CS Tuya orders crackdown on illegal logging, encroachment of public forests

Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya. [Courtesy, Ministry of Environment]

Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya has ordered the Kenya Forest Service to mount a nationwide crackdown on illegal logging, encroachment and charcoal burning, which she blamed for the recent spike in forest fires.

Speaking on Friday at a press briefing, CS Tuya cautioned communities living adjacent to public forests against engaging in illegal forest activities and asked them to be the first line of defence for Kenya's forests.

"I am directing the Acting Chief Conservator of Forests to with immediate effect, activate the multi-agency crackdown team, to mount an intense, targeted and sustained crackdown across all forest ecosystems in the country to end these illegal activities," said CS Tuya.

CS Tuya said illegal forest activities were a major setback to Kenya's ecosystem restoration efforts, including the ambitious plan to stretch the country's tree cover from the current 12.3 per cent to 30 per cent in 10 years by planting 15 billion trees, and urged Kenyans to intensify tree planting during the ongoing long rains season.

"We are urging Kenyans to plant trees on their birthdays, during holidays, and on each and every occasion where it is possible to plant a tree. 15 billion trees sound huge and mind-boggling but believe me you, it translates to only 30 trees per Kenyan per year over the next 10 years. It is doable," said the CS.

CS Soipan Tuya (left) during the presser convened to outline recent reforms in the management of public forests. [Courtesy, Ministry of Environment]

The CS blamed increased cases of forest fires recorded in public forests across the country during the recent dry spell on illegal charcoal burning.

"I would like to thank the French Government who have supported us with equipment for forest fire surveillance, build fire towers and are training and equipping Kenya Forest Service personnel in firefighting. This support will enable KFS to suppress the frequent forest fires as witnessed during the just-ended long dry spell," she said.

On the provision of adequate seedlings to support the 15 billion trees drive, the CS said her ministry was working with several state and non-state partners to intensify the propagation of tree seedlings across the country.

"We are establishing 11 fully fledged seed centres across the country that will be operational by the end of May 2023. These seed centres under the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), will produce both indigenous seeds and fruit tree seeds for propagation across Kenya Forest Service nurseries and private and community nurseries across the country," she said.

CS Soipan Tuya (left) with an environmentalist during the presser on Friday, May 5, 2023. [Courtesy, Ministry of Environment]

CS Tuya added that forest adjacent communities are partners in 'participatory forests management', saying her ministry was developing a collaboration framework that will see the communities more involved in forest conservation activities going forward.

"As a ministry, we acknowledge and appreciate the critical role played by forest-adjacent communities in our conservation efforts. To this end, we are working on a framework of enhancing the participation of Community Forest Associations as key partners in the conservation of our public forests," said CS Tuya.

The inaugural Africa Climate Summit of Heads of State and Government that will be co-hosted by Kenya and the African Union in Nairobi from September 4 to 6, this year.