Society / Environment
Tuesday, 06 Sep 2016 13:16 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
Residents of a sleepy village in Baringo County have opposed the government’s plan to upgrade a small technical school into a university, fearing that the college’s expansion was a ploy by land-hungry officials to annex the community conservancy to which they gave land without compensation.
Elders and local leaders in Kamgoin Village in Baringo Central sub-county claim the upgrading of Baringo Technical College into a university would come with the annexation of a 30-acre piece of land that neighbours the institution, which is currently conserved on behalf of the community.
The residents’ spokesman, former councilor Simon Bett, warned on Saturday that the residents would be left with no option but repossess the land they contributed to establish the conservancy if the conservancy was no longer desirable in the government’s scheme of things.
Bett said the leaders had got reliable information that the Ministry of Education plans to allocate the Kamgoin Conservancy land to the college which has only 17 acres at the moment to build the University.
The elder said that construction of a university at the site would mean the destruction of the forest, which is badly needed for ecosystem balance and continuation of traditional life forms. He said that the forest supplied herbal plants for the region’s medicine-men and was used by the community to conduct traditional rituals and bee keeping.
He also said the forest was a catchment for River Kerio and is home to rare species of birds and indigenous trees that have been destroyed elsewhere in the region, some being so rare they are not found anywhere else in Africa.
“Instead of a university, we had been hoping that this forest can become a tourist attraction site,” said Mzee Bett, who also raised questions about the government’s ownership of the land.
“Some of our people are yet to be compensated for the land they gave out to the technical college many years ago and yet here again the government wants to use force to snatch our conservancy. This conservancy is ours,” he said.
The residents also blame the Baringo County Government for not moving quickly to safeguard the community’s rights to the land as provided under the Constitution. Peter Chepkwony Bolei said the county government should take over as trustee of the land and support the people to protect it.
The local Member of the County Assembly Solomon Chemjor expressed worries that some well known land grabbers from the region may want to use the university to grab the land. “Article 42 of the Constitution states that we have the right of our natural forests and environment to be protected by the government," said Chemjor.
The MCA said that Baringo County had many other suitable places where a university can be built. He proposed that if the government needs a running institution to upgrade to a university, then the Farmers Training College in Eldama-Ravine could be perfect.
“We don’t need to destroy our environment just because we need a university that can be established anywhere in the county," he asserted.