A look into state's 5-year ban on forest logging

Members of the Kaptagat Community Fores Association inspected trees that were felled despite the ban on logging. [Fred Kibor, Standard]

The government’s efforts to restore and rehabilitate degraded critical water catchment and natural forest areas by imposing a logging ban in 2018 has borne fruit.

According to agro climatologist Dr Kinyanjui Koimbori, the period has had positive impacts on the sector, resulting in increased tree and forest cover. The period has also seen a reduction in illegal logging in forests.

“Although the ban might have had an impact on industries that are dependent on forest products, it has had positive impacts on the environment,” Dr Kinyanjui said.

By 2018, the government estimated that forest cover in the country stood at 7.4 per cent, a far cry from the recommended global minimum of 10 per cent. However, the current statistics from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry indicate that Kenya currently has 7,180,888.66ha. Tree cover currently stands at 12.13 per cent while the forest cover stands at 8.83 per cent. “Much has been achieved in the past few years. As a nation, these milestones propel us to achieving global targets even as the world currently battles impacts of climate change,” he said.

In February 2015, the government imposed a ban on logging on state and community forests following a high depletion rate, estimated to be at an alarming 5,000ha per annum.

The rate of depletion was estimated to lead to an annual reduction in water availability of approximately 62 million cubic metres, translating to an economic loss of over $19 million. The taskforce report on Forest Resources Management and Logging activities in Kenya which was launched in 2018, showed that although exploitation of indigenous tree species was banned in 1986, their illegal harvesting continued.

It revealed that logging was by far most intense in the Maasai Mau Forest, followed by Ol Pusimoru Forest Reserve, Lembus forest, Mount Londiani, South Western Mau, Western Mau, and Tinderet.

It also revealed that indigenous forests were over-exploited by selective logging of important timber trees, which has greatly reduced the canopy cover, modified the forest composition, and undermined the regenerative capacity of the forests.

Illegal logging of sandalwood, by the time the logging ban was enforced was prevalent in the Mathews Range (Samburu County), Marsabit (Marsabit County), Chyullu Hills (Makueni/Kajiado County), and Loita Hills (Narok County) ecosystems.

While the logging ban has had a great impact on forest recovery, as per the statistics, experts say there is need for policies to allow logging only in designated areas. “Such policies should exempt logging or planting of exotic trees in major water towers. The government should also adopt monitoring mechanisms in future to curb illegal logging activities,” Dr Kinyanjui said.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics 2022, the total area under state forest plantation stocking increased from 149,600ha in 2020 to 151,900ha in 2021.

The area planted was 2,400ha in 2021, a decline of 44 per cent from the 4,300ha realised in 2020. During the period, there was no forested area felled due to the continued ban on logging.

Between 2019 and 2022, statistics showed that there was no recorded logging of trees in the government and community forests. In 2018, before the government imposed the ban, 900ha of trees were felled while in 2019, up to 5,200ha was affected.