Why Environment Court stopped Amboseli Avocado farm

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An aerial view shows the young avocado tree farm of KiliAvo Fresh Ltd in Kimana, Kajiado County. A turf war has erupted over the 180-acre avocado farm near one of Kenya's premier national parks, where elephants and other wildlife graze against the striking backdrop of Africa's highest peak.

The Amboseli Land Owners Conservancies Association (ALOCA) welcomes the National Environment Tribunal’s dismissal today of a case brought by KiliAvo Fresh Ltd seeking to allow it to continue its plans to grow avocados in a key grazing and wildlife area.

But while this is a major step towards ending this project for greater good, now what is most important is that the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) revoked the license that it issued to KiliAvo for this development.

NEMA warned KiliAvo in September that it intended to cancel its licence after ALOCA and other key stakeholders raised questions about how the developer assessed the environmental impact its farm would cause to the local ecosystem.

Elephants grazing at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kajiado County. A turf war has erupted over an avocado farm near Amboseli, one of Kenya’s premier national parks.

NEMA said concerns included that the proposed farm was in a wildlife corridor; that it violated ALOCA’s land use plans and the Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan that zone this area for livestock and wildlife; and that the developers failed to consult widely enough on their plans.

KiliAvo, an acronym for Kilimanjaro Avocados is farm associated to high ranking politician in the country, but whose known management faces include two Nairobi businessman of Asian descent and a livestock farmer based in Kimana in Kajiado County.

The company KiliAvo Fresh Ltd and its two major shareholders Harji Mavji Kerai and Suresh Kurji Kerai then launched legal action at the National Environment Tribunal (NET) against NEMA and Big Life Limited, a conservation organisation working in the landscape, seeking to have that order from NEMA overturned.

The case was dismissed, after seven months of hearings. NET Chairman Mohammed Balala said KiliAvo had failed to provide reports and ready witnesses to help make its case, and despite earlier calling for urgency was now “delaying the fair hearing of this matter”.

Samuel Ole Kaanki, chairman of ALOCA, said: “We local landowners whose ways of life are threatened by this farm and others that might follow it are very happy to see this major step today, and we thank the National Environment Tribunal for its attention to this case. But this is not the end. Now we request that NEMA follows through on its promise to cancel KiliAvo’s licence. The majority of us are united against this farm because it could threaten water supply in this semi-arid place, block where we can graze our livestock, and deter tourism investors who pay us to bring visitors to see wildlife.”

 

 

Tolstoy, 49-year-old elephant that is considered having the longest tusks among others in the Amboseli ecosystem, at Kimana Sanctuary in Kimana, Kenya, on March 2, 2021. – A turf war has erupted over a 180-acre avocado farm near one of Kenya’s premier national parks, where elephants and other wildlife graze.

KiliAvo Fresh Ltd’s 180-acre farm is located between Amboseli National Park and a series of other protected areas including the Kimana Sanctuary, Tsavo West National Park, and Chyulu Hills National Park. It is surrounded by locally-owned conservancies where we landowners – hundreds of local Maasai – earn our living from livestock and tourism.

If the farm is allowed to continue, it will set a precedent that many others might follow, blocking livestock and wildlife habitat and severely damaging our chosen livelihoods, which unlike farming are sustainable in this semi-arid environment.

 

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