By Cheki Abuje
The sandlewood plant in Kenya is facing a total wipe out like in neighbouring Tanzania, if the government and agencies responsible for protecting and conserving the species (Osyris SSP) will not enhance their surveillance, Africa Science News has established.
This comes in the wake of a consignment of sandlewood worth more than Kshs. 1million which was intercepted late December 2015 by police officers in Busia County, western region of Kenya en-route Uganda. Another lorry carrying Sandlewood was confiscated in July 2015.
Reliable sources disclosed to Africa Science News that the consignment originated from Kenya’s Rift Valley heading to a factory in neigbouring Uganda. Sandalwood (Osyris SSP) is dominantly found in the great rift valley of Kenya.
According to Busia County commissioner Mongo Chimwaga, the illicit trade in sandalwood cannot be tolerated, adding that the plant is an endangered species that falls under presidential decree for protection.
In an exclusive interview in his office, the county commissioner observed that there are myriad of challenges to tackle such illicit consignments passing through Busia-Uganda border.
He pointed out that the manual system of clearing cargo vehicles is a hindrance in establishing what each vehicle is carrying, noting that it is not logically sensible to hand check every vehicle at the border as this will cause inconvenience.
The administrator however confirmed that the poachers in sandalwood are shifting focus from Mombasa exit point to Busia due to beefed up security at the coastal region of Kenya.
The porous nature of Busia-Uganda border has also been blamed for the smuggling of goods including Sandalwood from or into Kenya. However, speaking to Africa science News, the Commissioner reiterated that already special Border unit police officers have been deployed to secure the Busia-Uganda border.
Chimwaga admits that Sandalwood smuggling is a thorny issue, adding that it should be handled carefully by intelligence sharing approach between the leadership of plant origin, security apparatus and exit/entry point leadership.
Section 105 of the environmental act spells out a minimum fine of Kshs. 2million against poachers of sandalwood.
The Kenya Forest Service coordinator Busia Count James Were expressed confidence in winning war against illegal trade in Sandalwood through the Busia and Malaba Borders.
He said two cases are active in a Busia court on matters of transporting Sandalwood illegally into a company in Uganda, where liquid is squeezed from the plant and taken to India for cosmetic manufacturing.
Were cautioned those involved in this bad that they will not penetrate the border anymore. “Our surveillance is on high alert all through” remarked Forester.
He at the same time called on the international community and environmental organizations to come to save Osyris SSP from extinction.