Scientists are urging Kenya to carry out comprehensive valuation to quantify forestry’s contribution to the economy. Currently, forestry is said to contribute four per cent to the gross domestic product.
According to Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) founding director Dr Jeff Adhaya, who is now retired, any policy banning forest exploitation should be consistent and informed by scientific evidence, and such a policy should recognise the role of private sector in promoting sustainability of natural resources such as forests and water catchment areas. Policy should also recognise friendly ways of reaping benefits from forest products and related resources.
A report presented during the fifth Kefri Scientific Conference in April under the theme Contribution of Forestry Research to Sustainable Development, recommended the promotion of community forest associations to enhance collective ownership of the natural resource by local communities.
Participants also recommended adoption of a value chain approach in resource management to reap maximum benefits in agribusiness.
To achieve this goal, the team recommended the promotion of on-farm tree planting for medicinal value and house construction. This would help raise tree cover from the current seven per cent to the recommended 10 per cent.
This would require genetically improved multipurpose trees in various ecological zones. For example, pilot projects that involve setting up demonstration plots for sandal wood, should be established in all potential areas.
According to researchers, Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kefri should establish and manage high quality seedlings and fruit orchards, while prioritising long-term conservation of rare and endangered tree germplasm through storage.
Already the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) is promoting integrated farming of once-neglected indigenous fruit trees, vegetables and legumes known to have high nutrient value.
Kalro’s Crop Systems Director Lusike Wasilwa, said that increasing population will need intensive land management to sustain households and provide them with the capacity to feed themselves and reap some commercial benefits, without destroying natural resources like forests.
Regarding logging, the team of scientists recommended the promotion of efficient sawing technologies. They asked Kefri to take the lead in developing a guiding policy on sustainable charcoal production, transportation and trade, and urged county governments and KFS to implement policies on sustainable use of forests.
At the same meeting, researchers proposed a policy framework for easy access to research information by those in commercial, agribusiness, medical, social development and industrial fields.
They said the policy framework should ensure that proven technologies and success stories are widely shared with those looking for well-researched and reliable information, and added that tracer studies on technology adoption should be conducted to measure the impact of research.
This would ensure that research contributes to addressing pressing problems such as food security and healthcare.
In their recommendations released in a report in July, the scientists drawn from the agro-forestry and environmental conservation noted that, a lot of information lies unused by those who might need it.
Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko challenged scientists to come up with solutions to the problems currently preventing the adoption of science findings by ordinary Kenyans.
“We are looking to you, the scientists, to assist us by providing technologies and information for achieving the targets of Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the government’s Big Four agenda. I believe the brains gathered here will provide scientific input towards attainment of the four pillars,” he said.
He added that Kenya’s economic blue print outlines the expected outputs from forestry and biodiversity and their proper management to guarantee efficient water supply for health and domestic use, agriculture and generation of electricity for industrialisation.
The report also recommends a multi-sectoral collaboration between national and county governments and institutions among them Kefri, Kalro, KFS and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, for efficient natural resource management.