From: Antony Gitonga, Associated Press
Published November 2, 2004 12:00 AM

Kenya's Maasai Accuse Flower Growers of Undermining Their Access to Lake

NAIVASHA, Kenya — Maasai tribal officials vowed Monday to fight against an environmental protection plan they said was being pushed by Kenya's flower-growing farmers despite hurting local herdsmen.

The plan would block Maasai cattle herders from using Lake Naivasha, a traditional watering source 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the capital Nairobi.

Representatives of the sprawling commercial farms, which supply 25 percent of Europe's cut flowers, argue that the thousands of cattle who drink from the lake destroy its natural vegetation and erode the soil.

The National Environmental Management Authority drafted the conservation plan after talks in April with representatives of the farmers, herders, and government, said John Njega, deputy head of the Kenya Flower Council.

The plan, first proposed by the farmers, calls for pumping water to points set up away from the lake, he said. The plan was recently published officially, paving the way for its implementation.

Maasai representatives pledged to fight the plan, saying it marginalized them and prevented their use of traditional land.

"It is unacceptable to us, and we are going to oppose its implementation as it restricts the movement of our animals to the lake, which is the only available watering point," said Nixon Ngurruna, a spokesman of the Maasai community in Naivasha. He did not elaborate.

The Maasai also accused the white flower farmers, who are wealthier and better-organized, of using their influence to have pliant Maasai representatives assigned to the negotiations.

The original two proposed by Maasai officials were rejected by the farmers' Lake Naivasha Riparian Association, the officials said Monday. The two envoys who ended up negotiating did not represent the Maasai interests, they said.

"If it is about conservation, we are best placed, as our ancestors have protected this lake for ages," said Andrew Korinko of the local herder organization. "We are surprised that the plan was done without our input."

Efforts to contact the environmental authority on Monday were unsuccessful.

Kenya exports more than 60,000 tons of cut flowers to Europe — mainly Holland, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Italy — earning one of the main sources of foreign income for the East African nation, Njega said.

Source: Associated Press

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