• State told to enhance role of CFAs, clarify forest definition and enforce charcoal ban.
• Charcoal remains a significant economic and industrial activity, despite the two-year ban.
Conservationists have petitioned the state to strengthen Communities Forest Associations adjacent to Kenya’s forest resources.
This follows the announcement by the Environment ministry that it plans to amend the Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016. Time for public input ended July 7.
The Conservation Alliance of Kenya has written to the ministry, rallying it to ensure CFAs are recognised and given more support in its policy.
CAK is a membership-driven, non-profit company, limited by guarantee, whose membership is open to registered national and international NGOs and CBOs with a shared interest in conservation and management of natural resources.
The alliance made the recommendations in a letter to Environment PS Chris Kiptoo dated July 7.
“We reiterate the challenges attributed to forest conservation and management include political interference, inadequate governance systems, and weak law enforcement and management capacities of mandated institutions,” CAK chief executive Steve Itela said.
"This coupled with a high dependence on the forest resources by the adjacent communities and the private sector.”
The alliance said the CFA implementation process is burdensome and lacks sufficient support and linkages with KFS.
It recommended the recognition of CFAs as critical in participatory forest management success, and the relevant adjacent communities afforded primary stakeholder status.
“The policy should offer guidance on significant steps to improve the facilitation of CFA establishment, CFA member capacity building opportunities and incentives,” it said.
We recommend enforcement of current laws to stem the untenable extraction of raw material for the underground/informal charcoal industry and the current black market,Conservation Alliance of Kenya
CAK added that forestry extension service, which is virtually non-existent, should be in place and be funded to reach CFAs with the best farming and silviculture practices in the sector.
These include technical advice on tree farm inputs, nurseries, supplies, distribution and overall value chain development.
The alliance further wants the Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme (Pelis) strengthened in the proposed forest policy.
It said the draft policy has no consensus definition on what constitutes a forest, leaving the definition of forest, forest types and canopy cover open to interpretation.
It recommended that the policy include Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing to monitor the status of forests in Kenya.
CAK said the protection of forests is essential for ecological, social, cultural, and economic functions in providing basic human needs and habitat for wildlife, biodiversity and soil conservation, regulating water flows and sequestering carbon dioxide.
The alliance said the draft policy fails to recognise the growing demand and significant benefits of the charcoal sector on the economic benefits.
"We have proposed alternatives to reduced dependence on timber and encourage the use of invasive species where they occur in meeting this growing demand.”
It said the draft policy suggests the government phases out the Pelis, countering the key objective of instituting participatory forest management mechanisms.
“If Pelis is to be phased out and replaced by a concessioning process, communities must be involved in the concessions through set regulations and conditions.”
The lobby recommended a substantive Pelis reform process established to mitigate systemic corruption and institutional incompetency, which prove to be the key drivers of its failure, rather than merely blaming communities/farmers.
CAK said Kenya has a significant shortage of wood product supply. The lobby said small-holder silviculture should be encouraged and supported in the policy, including contract farming for timber and fuelwood.
It said charcoal remains a significant economic and industrial activity, despite the two-year ban.
“We recommend enforcement of current laws to stem the untenable extraction of raw material for the underground/informal charcoal industry and the current black market,” it said.