By Francis Zyder
The Government of Kenya through the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has pledged to rehabilitate a total of 4,015,545.2078 acres of heavily degraded forestland in the country.
The KFS has laid out a strategy aimed at increasing the forest cover from the current 7.2 per cent to 10 per cent by 2022.
The country faces a myriad of challenges in trying to restore its hitherto dwindling forest cover to the internationally accepted level of 10 per cent. This can be attributed to the irrepressible needs of a growing population that needs more land for settlements, urbanization, climate change agriculture and illegal logging among others. To achieve the target, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Mr. Julius Kamau says the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) needs KSh48 billion.
Under the strategy, Kenya needs to plant 1.8 billion seedlings between now and 2022 to achieve 10 per cent tree cover.
“Attaining the 10 per cent tree cover by 2022, one creative avenue for the service is in forming partnerships with among others, non-state actors through tree planting initiatives that aim to spur a tree growing culture among our youth today,” KFS chief conservator of forests Julius Kamau said.
Kamau said their business is to plant, manage, grow and protect trees. He said the partnerships will be key in enhancing the forest cover. Other key agencies that took part in the initial development of the strategy include Kenya Water Towers Agency, Kenya Forestry Research Institute and the National Environment Management Authority.
Kenya’s forest cover was 6.99 per cent in 2010, according to a comprehensive National Forest Resources Assessment and Mapping report by the service.
There are five forest types in the country. The Western rainforest natural forest (mixed indigenous) are found in Kakamega and Nandi. It covers 357,350.8957 acres — about 3.5 per cent of the total forest area.This figure is based on the forest cover mapping of 2013 using 2010 satellite imageries.
The Montane forests natural forest (mixed indigenous), which include Mt Kenya, Aberdares, Mau, Cherangany, Mt Elgon, Matthews Ranges and Chyulu Hills covers 3,360,282.053 acres, making 32.9 per cent of the total forest area.
The Coastal forest natural forest (mixed indigenous trees) are found in Arabuko Sokoke, Dakatcha, Boni, Shimba Hills, Kayas covering 731,112.0345 acres, at 7.2 per cent of the total forest cover. Dryland forests natural forest (mixed indigenous trees) found in Hilltops in Eastern and Northern Kenya and Lake Victoria regions covers 4,633,999.60 acres, making 45.4 per cent of the total forest cover.
Forest plantations both in public and private forests covered 461,384.5718 acres making 4.5 per cent of the total forest cover. The strategy is premised on total seedling production of 1.8 billion over four years. Some of the interventions include the rehabilitation of degraded natural forests in gazetted forests and water towers covering 741,315 acres. This will require 330,000,000 seedlings.
Some 247,105 acres of water towers and wetlands outside gazetted forests will also be rehabilitated. Some 2,016.3768 acres of degraded national parks, game reserves and wildlife conservancies will regenerate naturally. The degraded mangrove ecosystems covering 42,096.807acres will also be rehabilitated with 18,739,600 seedlings.
76,602.55 acres of industrial forest plantation areas will also be restocked using 34,100,000 seedlings. KFS said 370,657.5 acres of commercial private forests plantations will be established with 165,000,000 seedlings.
123,552.5acres of bamboo plantations will also be grown. It will require 55,000,000 seedlings. KFS said 864,867.5 acres of trees in farmlands will be established using 385,000,000 seedlings. Some 172,973.5 acres of woodlots, botanical gardens, boundary planting will also be established using 77,000,000 seedlings.
Another 1,341,780.15 acres of degraded dryland forest landscapes will be rehabilitated using 597,300,000 seedlings. Further, some 34,594.7 acres of infrastructure such as roads, along railway lines, dams, schools, corporates will be greened using 15,400,000 seedlings. This brings the total number of seedlings needed to 1,787,539,600.
According to the CCF Mr. Kamau, in Kenya rapid population growth, urbanization and climate change, have posed new challenges to livelihoods along the 600-kilometer (373-mile) coastline and that these events have exacerbated resource exploitation, especially of the area’s sensitive mangrove forests.
To address these gaps, Forest2020 project in 2017 funded through Ecometrica a private company dealing with software development for satellite image processing and UK Space agency was conceptualized and aims to help protect and restore tropical forests by improving forest monitoring in Kenya through the use of satellite data.
Forest2020 also works in Ghana, Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. The universities of Leicester and Edinburg in the UK provide technical assistance to the project. Locally, KFS is collaborating with Kenya Forestry Research Institute and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, both public institutions. The collaboration has allowed for wider transfer of knowledge for the new data collection, analyzing, processing and management technologies.
