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The Kenyan Mau forest and drought linkage
30 September 2009
Around 20,000 families in the Kenyan Mau forest hills fear to be evicted from their lands. The inhabitants of this region are held responsible for the droughts which have affected several million of their compatriots.
The Mau forest is a protected area at the heart of Kenya?s natural water supply system. Over the last fifteen years these forests have been cleared by many people, to provide for settlement and agricultural production. This has resulted in huge disruption of the forest ecosystem and the rivers and areas that depend on the forest hydrological services. Now a special task force appointed by the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga sees eviction of its inhabitants and replanting trees as the only solution to restore the region?s water deficit.
For many people, including some high-level politicians, this approach by the Kenyan government may come as an awful surprise, for others these actions come much too late. Although compensation measures have been promised, many families facing evictions from their farm are rightfully afraid to lose their sources of livelihood.
With thousands of people frustrated by these harsh government actions, strong (and possibly even violent) resistance can be expected. On the other hand, if remedial measures are not taken immediately to secure the livelihoods of the millions of people who depend on the Mau forest, the danger of civil conflict breaking out looms close.