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10% Forest Cover in Kenya: Mirage or Possible?

“It’s a matter of life and death for this country. The Kenyan forests are facing extinction and it is a man-made problem.” – Wangari Maathai

The reality is that Kenya is at a crossroads. There are the irrepressible needs of a growing population that needs more land for settlements, agriculture. However, this growth is juxtaposed with an urgent need to preserve Kenya’s natural resources especially forests, given the tell-tale signs of climate change we are seeing. Despite how difficult it is,, the reality is we urgently need to find a balance between development or conservation. One cannot exist without the other and we need to find the solutions to this conundrum. Now.

Last week, we held the penultimate event in the Greenhouse Sessions series where we focused on the topic, “The Future of Forests.” The session kicked off with an exposition of the topic by Kiunga Kareko, the Forests Program Manager at WWF-Kenya. Kiunga elaborated on the important ecosystem services provided by forests but also the economic importance of forests, which directly contribute to an estimated 50,000 jobs and another 300,000 jobs indirectly. Kiunga also highlighted the key pieces of legislation that provide a framework of Kenya increasing its forest cover from the current 7.4% to the UN recommended minimum of 10%. These laws are: the Constitution(2010), the Forest Act(2016), Vision 2030, and the National Climate Change Response Strategy.

After the modern day state of forest conservation was elaborated on by Kiunga, we transitioned to the innovations segment. This part of the event is meant to highlight the innovative organizations working at various levels of society to promote (re)afforestation.

  1. Miti Alliance – An advocacy organization that works to promote tree planting among the youth throughout Kenya.
  2. Seedballs Kenya – An organization that promotes afforestation in Kenya through the use of bio-char coated seedballs.

At the conclusion of the innovations segment, we transitioned into the expert panel which featured:

  1. Michael Koech, Manager, Environment and Climate Change at Safaricom.
  2. Gerald Ngatia, CEO of the National Alliance of Community Forest Associations (NACOFA)
  3. Nancy Ogonje, Executive Director at The East African Wildlife Society

Here are some key takeaways from the panel discussion:

The Difference between Growing and Planting a Tree

“ Most people do tree planting for PR/CSR purposes but the actual work is after planting the tree. It’s one thing to plant a tree, it’s another to grow a forest. Growing trees takes a lot of concerted efforts, resources, commitment and diligence in aftercare. For a seedling to grow into a tree, the seedlings must be the right size and quality, the soil moisture has to be conducive for growth and there has to be a plan for aftercare programs.” – Nancy Ogonje

How Corporates Can Walk the Talk on Sustainability

“ For corporates to walk the talk on sustainability, there is a need to make bold decisions. For us at Safaricom these are the commitment to be a net zero carbon company by 2020 and in collaboration with Kenya Forestry Service, we are committed to planting 5 million trees in the next 5 years. There is also a need to put in place apt reporting frameworks to ensure progress is tracked accordingly. Another key thing if we are to get Kenya to the needed 10% forest cover is the need for strong partnerships. There is a lot of knowledge and value that can be derived from these arrangements. For example our collaborations with Community Forest Associations have been very fruitful.” – Michael Koech

The Role of Communities in Forest Conservation

“Since the introduction of participatory forest management in Kenya in 2005 via the Forest Act, communities have played a huge role in efforts to increase Kenya’s forest cover. We currently have over 300 Community Forest Associations(CFA’s) and these were formed with the explicit aim of furthering forest conservation whilst also providing livelihoods for the people. Since 2000 to date, CFA’s have helped rehabilitate over 30,000 hectares of forests in Kenya. One of the biggest roles CFA’s play is acting as a go-between between the government and communities by sensitizing communities on the need to conserve forests. ” – Gerald Ngatia

If interested in the entire conversation, you can
watch the session here.


Join us for the next event in the Green House sessions series where we will be exploring the topic of the Future of Wildlife: How might we empower and value communities at the frontline of conservation in Kenya? This event will take place on the 3rd December from 9:00n am to 10:30 am. Sign up here.
Monday November 30th, 2020 by Jerry Sellanga
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