In November 2022, residents of Kilifi County and Kenyans at large were surprised over uprooting of at least 8 baobab trees at the Kenyan Coast. The giant trees were then loaded onto trucks which snaked their way towards Mombasa for export to Georgia.
The matter led to a public outcry over the egregious threats it posed on the environment leading to an abrupt stop of the exportation of the trees after President William Ruto’s intervention.
Unlike what was reported by mainstream media that the trees were destined for the state of Georgia in the US, this site has established that the trees would be shipped to the European nation of Georgia. According to thetimes.co.uk, the importer of the trees is Bidzina Ivanishvili, a former prime minister for Georgia and a tycoon with bottomless pockets.
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Here is the story of Bidzina Ivanishvili as told WoK.
Among world’s richest tycoons
According to Forbes, Ivanishvili is reported to have a networth of at least $ 4.8 Billion. The 66 year old accumulated his fortune through trade in metals and banking while in Russia and was Georgia’s prime minister for 13 months between 2012 and 2013.
The baobab trees which cost Ksh 300k each would be planted in Shekvetili Dendrological Park in Georgia which is owned by Ivanishvili.
The park is located in Georgia’s Ozurgeti municipality and occupies an expansive 60 hectares of land. It is home to giant trees collected from several continents. A Youtube video of the site reveals that the beautiful park comes to life with chirping sounds of the birds which are caged.
At least 58 species of birds including parrots and peacocks are housed in Shekvetili Dendrological Park. Visitors to the park are offered a virtual guide through an electronic sensor sound system which gives the names and sizes of the various trees.
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Why Baobab trees?
Baobab trees are a magnet because of their drought resilient nature. The trees are also capable of growing to a height of 30 metres besides having a breadth that measures several metres in diameter. In the Kenyan Coast, the trees are known as mabuyu in Kiswahili and are also a source food which is rich in calcium, antioxidants and potassium.
Mekatilili wa Menza, a heroine who led the Mijikenda in resisting the oppressive British colonial rule would make herself a home out of a Baobab tree. President William Ruto called upon cancellation of the exportation of the baobabs, saying Kenya favours afforestation policies.
Additionally, the newly elected head of state cited Convention of Biodiversity and Nagoya Protocol which call for mutual benefits of exported genetic resources to the government and the community.
“There must be adequate authorisation and an equitable benefit sharing formula for Kenyans. Further, the exercise must be in line with the government’s agenda of planting 15bn trees in the next 10 years,” tweeted Ruto.
The matter left Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya in the centre of the storm. She later said that the company involved in the controversial uprooting of the trees had been given the licence irregularly.
Tuya asserted that in order to remove the trees, there had to be adequate community support and a guideline on revenue sharing between the company involved and the local people.