Trees in Kenya are few and far between
By Peter Orengo
It is estimated that Kenya’s forest cover is less than two per cent of the country’s land area.
It is also estimated that forest products and services annually contribute Sh7 billion to the economy and directly employ 50,000 people while another 30,000 are directly employed in related sub-sectors.
The timber industry alone has investments of more than Sh44 billion. According to 1995 Kenya Forest Master Plan, more than 530,000 households living at a distance of five kilometers from forests depend directly on them for cultivation, fuel wood, herbal medicine and other gains.
Key threats to the continued existence of the forest are population pressure, uncontrolled logging, and encroachment for agricultural activities, forest excisions and settlements.
Mau Forest, which is Kenya’s largest water tower, is under threat. According to Mr Jackson Raini, an ecologist and CEO of Flamingo Net, an organisation that protects the Lake Nakuru ecosystem, the case of the diminishing Mau Forest is associated with occupation in the region.
And in 1994, land demands forced the State to degazette more than 20,000 hectares.
The result is evident in the drying up of Rift Valley rivers and lakes. The reduction of the Lake Victoria waters has also been linked to activities in the Mau.
Raini says sustainable forest management can only be achieved through involvement and active participation of local communities and co-operation of the administration.
But David Mbugua, the Director of Forestry says traditional ways of conserving and managing forests in Kenya has not worked well, leading to their continued loss.
Where elders curse those who cut indigenous forestsAbove the din over unrestrained environmental degradation at the Mau complex, some communities have defied odds to show the way in conserving indigenous forests.
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