In Summary
  • Forests are key to safeguarding critical water sources that support agriculture and wildlife habitat and mitigate against climate change.

  • Forest cover has fallen from 11 per cent in 1990 to around 7.24 per cent.

  • We also need to identify key water catchment areas for demarcation, titling and gazettement.

The ban on logging and overall forest and woodland management in Kenya must be looked at in a holistic manner as we are in a Catch-22 bind: A voracious demand for timber and timber products against limited supply.

We need to conserve, enrich and build up our forest cover and its biodiversity. Forests are key to safeguarding critical water sources that support agriculture and wildlife habitat and mitigate against climate change. Yet the country needs timber for many activities: It is a massive economic cog with many uses, contributing about 3.5 per cent to the economy.

One that is often cited is charcoal but the demand for timber goes well beyond that. For example, timber is a key component in the construction industry and, in a number of cases, it’s not easily replaceable. It is also extensively used in the tea and tobacco industries.

LOGGING BAN

It is important to be critical of the knee-jerk reaction of the government with its abrupt logging ban. With the benefit of hindsight, there should have been a plan to grow more trees for our timber needs per se.

The situation has got out of hand as the need and hunger for timber was more than the planned and legitimate supply, leading to forest encroachment.

Coupled with this is the Kenya Forest Service management and staff overseeing illegal logging and forest encroachment within its jurisdiction.

KFS will, undoubtedly, argue that it has inadequate resources to manage its mandate. I would not contest that. Indeed, its operation needs to be independently reviewed and overhauled. But the question is, how much of this plundering was facilitated by its staff, either directly or by turning a blind eye?

DOUBLE-PRONGED APPROACH

The bottom line is, KFS has failed in its mandate.

Forest cover has fallen from 11 per cent in 1990 to around 7.24 per cent. That is depletion by around a third in less than 30 years.

Over 250,000 trees were lost daily, a number of them to illegal felling. The globally agreed minimum is 10 per cent; so, we have some catching up to do. Ideally, we should be looking at 15 per cent-plus.

Page 1 of 2