Avocado Farm loses its bid to block NEMA from withdrawal of license to farm in an Elephant Corridor
NAIROBI, April 26, 2021 – WildlifeDirect welcomes the ruling of the National Environment Tribunal today dismissing efforts by Kenyan agricultural company KiliAvo Fresh Ltd to overturn the National Environment and Management Authority’s stop order following a huge outcry from the public and complaints from the Amboseli Land Owners and Conservation Association, and conservation bodies including WildlifeDirect, Big Life Foundation, and The Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK).
The case against NEMA ruling was initiated by KiliAvo Fresh Ltd who had started clearing 180 acres of wilderness land in an important wildlife corridor connecting the Amboseli National Park to the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Parks through community protected areas or conservancies in the Amboseli ecosystem. The alarm about KiliAvo emerged last year when the company fenced 180 acres and began clearing for farming. Last year in October, Dr. Paula Kahumbu, WildlifeDirect CEO had posted on social media warning about the dangers that this farm posed to wildlife and was then threatened with a legal suit by KiliAvo Fresh Ltd. on March 1stthis year, the case was thrown out by the NET Judge. KiliAvo Fresh Ltd is owned by Harji Mavji Kerai and Suresh Kurji Kerai, both Kenyans. Kenya is a globally important avocado producer, but controversy erupted when the electric fenced plantation was established right in the middle of a corridor that is essential for the dispersal and migration of one of the world’s most important elephant populations. Conservationists have united under the Conservation Alliance of Kenya to question the issuance of a permit for cultivated agriculture in a critical dispersal area that had been identified in a 2016 report commissioned by the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, and zoned for wildlife, ecotourism and pastoralism in the ecosystem plan that was gazetted in 2019.
Today’s ruling comes in after seven months in court and a damning submission from the Kenya Wildlife Service confirming that the farm was right inside the wildlife corridor thereby crushing the argument from KiliAvo that they were not near the corridor and would not affect wildlife.TheNET 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”.
On hearing the ruling, WildlifeDirect CEO Dr Paula Kahumbu stated, “The KiliAvo avocado farm is in an ecologically sensitive zone which will cause an ecological catastrophe for communities, water, wildlife and climate. It should never have been permitted by the County NEMA office as it contravenes policies, regulations and the rights to a clean and healthy environment for the pastoralists who occupy this land. Wildlife creates hundreds of thousands of jobs in the tourism sector and pastoralism is an important cultural practice, and is a key source of food security in the nation. This avocado farm threatens not only these livelihoods but also the Amboseli National Park, which is one of the premier parks in the nation. This ruling has sent an unmistakable message to all developers who are eyeing wilderness lands as a free-for-all. Hands Off Our Wildlife and Our Wilderness”.
Conservationists and landowners are now calling on NEMA to revoke the licence that it issued to KiliAvo for this development. WildlifeDirect is also calling on the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Hon Najib Balala, to strengthen laws and regulations to prevent any further threats in this iconic landscape at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and other wildlife corridors.
The decision of NEMA and the NET are aligned to the national constitution, the Wildlife Act, the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, the national Constitution and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent global commitment at the United Nations General Assembly to halt any developments that threaten biodiversity and nature.
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For more information or interviews please contact Trish Sewe at firstname.lastname@example.orgAerial images, videos and maps of the farm and its location, and the surrounding livestock and grazing area, are available on request.
WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan based conservation organization that has transformed anti-poaching results in Kenya through the award-winning conservation campaign “Hands Off Our Elephants”. WildlifeDirect is at the forefront of the war against wildlife crime and supports justice for wildlife and animals through advocacy and Eyes in the Courtroom. The organization’s mission is to connect people to their wildlife and nature and inspire them to treasure it and act to conserve it. WildlifeDirect also produces the Wildlife Warriors TV series, and enlists young people across the nation in conservation through an educational programme called Wildlife Warriors Kids program.