Mining firms take curse and blessing to herders

welve kilometres away from Isinya town, Kajiado, lies Enkirgirri; a remote rangeland that has for a long time been a hive of mining activity, with splaying quarries that make lives difficult for the predominantly pastoralist local community. As you drive through the dusty earth road from Isinya towards the Enkirgirri Area, expansive trenches full of water and that are ringed with mounds of stony sand announce just how immeasurably the environment has been depleted.
This is not to mention the danger that lurks in the stagnant water that usually collects in the deep troughs during rainy seasons. Mrs. Margaret Kimeres, a resident, says due to massive excavation of the grazing land, herders have migrated to neighbouring areas, such as Kangundo, Machakos, Kilima Mbogo, Yatta, Tala and Athi River, in search of pasture. “Only Oldepe-Maasai name for Acacia tortilis-grows in Enkirgirri. The land needs to be reclaimed by refilling the quarries and the community encouraged to plant trees,” Says Mrs.Kimeres.
For over a decade, pastoralists” traditional dry season grazing land has been taken over by multi-national mining companies hence pushing pastoralists from Isinya to move to the extreme edge from their ancestral land. The mining activities were started in 1991 by Athi Stone company has seen entry of several mining companies supplying both gypsum and limestone”s to East Africa Portland Cement Company have reduced pastoralists grazing land into industrial dumping sites.
Enkirgirri residents say despite the glory given to these mining companies, the excavated water pans left by Kassama Mining Company have killed many people as the first case was reported in 1990. Mr. Daniel Sekenoi, Assistant Chief, Ilpolosat Sub-Location, Isinya Division says massive mining excavations have left a trail of environmental depletion has worsened as free grazing land for livestock has reduced hence forcing Maasai pastoralists to invade private lands in neighbouring districts.
“The adverse drought, which hit most parts of the country especially, inhabited never spared Maasai pastoralists forcing them to turn into stone pickers in gypsum mining quarries dotting rangelands in Kajiado District, “Says Mr.Sekenoi. Some residents say the mining activities have been a relief as poverty continues to ravage them mainly attributed the cyclical droughts prevalent in the district as many say their households” earnings have improved as they are employed in the mining companies as stone pickers.
Mrs. Joyce Doorid, a landlady says together with her husband they have been able to invest in commercial business in Isinya town where she has developed rental houses and managed to buy an extra 50 acres of land and livestock. “Through the land leased to Jaswinder Singh Mining Company we have also managed to drill a borehole in our farm, a gesture not common with many sedentary pastoralists in the area,” says Kiremes.
Jeremiah Simindei, who works for Jaswinder Singh Mining Company says some multinationals mining companies have initiated development projects for locals. He says Jaswinder Singh Company has invested in community projects such as schools, piped water at the health center as part of it”s social responsibility for exploiting natural resources in the area. “The company employs over 200 locals as gypsum stones pickers. 50 kg mounds of gypsum stones go at Kshs.18.50 shillings with pickers getting atleast 2,000 shillings per week depending on their own individual efforts, “Says Mr.Simindei.
Mr. William Tarita, Picker, 41 year-old, a former guard with Jaswinder Singh where he worked for 9 years says he has maintained his livestock because he does not sell them but depends on mining returns. He walks everyday covering over 10 kilometres in his Manyatta to work in the Gypsum site. Josephat Rincho, Picker says he has worked for 5 years in Gypsum Mining. He has married and managed to buy livestock from the mining returns. The form two drop out says the investment will benefit locals, as economic status will be realized as clearly shown by the prospecting in Area.
Mr. Stephen Ole Timoi, Programme Manager, Dupoto-e-Maa, a local NGO says despite existence of a local environment board, mining has continued being conducted in unsustainable manner as some companies do not fill up trenches even after excavating gypsum stones. “The locals say Olkejuado County Council together with the government need to help them in refilling trenches left behind by mining companies through provision of caterpillar tractors, “Says Timoi.
Pastoralists who have leased out their land for many years to multi-nationals for mining because of ignorance of the environmental implications have realized that their grazing land has been reduced into killer trenches are calling for immediate environmental intervention to reclaim their pans holed rangelands. Mr. Josiah ole Sekento, Cordinator, Electoral Commission of Kenya, Kajiado District says Maasai pastoralists in future will have no access to grazing land as their only traditional dry season grazing land has been converted into industrial land and encroaching permanent human settlements mushrooming along Nairobi-Namanga road.
Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral, a rock from which the building material is produced. The processed building material is always referred to as gypsum plaster used for concrete, block making and fibreboard production.

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