In 2018, the Kenyan government imposed a moratorium on timber harvesting in all public and community forests ‘to allow for the recovery and audit of forest resources in Kenya,’ a knee jerk response to an alarming drop of water levels in all major rivers in the country.
This flailing attempt to ban logging in order to save Kenya’s water towers has had a number of implications: swathes of mature trees planted for commercial use in the Baringo, Marakwet, Keiyo, Kericho counties and the Mount Kenya region – valued at about Ksh 30 Billion – are rotting in the plantations. This significant loss of revenue to the Ministry of Environment and the Kenya Forest Service has led to serious budget cuts and compromised the agencies’ capacity to deliver critical environment management projects including the Nairobi River Cleanup exercise.
Additionally, the gap in local supply of timber forced the market to respond in an unnatural way; leading to over exploitation of farm trees and harvesting of immature trees in neighboring countries of Congo and Tanzania; essentially contributing to degradation of other forest ecosystems in the region.
Fortunately, the timber moratorium lapses this November and the Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG) – an independent government watchdog for sound forest practices in Kenya, proposes that it be dispensed with altogether. Instead, KFWG proposes strengthening of local enforcement agencies and local governance units to curb illegal and unchecked logging.
Additionally, KFWG suggests that the ‘Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme’ (PELIS) currently under threat of being scraped, instead be reviewed and improved and that issues of corruption within government agencies be dealt with firmly.
If you would like more information about the Kenya Forest Working Group, please visit https://www.kenyaforests.org/