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6,290 hectares of forest lost in 1 year: Report

A cleared section at Marioshoni Forest in the  Mau Forest Complex on June 3, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Kenya lost 6,290 hectares of its natural forest in 2022, data from Global Forest Watch has revealed. According to deforestation alerts from the Global Forest Watch, 486,919 alerts were reported in Kenya between April 2022 and October 2023.

The latest deforestation alerts in September and October this year were reported across Narok, Nakuru, Kericho Elgeiyo-Marakwet and Nyamira counties.

“In 2010, Kenya had 3.18 million hectares of natural forest, extending over 5.7 per cent of its land area. In 2022, it lost 6.29 ha (6,290 hectares) of natural forest, equivalent to 3.29 metric tonnes of CO₂ emissions,” Global Forest Watch notes.

Through satellite imagery, Global Forest Watch collects data on deforestation across the tropics, including Kenya. The satellites that monitor global forests automatically flag areas where the forest canopy has been disturbed. It also records deforestation alerts across the country.

A web application to monitor global forests in near real-time reveals that forest loss in 2022 worsened with an estimated loss of 4.1 million hectares.

But even with real-time alerts revealing that illegal activities are still being experienced, statistics over the years reveal that the country has been losing its forests since independence.

In 1963, it was estimated that ten per cent of the country was covered in forests, a figure which dropped to 5.4 by 2000. Data reveals that forest loss has been experienced more in natural forests across the country.

Between 2013 and 2022, 82 per cent of tree cover loss in the country occurred within natural forests.

The top six regions that accounted for 52 per cent of all tree cover loss between 2001 and 2022 include Narok, which experienced the most tree cover loss. Nakuru, Kilifi, Lamu and Kwale have also topped the counties with the most forest cover loss during the period.

Between 2001 and 2022, the country lost 375,000 hectares of tree cover, according to the Global Forest Watch data. Forest fires, data shows, have also become a key challenge leading to the destruction of forests in the country. From 2001 to 2022, Kenya lost 2,170 hectares of tree cover to fires.

As per the data from the National Forest Reference Level for REDD+, a guide that helps the country reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, Kenya has been experiencing a net loss of forests over the years. Between 2002 and 2018, Kenya lost 81,476 hectares of its montane forests per year as compared to a gain of 73,300 per year during the same period.

During the period, the country lost an average of 719 hectares of its coastal and mangrove forests annually. Afforestation efforts bore 43,610 hectares on a yearly average.

The statistics reveal that the country is losing its dryland forests faster. Between 2002 and 2018, the country lost 210,668 hectares on average, annually.

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