Kenya‘s goal of achieving 10 per cent forest cover gains momentum

Part of Aberdare Forest within Aberdare National Park. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

A recent Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) report says the country should plant at least 2 billion tree seedlings in order to reach the expected 10 percent forest cover by 2022.Currently the forest cover stands at 7.2 percent as stated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

The 10 per cent forest cover strategy was launched by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to align with the National Forest Program, which is a cross-sectoral framework.

Under the Presidential Directive the Constitutional target of 10 per cent national tree cover should be achieved by 2022 through, among other initiatives, the revival of chiefs’ tree nurseries with technical support of Kenya Forest Service and allocation of 10 per cent Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to tree growing by the private sector.

In order to attain the 10 per cent tree cover by 2022, partnerships with both state and non-state actors are key in enhancing the cover through tree planting and growing initiatives that aim to spur a tree growing culture among communities.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has firmed up the national tree planting and growing campaign through which it is seeking public support towards re-afforestation programs.

Through support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Ministry has also strengthened policy and regulatory frameworks to ensure alignment with and responsiveness to emerging issues and needs at both national and sub-national levels.

UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya, Mr Walid Badawi says “the surest way to combat climate change was through reforestation. The link between forests and climate change adaptation and mitigation has repeatedly been underlined in United Nations (UN) climate talks. Kenya has recognized that combating climate change without slowing deforestation is a lost cause. At UNDP, we will continue investing in national efforts led by the government to ensure that the country remains on a sustainable development path by investing in initiatives that address the nexus between environmental, social and economic considerations as we help the country build back better from Covid-19,” he said.

Mr Badawi added that there is need for Public Private Partnerships in order to accelerate the realization of the set target forest cover and tackle climate change.

“The strategy inculcates a shared responsibility towards addressing climate change impacts and public concerns regarding protection, conservation and sustainable management of forest resources, while enhancing the contribution of the forestry sector towards implementation of the Big 4 Agenda. This strategy provides for a series of interventions towards achieving and maintaining 10 per cent tree cover by 2022,” noted Badawi.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Dr Chris Kiptoo, stated that “there are a number of interventions put in place to reach the 10 percent forest cover one of which is the National Tree Cover strategy. Under the strategy, Kenya needs to plant 1.8 billion seedlings between now and 2022 to achieve the targeted tree cover. In addition, the strategy will ensure conservation of natural resources for environmental protection and enhanced economic growth.”

Dr Kiptoo noted that “other interventions entail implementation of innovative restoration programs such as Greening Kenya Initiative; Greening of infrastructure and Institutions, the “Adopt a Forest” concept and the Environmental Soldier Programme (ESP) of the Kenya Defense Forces to support seedlings production and rehabilitation of degraded forest areas. Enhanced national tree planting campaigns through national and county tree planting events, public education, awareness and sensitization, production of 1.8 billion quality tree seedlings by 2022 needed to increase tree cover. The strengthening of coordination and collaboration in the governance of the forest sector for implementation of the various national and county policies, legislations and rules that require increased tree planting. This includes strengthening institutional capacity of Kenya Forest Service to implement its mandate.”

Other measures include:

  • Enhancement of conservation and protection of Natural Forests on public, community and private lands and rehabilitation of degraded areas.
  • Establishment of commercial forest plantation on public, private and community lands to provide adequate and sustainable timber poles and fuelwood for industrial and domestic consumption.
  • Adoption of use of alternative Energy Sources and efficient wood conversion and utilization technologies by institutions, industry and households.
  • Strengthening of forest resources assessment, monitoring and reporting capabilities of forest sector institutions.

Kenya has over the years scaled up the war on deforestation by forging partnerships with both state and non-state actors as key in enhancing the forest cover through tree planting and growing initiatives that aim to spur a tree growing culture among the community.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has led to the down scaling of the national tree planting activities, the Ministry is now concentrating efforts in the Nairobi metropolitan area, while regional heads of conservancies are spearheading tree planting activities within their areas of jurisdiction and encouraging communities to plant within their farms and homesteads.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry Keriako Tobiko says “the ministry recognizes the importance of the urban green spaces of improving our biodiversity richness, as well as providing environmental benefits, such as carbon sequestration and air pollutants sinks, among others. The ministry has therefore embarked on restoration and conservation of the urban green spaces.”

Article written by Rading Biko[email protected]