Kenya requires KES 7.6 billion annually to purchase 384 million seedlings in order to meet the United Nations’ requirement of a 10% forest cover by the year 2030 – the Kenya Forestry and Wildlife ministry has revealed.
The revelation was made during the commemoration of the World Forest Day in Karura Forest where 2011 was launched, as the International Year of Forests in Kenya. UNEP’s Executive Director, Mr Achim Steiner, was the chief guest. Nobel Laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai, who has been at the forefront of championing the protection of Kenyan forests, was also in attendance.
According to the World Rainforest Movement, Kenya’s forests are rapidly declining (according to Mongabay.com, this is about 12,000 ha per year – about 0.3% deforestation) due to pressure from increased population, fuelwood, building material and other land uses. A huge section of Kenya is arid and semi-arid. This puts huge a huge strain on the rest of the land since the economy is natural resource-based.
FAO’s Forest Resource Assessment of 1990, classifies Kenya among the countries with a low forest cover of less than 2% of the total land area. Mongabay.com puts this figure even lower at only 1.2% which is about 704,000 HA.
The dwindling forest cover has a severe effect on climate, wildlife, streams and human population – especially forest dwellers.
Kenya is endowed with a collection of forests ranging from coastal forests, Central High Mountain forests to the thick wet rainforests found in the Western parts of the country. These forests support more than just an assortment of tree and plant species; they are also the habitat of a wide range of wildlife including families of monkeys, rare chameleons, elephant herds, elusive leopards, colourful butterflies and of course abundant birdlife.
Kenyan forests offer the traveller numerous recreational options to choose from. Arabuko Sokoke, located north of the coastal town of Mombasa is one such option. The Aberdares, in the Mount Kenya region, is another.
The equatorial rain forest of Kakamega in western Kenya provides yet another unique experience while Karura forest, recently opened to the public are just a few other options to the list.
Perhaps the most significant of these forests are the so-called water towers of Kenya – Mount Kenya and Mau forests. These highland forests are known to absorb, store and gradually release rainwater.
The Mau forest complex is located in the Great Rift Valley covering an area of 273,300 HA. It is the single largest water catchment area in Kenya with numerous rivers originating from the forest, including Ewaso Ng’iro, Sondu, Mara and Njoro Rivers.
This is the power and potential in our forests and this is part of what Nobel peace laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai risked her life a few years ago for.
The founder of the Green Belt Movement, an environmental Non-Governmental Organization focused on the planting of trees and environmental conservation among others believes that the problem of forest degradation is yet to be completely resolved in Kenya going by the rapid siltation of rivers which she attributes to the felling of trees.