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Extended logging ban 'painful', may hurt Big Four - sawmillers.

Sawmillers yesterday criticised the six-month extension of the logging moratorium, saying it has cost jobs, slashed income and caused 'untold suffering'.

Umbrella of Sawmillers Association members said the moratorium has been painful.

'We have had to lay off youth who now have nowhere to go,' Salome Kiprop from North Rift said at a meeting in Nairobi.

On February 24, the government issued a 90-day moratorium, then extended last week for another six months.

The moratorium was imposed to allow time to assess forest destruction, responsiblity and come up with conservation plans.

Environment CS Keriako Tobiko said the extension will allow for the appointment of the new Kenya Forest Service Board. The term of the former board ended on March 31.

Read : Government extends ban on logging for six months

A task force blamed KFS officials and wardens for rampant destruction, saying they often colluded with illegal loggers and millers.

Yesterday, sawmillers from Western, Nyanza, South Rift, North Rift and Mount Kenya said the extension has caused irreparable damage.

Kiprop asked why the government has taken so long to constitute the new KFS board.

He said 8,000 workers have been affected in North Rift alone. 'We have 250 sawmills in the area,' she said, adding that logs that had been cut continue to rot.

Kiprop said money that had been paid for timber to be cut is still with KFS. A sawmiller from Mount Kenya, who requested anonymity, said they were shocked by the extension.

'We thought the task force report put the blame on KFS. The delay in constituting the board is hurting us,' he said.

Mount Kenya covers Embu, Meru, Chuka, Timau, Nyanyuki, Narumoru, Nyeri and Karatina. It has about 300 sawmillers. About 25,000 people in the region earn their livelihood from timber.

The Mt Kenya sawmiller, an association official, said the Big Four agenda may not be realised as the government is killing industries that support the development pillars.

He said on average, one needs to invest a minimum of Sh5 million in a small mill, Sh15 million-Sh25 million for a medium and Sh100 million for a large sawmill.

John Koskei from South Rift said he employes 800 saw millers and 400,000 workers.

'Our members had negotiated with banks when the first three-month moratorium was enforced. However, they've started receiving letters from the banks demanding payments. Soon their properties will be auctioned,' Koskei said.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:May 30, 2018
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