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We should not give up on bid to restore Kenya’s forest cover

OPINION
By Gerald Lepariyo | September 18th 2021

A logger uses a power saw to harvest timber from a mature tree inside the Kabaru forest which covers 13,349 acres. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

While global warming remains a major challenge, extreme weather events such as devastating floods and severe droughts have increased the frequency of food insecurity and loss of livelihoods in Kenya. This week, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared drought a national disaster.

Now, forests landscape in Kenya has declined at an alarming rate from 10 per cent of the initial total forest cover to 7.4 per cent due to rapid deforestation and degradation of forest ecosystems.

This has exposed local communities to more climate-related disasters.

According to data from United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep), between 2000-2010 Kenya lost over 28,000 hectares of forest cover. Globally, 10 million hectares of forest ecosystems which account for 12 to 20 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, is lost annually.

The government is making remarkable progress to restore our forest cover by 10 per cent by 2022. Afforestation and regeneration are crucial to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

Deforestation accounts for 3.6 per cent loss to our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, according to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry report with Kwale, Lamu, Narok, Bomet and Nyandarua counties being deforestation hotspots.

Notably, the Aberdares, Mau Forest Complex and Mt Kenya forest are key water towers facing threat due to rapid deforestation and land degradation. On February 24th, 2018, the government imposed a moratorium on logging in all public and community forests, a significant milestone towards environmental conservation. Forest ecosystems play vital role in mitigation of climate change effects. Kenya Forest Service (KFS) unveiled Adopt-A-Forest model geared towards forests restoration. For decades, forests management and environmental conservation remain a challenge in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The increasing demand for agricultural production and population growth have put pressure on conservation efforts, but the world cannot afford to give up now.

To build climate resilience, the government should involve and support local communities, youth and women initiatives on afforestation.

We should also enhance the use of traditional knowledge in forests restoration, sustainable forest management and explore nature-based solutions to drive climate action.

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