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A petitioner, Kituo cha Sheria, has sued the government over the uprooting of baobab trees in Kilifi County

The trees, which started being uprooted in November 2022, were being exported by an American company, Ariba SeaWeed International, which said that they received a movement permit from the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

This is after the private company together with communities in Kilifi County entered into an agreement with the National Environment Management Agency (NEMA) to export the trees.

It was later learnt that the trees were illegally uprooted as NEMA had not yet given a permit and instead the company obtained a NEMA EIA license that was irregularly awarded by the county director of Environment in Kilifi County.

In the petition filed at the Malindi High Court, Kituo cha Sheria noted that the private company exploited the residents of Kilifi County who are mostly grappling with the perennial drought experienced nationwide and were solely relying on the benefits of the Baobab trees.

Kituo further claimed that Ariba Seaweed swindled the residents into making them accept low amounts of money for the trees without considering factors like the age of the trees, which they argue would increase the monetary value.

“Ariba SeaWeed International would purchase the tree for Kshs. 100,000 – Ksh.300,000 from residents and farmers without considering the age of the tree, some of which were believed to be one hundred years and above,” read part of the petition.  

They also fault the Kilifi County Government for offering the license to Ariba Seaweed without complying with the necessary authorization required and also failed to ensure there was a clear and transparent benefit-sharing formula for the community.

Kituo cha Sheria is now seeking compensation for the affected communities Kilifi County and an immediate halt to the uprooting of trees.

They have also ordered that the respondents should restore the trees uprooted by Ariba Seaweed in their natural environment.

Similarly, they want the government to educate the public on the importance of conserving the Baobab tree.

NEMA authority is being accused as the first respondent, KFS as the second respondent, and Kilifi county government as third.

A State Officer in charge of environment and forestry is the fourth respondent, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) is the fifth and the Attorney General.


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