The Wealth in the Underground that is Elusive to Local Communities - Mining in Taita Taveta County: Prospects & Problems

The Wealth in the Underground that is Elusive to Local Communities - Mining in Taita Taveta County: Prospects & ProblemsPDF
Due to its importance as a location of minerals, particularly gemstones (Central Bank, 2008), considerable information exists about mining in Taita-Taveta. However, most of the research and publications address the natural science and geological issues, since they are driven by prospector, investor and trade interests. Consequently, little has been published about the political economy, social and environmental impacts of mining in the area. This calls for further research from the political economy, social and environmental perspectives. Critical here is the need to include the relationship between the people of the areas affected, the environment and the mineral resources. Such research would also need to explore more cogently why local people continue to be losers in the exploitation of the mineral resources in their ancestral lands, and what should be done to correct this in order to promote sustainable development. Given that Taita-Taveta is endowed with abundant minerals it was important to find out whether the local people were aware of this. Their indigenous knowledge will continue to be invaluable to future mineral resources prospecting. 

It is also important to determine the benefits accruing from an industry that is reputed to make billions of shillings in profits annually, and whether the current policy, regulatory & legislative framework in the Extractive Resources Industry (ERI) adequately addresses the issues of royalties and benefit sharing between the investors, communities and government, as compared to best-practises from other countries with natural resources. So is the need to determine why the industry and trade in minerals has not brought about the development of local communities around mining areas. In this regard, it is important to investigate why the local people continue to be perceived as mere participants and losers in the mineral trade and industry found in their locality, and the possible ways of changing this in their favour.

The hypothesis of the research was that to have sustainable peace, a necessary precondition for sustainable development, this requires policies and measures that ensure communities fully participate in conserving and deriving benefits from their local natural resources . To expect people to remain peaceful when they are alienated from their natural resources by outsiders is to ignore logic; the country would have to contend with this, sooner or later (Mghanga, 2008). Hence the need to examine mining in the Taita-Taveta county, and further to determine how it contributes to the development of the communities of the area.

One of the most important aspects of the newly-enacted Constitution of Kenya – promulgated on August 27th 2010 (Government Printer, 2010) – is the devolution of political, social and economic governance. The constitution divides the country into 47 devolved Counties. A total of 15% of the national income is to be shared among the counties. The aim is to devolve resources to the grassroots to trigger sustainable development. Of even more significance is the fact that the counties not only have more powers to decide their affairs, they also have more responsibilities in conserving and managing their natural resources.

Accordingly, this research report is an important source to both the national government and the country government of Taita-Taveta County. Elected leaders and professionals, meeting in Nairobi on 23rd October 2010 under the umbrella of Taita-Taveta Professional Forum Trust, ( identified minerals as one of the most important resources in the county. They also lamented that exploitation of the minerals has hitherto not benefited the people of the county. Thus the research would also help increase the knowledge of the people of Taita-Taveta about their mineral resources and the need to ensure that they are utilised sustainably to improve the community’s welfare.

Based on the research findings, recommendations have been made on ways of maximizing the potential of mining in Taita-Taveta for local and national development. It is posited that the benefits accruing from the abundant minerals of Taita-Taveta should shared equitably with the local communities. The current scenario in which only outsiders benefit at the expense of the local people and the government is untenable. The county and central government should continue promoting under a well thought out benefit-sharing mechanism, for minerals that remain unexploited cannot contribute to development, and take cognisance of the reality that the skills and financial investment by foreign and local investors are necessary for the development of Taita-Taveta County.

Ownership of resources alone is not enough; the most important thing for development is how the resources could be harnessed and utilised to add value to the economy and development of the area, the county and the nation. Thus the research report recommends cooperation in sustainable exploitation of the minerals by both the large and small investors and the government.

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Heinrich Böll Stiftung, East and Horn of Africa
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