ENHANCING FOREST COVER

Why state wants you to plant trees on 10% of your land

Kenya's current demand for wood products has hit 45 million cubic metres against a supply of 30 million.

In Summary
  • The state has been prevailing upon Kenyans to plant trees on 10% of their land as one way of increasing the shrinking forest cover
  • KFS says at least 988,422 acres of public forests under the service are degraded and need to be fixed
Rangers patrol Embobut Forest.
ON PATROL: Rangers patrol Embobut Forest.
Image: GILBERT KOECH

The government is keen to tap the potential of forestry in private and community land as it seeks to increase forest cover.

Under a draft forest policy 2020, the government says it cannot achieve 10 per cent cover by only focusing on gazetted forests on public land managed by Kenya Forest Service.

"To get to the 10% forest cover, public land is not sufficient. This calls for incentive measures to get private and community landowners to establish forests on their land," the policy reads.  

KFS is the national agency responsible for the conservation and management of public forests.

It manages 6.4 million acres and helps counties manage 4.2 million acres.

KFS says at least 988,422 acres of public forests under the service are degraded and need to be fixed.

The state has been prevailing upon Kenyans to plant trees on 10 per cent of their land as one way of increasing the shrinking forest cover.

The Agriculture CS is empowered by the Agriculture Act to institute rules that prohibit, regulate and control the clearing of land to promote soil and water conservation and prevent the destruction of vegetation.

The 2010 Constitution classifies forests into three categories—public, community, and private.

The draft policy says Kenya's forest cover is 7.4 per cent, a far cry from the constitutional requirement of 10 per cent.

Public include all forests on public land; forestland lawfully held, used, or occupied by any state organ; forestland transferred to the state by way of sale, reversion, or surrender and forestland in respect of which no individual or community ownership can be established by any legal process.

The national and county governments are responsible for all forests on public land.

The draft policy says Kenya's forest cover is 7.4 per cent, a far cry from the constitutional requirement of 10 per cent.

The government has however committed to increasing the cover to 10 per cent by 2022, a move that needs Sh48 billion.

Some 2 billion trees will be planted.

The policy says agroforestry and farm forestry have taken root in the country and trees outside forests contribute to increased tree and forest cover as well as enhanced ecosystem services while supplying the demand for wood.

"This calls for cooperation and collaboration between different landowners and synergy between land ownership and land use. At present tree cover on farms is increasing, especially in more densely populated areas with higher agricultural potential."

Reclaimed sections of Cheptais Forest which were previously illegal crop plantations.
Reclaimed sections of Cheptais Forest which were previously illegal crop plantations.
Image: GILBERT KOECH

It says this demonstrates that farmers recognise the benefits of tree growing in improving land productivity.

The policy says trees are an essential part of diversified farm production, providing both subsistence products and incomes while contributing to soil fertility and soil and water conservation.

Products such as fuelwood or fodder from trees, shrubs, or grass contribute significantly to the economies of the rural population.

The policy says given the growing population, it is not possible to meet all the demands of forest products from state forests and the main alternative source of these products is private and community lands.

Demand for wood products has hit 45 million cubic metres against a supply of 30 million.

Beside these uses, forests help to stabilise the climate. 

They regulate ecosystems, protect biodiversity, play an integral part in the carbon cycle, support livelihoods, and help drive sustainable growth.

An analysis of demand and supply of wood products by the Environment ministry in 2013 showed that Kenya had a wood supply potential of 31.4 million cubic metres against a national demand of 41.7 million cubic metres. This left a deficit of 10.3 million cubic metres.

The study showed that timber, poles, firewood, and charcoal supply stood at 7,363,414 cubic metres, 3,028,907 cubic metres, 13,654,022 cubic metres, and 7,358,717 cubic metres respectively.

The demand for timber, poles, firewood and charcoal stood at 5,262,624 cubic metres, 3, 1,409,482 cubic metres, 18,702,748 cubic metres and 16,325,810 cubic metres respectively.

Forecasts for a 20 year period indicated a 20.0 percent increase in supply and a 21.6 percent increase in demand by the year 2032 which signifies a gradually increasing deficit.

An analysis of demand and supply of wood products by the Environment ministry in 2013 showed that Kenya had a wood supply potential of 31.4 million cubic metres against a national demand of 41.7 million cubic metres. This left a deficit of 10.3 million cubic metres.

The policy says planting trees on the farms has several positive environmental effects, which include watershed protection, enhancement of the microclimate, and carbon sequestration.

The policy seeks to safeguard the ecological and livelihood security of the people, of the present and future generations, based on sustainable management of forests and the flow of ecosystem services

Forests under private ownership play a significant role in the provision of forest goods and services to supplement supply from state forests while also generating substantial incomes to the households.

The policy says extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and landslides have a direct impact on forest resources and ecosystems and on people and their livelihoods.

Climate change affects the growth, composition, and regeneration capacity of forests, resulting in reduced biodiversity and capacity to deliver important forest goods and services.

"Sustainably managed forests can play an important role in both mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and towards green growth. However, there is at present inadequate data and limited research on the impacts of climate change on forest resources and biodiversity."The policy says.

The policy says forest development and climate change are intimately linked.

It said the projected rise in temperatures and long periods of drought lead to fires that have affected Kenya’s major forests.

The rise in temperature also extends the range of pests and pathogens, which affects many trees' growth, survival, yield, and the quality of wood and non-wood forest products.

Forests serve as the ultimate climate regulators by serving as a carbon sink.