It is no secret that the threat to Kenya’s major water catchment areas is on the increase each year. This week on The Chamwada Report, we focus on the Elgon 4*4 challenge, an event that was created to create sensitization of this plight through sports tourism.
This is a four wheel drive competition that takes place at Chepkitale region of Mount Elgon, Bungoma County each year. It is usually a three day period where persons with motor vehicles converge at Laboot primary school and get to enjoy themselves during the three day race.
Charles Mulupi, one of the founders of the 039 Explorers explains how the event came into being. “While on a camping trip along the mountain, we came to a place where there was a lot of destruction. As we went further on, we realized that higher up the mountain was such a beautiful scenery- we could not understand the disconnection,” he says. “It dawned on us that the rate of destruction in this mountain was so much that if we did not act, we would not have a mountain in the years to come.”
The 039 Explorers therefore rose to the challenge and in 2016 organized the first ever Elgon 4*4 challenge with an aim of sensitizing the public on the menace. The event that only began with 6 people now has grown tremendously and accommodates persons from different parts of the country.
The qualifications for a person to be included in the race are just a few. “As long as one has a four wheel drive that is of good condition, then he is good to go,” explains Juma Musakali, a lecturer at Moi University who was part of the race.
Kellum Chendai, the chairman 039 explorers explains that the need for this race is not only to prevent deforestation but also to save wildlife. “When we conserve the environment we save the elephants as well as other animals of Mt Elgon,” he explains.
Many theories have been drawn, the major one being that the people who reside in this water catchment area are the cause of the problem. However, the Ogiek community beg to differ. Matrine Chepkemei, a resident of Mt Elgon explains that since they began living there, their community protects the environment.
Laban Kiprotich seconds this by explaining that contrary to what people believe, the area where the Ogiek community resides has been much conserved. The directors of the 039 Explorers agree with them saying that the Ogiek community are born conservationists.
All this leads to the question now lingering in the air, ‘Who is to blame for the deforestation?’ The community as well as the 039 Explorers believe that Kenya Forest Service is partly to blame.
KFS are said to be encouraging people to have land for tilling where they can plant trees in and this, according to Laban Kiprotich, causes the land to become bear. Encroachment as well as illegal logging are now major challenges being faced within the forest. In addition, the remedy of replacing indigenous trees with exotic trees is not helpful at all.
Thanks to the event, even the county government of Bungoma has now become supportive. Residents are now making conservation of trees an initiative as a result of the awareness the 4*4 challenge has created.
According to the organizers, there is a hope for better days to come for Mt Elgon as long as this event continues to grow and change people’s perspectives.