different members had planted trees along a riverbank. Bamboo trees had been planted and it was noted that they were doing well; individuals had gone ahead and added extra trees that were donated through the local ward administrator., The trees that had been planted were protected from access from cattle.
EASEI ADVOCACY WORKSHOP ~ 30TH JUNE 2022
The Centre for Research, Training and Publications conducted an awareness and advocacy workshop in Migori town. 43 participants attended, 25 men and 18 women. The participants had in thepast trained chartered mediators, artisanal miners, tree planting exercise participants from the different groups, local community based organizations’ representatives and government representatives engaged in the process, including county representatives of environment, National Environment Management Authority, Kenya Forest Services, Department of Mining members and staff.
The workshop was focused on increasing the level of awareness of environmental impacts on extractives activities at the county. Starting an advocacy conversation against environmental degradation, it began with the CRTP team sharing briefly about Hekima University College and the CRTP program at hand, with its objectives and outcomes discussed focusing on the program contribution towards attainment of the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) . A presentation of the study findings followed this introduction. Most of the workshop participants had interacted with the team conducting research on the project and this acted as a validation session of the findings of the research. (The livelihood and environmental degradation research was conducted through distribution of questionnaires, conducting FGD’s at different locations i.e Suna west and Nyatike sub counties).
The session was followed by an open conversation with workshop participants asking questions onthe issues raised by the participants. These included questions like: “The study has shown the level of toxicity of the soil. Did the research come to a solution to how this can be solved, and what are your thoughts on the death of animals around mining areas” ~ Answered: One of the research recommendations was to conduct a study to find out the exact toxic level of the soil and follow authorities’ recommendations on how to curb it. Meanwhile the program is conducting a tree planting exercise that involves planting of Bamboo and other trees those can absorb toxins from water and soil. In addition the county representative informed the participants that samples of animals reported to have died near a site were sent to government laboratories to test the cause of death; once results are released the parties will be informed. One of the challenges as the session ended was on how non-state actors might challenge the real or perceived laxity of the county government and advocate towards efficient services.
The second session comprised panel presentations/discussions by various stakeholders:
The first panel discussion was by Dan Odida, the Secretary Migori County Miners Association on communities’ perspectives on the impact of extractive industry on livelihood and environment. His presentation was divided into positive and negative impacts. Some of the positive impacts highlighted included: the industry being a source of livelihood; and economic improvement of the areas involved in mining, i.e Kehancha, Masara and Nyatike. The improved economy can be directly attributed to mining as well as the national and global attraction of projects in the county, like the ongoing project on environmental advocacy by HUC, a different project on artisanal miners by Planet Gold etc. On negative impacts, the representative spoke of environmental degradation, deforestation, pollution. As well as fatalities due to suffocation in mines, increased crime and immorality, how extensive use of chemicals exposes the community to poisoning, how the industry has invaded the water table, and how constant pumping of water has led to drying of wells in the area.
He added that “ The various capacity building activities conducted has led the community to understand their roles in practicing safe mining and advocating for themselves, planting trees, use of noise reduction devices ( covering up milling machines), reducing use of mercury by practicing concentration before amalgamation,”
The next presentation was by Tom Misenya, the County Director for environment and climate change. His discussion focused on county government efforts in mitigating environment degradation, and the available avenues for collaborations with communities in addressing environmental degradation. He took the participants through the ongoing Department of Environment programs that are implementing aspects of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals also known as the Bonn Convention (of which Kenya is a signatory) and contributing to the attainment of 10% forest cover at the local level. Some of the highlighted achievements by the county included: facilitation formation MICMA, and facilitating capacity building of the miners, (supported by NCCK, HEKIMA. CJPC etc). Ensuring that mining complaints are channeled to the right place for action, and developing partnership stakeholder regulations to ensure partnership at the county level are documented and benefiting the county residents is important. Another key task is contributing towards rrehabilitating degraded river banks is also important, whereby Mirema, Muriri and the county work together with other counties under the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREC) with gold presence in support of the current construction of a gold processing plant in Kakamega, which will be a an avenue for ecologically sustainable gold production in Migori.
Participant commented “The county government ought to look for avenues for farmers who have achieved the 10% tree cover to gain carbon credit, this will make them a good example for the rest of the citizens in the county and ensure more people are planting more trees”.
The next presentation was by Ochweri Samson, the deputy director of the National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) for Migori County. The presentation was focused on the opportunities available for the communities in the formulation and implementation of environmentalpolicies. The presentation, focused on the need for more public participation in policy formulation, informed the participants of the importance of knowing when the CIDPs are in development and which officers are responsible for policy formulation, so as to share their thoughts with the relevant persons. During the discussions it was identified that there is a need for a multisectoral approach when it comes to sensitizing county residents on existing laws and policies being implemented by different government arms, while also raising awareness, identifying and lobbying for integration of particular mining related concerns on the county plans CIDP’s.
One of the participants raised a concern along the following lines: “The work of NEMA and other regulators on regulations: this should start at application by these miners, i.e. the leaching plant established just near homesteads and operating with licenses. Why is the government approving such projects with lots of illegalities, i.e where do these leaching operators get cyanide legally in Kenya? ”
The last panel presentation was by James Omwenga, a Kenya Forest Services (KFS) representative. CRTP had collaborated with KFS during identification of sites for tree planting in Mirema Hills, particularly seeking advice on the correct trees to be planted, and thus the discussion focused on identifying potential stakeholders in distribution of more trees in the county. Omwenga noted that with the ongoing reforestation in the county there were great opportunities for partnerships. The communities staying near KFS centers were encouraged to work with local officers who can incorporate them in ongoing programs on tree planting. There is also provision of tree management trainings and development of community nurseries in partnership with KEFRI, who in conjunction with KFS have been conducting research on trees that absorb heavy metals. Residents of the county were encouraged to plant such trees.
The advocacy workshop showed the need to conduct similar workshops at local levels to educate beneficiaries on the existing avenues for advocating. Some of the recommendations for the existing groups included:
- Need for strong, structured community organizations that can intervene on county related maters
- Maximizing existing collaboration with county government and local mining groups on advocating for various issues.
- There is clear need to engage communities more in research findings
- Continue with conversations on environmental advocacy at all levels.