Environmental Task Force to Address Farmer-Harder Hostility: Kenyan Catholic Bishop

Bishop Willybard Kitogho Lagho of Kenya's Malindi Diocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Malindi in Kenya has blamed protracted violence between the farming and cattle-rearing communities in the various regions served by his Episcopal See on effects of climate change and expressed optimism that a new taskforce on the environment will address hostilities in the coastal region.

At a Wednesday, May 4 media briefing with a section of religious leaders of Kenya’s coastal region, Bishop Willybard Kitogho Lagho said that the leaders had formed a committee that would in turn facilitate engagements with experts to implement useful environmental initiatives in the region.

“In our discussions today, we have formed a committee of three people who have been entrusted with the responsibility of engaging with experts. We’ll then have a meeting with the experts and come up with environmental initiatives that will hopefully be supported by all other religious leaders in this region, including Christians, Muslims and traditional African religions,” Bishop Lagho said.

The Kenyan Catholic Bishop added, “We have talked about water scarcity in this region. We acknowledge that the root cause of the violence that erupts between farmers and herdsmen in this region is global warming, decreased rainfall and sometimes, floods when it rains.”

“The key environmental issue that we have discussed most broadly is drought, which is affecting all of us, especially those of us in the counties of Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu. We have also spoken about the rampant logging for charcoal burning,” the Bishop of Malindi said.


The Kenyan Bishop who has always been vocal on the need for environmental conservation noted that the world today is facing numerous challenges owing to the ever-increasing global warming, and said, “As Religious leaders, we are continually being challenged to contribute to the protection of the environment.”

Bishop Lagho’s passion for environmental conservation dates back to his childhood many years before he became a Priest and ascended to the helm of Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Malindi where his passion continues to blossom.

In April last year, the Kenyan Bishop launched “Church Forest,” a model tree plantation, which he said is aimed at inculcating the tree planting culture among communities in Kilifi and to educate the people of God on environmental conservation.

He told ACI Africa that various Parishes of his Diocese have large tracts of land that are lying idle and which he said would otherwise be converted to forests instead.

Fr. Martin Karigu, the Parish Priest of St. Michael Catholic Mission in Mida, Kilifi County, where “Church Forest” was launched, a remote mission in the Diocese of Malindi, said that the Kenyan County is especially notorious in charcoal burning, an activity that the Catholic Priest blamed on the high poverty levels in the region.

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“Residents of Kilifi are among Kenya’s poorest people and they rely solely on fishing and farming. But what they harvest is barely enough to last them long and so many resort to charcoal business. This has resulted in high levels of deforestation,” Fr. Karigu told ACI Africa in April last year.

With the “Church Forest” model tree plantation, Malindi Diocese aims to plant over a million trees in various Parishes of the Kenyan Diocese, the Kenyan Priest said.

In the 13 April 2021 interview on the sidelines of the tree planting session that he spearheaded, Bishop Lagho told ACI Africa that in his tenure, he aims to encourage the use of green energy to prevent charcoal burning in the region.

“We want to give people alternatives such as the use of solar and so, I am looking for partners who will help locals use the freely available sunshine to cook in their homes rather than rely on charcoal and firewood,” the Kenyan Bishop said.

He added that the culture will also reduce the oppression of school going girls who, he said, waste a lot of time looking for firewood after school.


Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.