For several months now, environmentalists have been fighting with an investor, KiliAvo Fresh Ltd, who bought and cleared 180 acres of the fragile scrubland in the hope of entering Kenya’s avocado industry for billions of shillings.
The global avocado market has been booming recently and in 2019 Kenya ranked first after shipping avocados worth Sh 10.6 ranked eight billion worldwide behind Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain, Chile, Colombia and the United States.
Kenya is one of the fastest growing avocado exporters and had until October last year 68,000 tons exported 14 billion Shs according to the Fresh Produce Exporters Association (FPEAK).
The company is so lucrative that the government had to restrict trade last year after it was found the existence greedy farmers exported unripe fruits and thus damage the country’s reputation.
Avocado is the new green gold – perhaps in the battle for space with tourism. And when Mr. Harji Mavji and his business partner Suresh Kerai invested in the Amboseli ecosystem, they had hoped to unlock the avocado millions. Until their plans came across conservationists who wanted to save Kenya’s natural heritage.
The office of the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) in Kajiado had given the project the go-ahead before the conservationists found out about it
Despite being granted a license to start farming, environmentalists and local landowners have teamed up and objected to the Avocado Project . argue that it was located on an old elephant migration corridor and would inspire other copycat projects in the area.
Kimana in the Tikondo region where the farm is located is believed to be the link between the Tsavo West National Park and Amboseli National Park.
But as group farms begin to sell part of their land to commercial entities, conservationists fear the small subdivided areas could lead to it cause a sharp decline in wildlife and affect the Amboseli ecosystem.
“The division of the Amboseli ecosystem into Kaputei-like settlements reflects a major threat to Kenya’s rangelands,” wrote Dr. Western, one of the most famous wildlife scientists.
The division is traced back to a decree of the Ministry of Land from 2019, which made it possible to divide common land into private allotment gardens and the Maasai from pastoral to sedentary Change life. While group farms have withstood pressure from speculators to buy the land for other economic ventures – including agriculture – and settlements, some are already giving way.
Last year, the Ololorashi The Ogulului Group Ranch (OOGR), which surrounds Amboseli National Park, began splitting their 330,000-acre ranch into 5,000 members, sparking an uproar from conservationists who argue that the loss of land around the parks is the fate of conservation in Kenya
Amid these concerns, KiliAvo Fresh Ltd and its owners were caught between saving the wildlife corridor and turning the country into a major exporter of avocados.
“While avocados may be nutritious and tasty, they have nothing to do with being raised in the middle of the kimana wildlife corridor. There are many other, much better places for such developments, ”wrote the Big Life Foundation, one of the founders of Richard Bonham, the conservationist who pioneered the community game scout concept in the late 1980s, in its widespread protest letter.
Mr. Bonham is known in this corridor. As the son of one of the first game rangers, Jack Bonham, his dedication to saving lions and other predators in Mbirikani has earned him worldwide awards.
When the National Environmental Court withdrew With the avocado Farming license this week, the move was welcomed by conservationists, who were concerned about falling numbers in Tsavo and Amboseli and the livelihoods of those who rely on tourism.
“This avocado farm is threatened not only these livelihoods, but also the Amboseli National Park, which is one of the leading parks in the country. That ruling sent an unmistakable message to all developers who consider wilderness areas to be all-rounders. Hands off our wildlife and our wilderness, ”said Ms. Paula Kahumbu, CEO of WildlifeDirect, a local conservation advocacy group.
It was Ms. Kahumbu who first sounded the alarm The fence around this wildlife corridor was threatened with litigation by KiliAvo, which was later dismissed.
Ms. Kahumbu has made efforts to have Nema revoke the license granted to KiliAvo Fresh Ltd
Together with other actors in the sector, they urge that the Secretary of the Cabinet of Tourism, Najib Balala, tighten laws and regulations and prevent investors from entering wildlife corridors.
During filing with the National Environment Tribunal (Net), the Kenya Wildlife Service submitted a report confirming that the farm is right in the wildlife corridor.
Net Chairman Mohammed Balala said KiliAvo failed to provide reports and stand ready to help advance its case and despite previous urgency calls, “the fair hearing on this matter has now been delayed”.
The main poser is the future of cultivated agriculture in the wildlife corridors and the balance that Kenya is striving for between tourism and the cash-crop economy.
So far, conservationists have come together under the umbrella of the Conservation Alliance of Kenya to question the granting of a permit for cultivated agriculture – in the ongoing struggle to save Kenya’s dwindling heritage.
Joseph Kopejo, Kajiado County’s Nema director, said the agency would initiate the process of terminating the license. But KiliAvo’s farm manager, Jeremiah Sakwa, told our reporters in Kajiado that they would continue the project.
“We have invested heavily in this farm and employed more than 400 people. Not once Nema will do this. ” dictate how we should use our property, “said Mr Sakwa.
In September 2020, Nema KiliAvo had warned that it intended to terminate its license according to Amboseli Land Owners The Conservancy Association (ALOCA) and other key stakeholders raised questions about an allegedly biased environmental impact report.
At the moment the elephants seem to have won the right of way and the case will be used to further To prevent interference by investors within the corridor.