The Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) in partnership with Nature Kenya undertook a national review of the implementation of Participatory Forest Management and recommended developing regulations to enhance community participation. To achieve that objective, a team was set up to draft the regulations and present them to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry for approval.
The Ministry, through a notice published in the September 18 issue of the Daily Nation newspaper, called on stakeholders, including the public, to submit comments on the Draft Regulation of Forests (Community Participation in Sustainable Forest Management) Rules 2020. Rules, also known as subsidiary legislation, are meant to operationalize an Act of Parliament. This is because Acts of Parliament do not usually go into the finer implementation details and require subsidiary legislation to facilitate enforcement.
In response to the public notice, the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS), through the Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG) convened a virtual meeting of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to review the rules. Seventeen CSOs participated in the meeting and the following are some of the key comments and recommendations from the meeting.
- The Rules speak more about public forests and leave out other types of forests, particularly community forests. They should therefore encompass all types of forests, including Mangroves and the coastal ‘Kaya’ woodlands.
- The interpretation of Community Forest Associations (CFAs) in the Rules is different from that in the Forests Conservation and Management Act, 2016. It is therefore, important that reference is made to the Act with regard to this interpretation.
- A community is not clearly defined hence the need to explicitly define what a community is for operational definition. It has always been argued that Section 63 (1) of the Kenyan constitution provides the basis for defining a community but does not precisely say what constitutes a community. That section can therefore provide guidance in defining a community in the context of forests.
- The transfer of rights of the CFAs need to be clearly explained. In this regard, it should be indicated whether the transfer of rights by CFAs is absolute or of a defined period of time. Besides, there should be criteria to guide the preference of one CFA over another in cases where more than one CFA exists in one forest block. Furthermore, what will be the fate of the CFA that is not selected yet it had put a number of mechanisms in place for its existence?
- The Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) should not be solely responsible for the registration of a CFA. The process should be rather subjected to a committee. In this regard, what is contained in the Rules should reflect what is in the Forests Conservation and Management Act, 2016, which states that it is the community that shall facilitate the formation of CFAs and not KFS.
- Preparation of Forest Management Plans should not be a preserve of KFS. CFAs should also take part in the process.
- A Forest Conservancy is too large and nominating only one person to sit in a Forest Conservation Committee (FCC) is too limited. It was proposed that the number of representatives from a conservancy should revert to four as it was in the Forest Act, 2005. The nomination should also consider gender balance.
- The funding cycle for CFAs should be defined, including consideration for funding their activities. This is because CFAs are required to do a lot in forest conservation yet they have very limited resources. They are often demoralized and need to be re-energized and their potential unlocked. Fees collected by CFAs and channeled to KFS, for example, grazing fees and those related to Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme (PELIS) activities should be included in these Rules.
The EAWLS wishes to thank all stakeholders who participated in the meeting. Moving forward, the EAWLS will consolidate all these comments and put them into a Memorandum that will be submitted to the Ministry by the due date of 17th October 2020.