The government has been challenged to take lead in championing certification of wood products to enable local players to compete with others in the international markets.
At a meeting in Nairobi, stakeholders noted that certification would promote sustainability in the forest sector and at the same time enhance the reach of Kenyan wood products in the international market.
According to the Africa Regional Director of Forest Stewardship Council Harison Kojwang, there is growing hesitance in some parts of the world on non-certified wood products.
The markets mainly in the Western world are keen on sustainably produced wood materials that respect the environment.
“What we are seeing is private sector-led initiatives towards certification of wood products in the country, the government is still lagging in coming up with better policies towards the project,” said Harrison Kojwang, Regional Director Forest Stewardship Council.
“The private sector is taking lead after realizing that their targeted market is shifting towards certified products, the world is cautious about sustainability following growing reports of climate change,” he noted.
“The line government agencies should move with speed in coming up with social, technical and economic policies to avoid a situation where Kenyan wood products are locked out of more strict markets where sustainable use of forest products is under focus,” he added.
He also championed for a relook into policies around public procurement, which he said, would ensure for instance the use of furniture in government offices from certified wood products.
“Such initiatives will go a long way in complementing efforts around forest conservation without hurting genuine players with measures such as blanket logging ban we are currently witnessing,” he added.
Besides the government, he called on the academia, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to join efforts in promoting the certification of wood products.
Kenya’s forests contribute 3.6 per cent to the GDP excluding environmental services and contributions to other sectors, with an annual wood demand for energy, construction, pulp, paperboards and packaging among other needs, estimated at 41,700,664.45 m3.
However, the country is experiencing a wood deficit, projected to increase from 10 million m3 to at least 15 million m3 per year by 2030. To fill this gap, Kenya imports wood from its two neighbours; Uganda and Tanzania and also, from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Unfortunately, most of the current wood supplies from the neighbouring countries as well as in-country are not certified and the legality of those sources are not clear. Historically, the demand for certified wood and associated products on the market has been and is still very limited, mainly attributed a general lack of awareness and appreciation of the benefits of certification, limited information about the requirements of certification and current sources of certified wood materials/products.
The low awareness on the importance of certification to SFM1 is one of the factors that facilitate the massive levels of destruction of Kenya’s remaining forests, which also is accelerating the effects of climate change. Also, the low levels of legality lead to losses of revenue to the countries and ironically also makes those companies that are legally compliant, to incur revenue losses, since they have to pay their taxes and observe labour practices that illegal trades are not obliged to honour.
In general, certified businesses are facing stiff competition from illegally sourced wood, making it difficult for most of their operations to break- even regardless of their commitment to comply with existing nationally adapted standards, such as the FSC National Forest Stewardship Standards.
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