Don’t evict my people for biofuels

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - 15:00

My name is Joshua Kahindi Pekeshe and I’m a village elder from the Watha Tribe living in Kenya’s coast region.

My people are poor. But we live in a rich natural habitat called the Dakatcha Woodlands.


We make our living farming small plots of land, growing maize, cassava and pineapples to feed our families and sell at the local market. Some of us are also beekeepers and herbalists, making the most of the uniquely beautiful area that we live in.

But our way of life is under attack. For 2 years now an Italian company has been trying to seize our land to grow a poisonous plant called jatropha, which will be turned into biofuels.

The company has tried to gain our support with promises to build a new road and a new school, along with a clinic and bore holes for water – a resource that is particularly scarce where we live. But none of these promises have been written down and so we can’t take them seriously.

What’s more, the company claim to have community support for this scandalous project. But they tricked us by bussing in village elders whose land lies outside the area wanted by the company for jatropha.

Blinded by promises of jobs, these community leaders agreed to the plans – leaving the company to claim that the community was consulted and in favour of the project.

Now, unless the Kenyan Environment Ministry refuses permission for the project to go ahead, over 20,000 of us will lose our land. We have not been offered compensation or alternative land.

We don’t want this jatropha. What good is it to us if we can’t farm to feed our families?

I’m told that most of this biofuel will be sent to Europe. Why should we pay this high price to meet Europe’s energy needs?