According to CCF, there are 170 gazetted forests in Kenya, majority of which are surrounded by forest adjacent communities. These communities rely on the forest resources to sustain their livelihoods. The Forest Conservation and Management Act, 2016 has enabled Kenya Forest Service to engage these communities in forest conservation through Community Forest Associations, hence reducing illegal activities such as illegal logging, overgrazing and over-exploitation and degradation of forests.
He was emphatic that KFS also provides 24-hours security to these valuable resources. ‘’The forests are safe but the threats are there, they are real but also on a daily basis, we are there to make sure the forests are safe,’’ assured Mr. Kamau.
Mr. Kamau says that by building trust through a working relationship with Forest Rangers living within the communities and creating awareness on the importance of these resources, KFS provides direction on how they should be managed sustainably.
‘’We have been able to get a lot of goodwill so that even when some members of the community want to plan and execute illegalities, KFS is able to get information and to deter,’’ divulged the CCF.
KFS implements its mandate through several programmes. One of them is Forest Conservation and Management program, which supports the restoration and rehabilitation of all degraded natural forests.
He notes that KFS has demonstrated a high level of professionalism. In Mau Forest the reclamation process of 14,000 Ha of land took six months to complete. In the recent past, KFS rangers have demonstrated that it is possible to enforce and protect these critical natural resources with tolerance, professionalism and upholding human rights.
Mr. Kamau explains that in situations where the Service identifies a rogue ranger(s), then KFS has a strong disciplinary code to ensure that staff maintains discipline and integrity.
The CCF points out that in the stakeholder adoption framework, they have many people who have been able to work with them like the World Marathon champion, Eliud Kipchoge. He has been able to adapt part of 50 hectares of Kaptagat Forest. He is able to participate and compliment KFS efforts in reclaiming and restoration.
KFS was given a mandate by the government to take over the management of Hon. John N Michuki Memorial Park. It was officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta and is currently attracting hundreds of urban dwellers on a daily basis. The Service has now commenced rehabilitation of Nairobi City Park and other urban green spaces and this portrays how critical KFS is becoming in terms of making sure we reclaim, restore and protect our forest cover.
Forest Cover Growth…
Kenya’s forest cover increased by six thousand hectares in 2019 after the government imposed a ban on logging. Data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicate that forest cover expanded to 147,600 hectares from 141,600 recorded in 2018. Even more encouragingly, for the first time there was no area that suffered total loss of tree cover last year.
The government suspended logging in public forests to boost regeneration of forests after years of mass deforestation that threatened the country’s biodiversity and water towers.
“Total area under state forest plantation increased from 141.6 thousand hectares in 2018 to 147.6 thousand hectares in 2019. This was as a result of the ban on forest logging imposed during the year,” KNBS said in the Economic Survey 2020.
Despite the growth, Kenya’s forest cover still remains below the targeted 10 per cent of the land mass. Forests, grasslands and wetlands are known to trap and store carbon, naturally helping the earth reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere and earning the name ‘carbon sinks’.
As a result of the ban, total sale of timber dropped 92 percent to 10,700 true cubic meters in 2019 from 144,200 true cubic meters a year earlier. Sale of softwood timber fell by 29,400 true cubic meters while hard wood timber sale declined to 9,200 true cubic meters down from 113,300 true cubic meters.
Charcoal sale and wooden electricity poles also recorded drops. Kenya Power is replacing wooden poles with more durable concrete ones, easing pressure on trees demand. KNBS data shows that sale of fuelwood and charcoal declined by 78.1 percent while sale of power poles from government forests fell 55 percent to 13,200 poles.
“These declines in sale of forest products from government forests are attributable to the continued existence of moratorium imposed on logging of forests products,” KNBS said.
The demand for wood currently stands at 45 million cubic meters while the supply is 30 million cubic metres. The 15 million cubic metre gap must be met to achieve the 10 per cent forest cover.
CCF Mr. Kamau divulged that Counties that have achieved more than 20 per cent forest cover include Nyeri with 38 per cent – the highest so far, Elgeyo Marakwet with 37.5. Lamu has 34 per cent forest cover while Kericho has 24 per cent.
Counties with low forest cover include Migori with 0.64 per cent, Kisumu, 0.44 per cent and Siaya, 0.42 per cent. He said implementation of this strategy is expected to yield numerous economic benefits including the steering of the Big 4 Agenda.