To restore depleted forest cover, Kenya must take concrete steps

Friday March 9 2018


Like the Biblical Paul of Damascus, Kenyans have finally seen the ‘light’.

That we need to do something about our fast disappearing forest cover, is now front page news.

The problem with Kenyans is that our issues and self-created problems come in waves, only to be quickly forgotten.

We have had three waves in the recent past — the drug menace, road accidents and, now, forests.

Our follow-up, monitoring and enforcement mechanism on key national issues is wanting.

We speak today about reclaiming the Mau Forest, and the next day, we dish out swathes of forest land for short-term political expediency. Iveti Forest in Machakos District is nearly all gone.

I am curious what the three-month tree harvesting ban will do. How long does it take a tree to mature?

Here lies the fallacy in our forest management strategy and policy. We forget that trees, unlike maize crop, take years to mature.

A longer ban should have sufficed to allow for watertight structures, including funding and a legal framework, to be put in place to combat illegal logging, reclaim encroached forest land and jumpstart the replanting of forests.

Parliament must put in place robust legislative and fiscal policies that promote the use of alternative fuels and discourage the use of firewood and charcoal as fuel.

This may call for VAT waivers or zero rating gas, solar cookers and other fuel efficient cooking technologies.

Exploration of gas in the Indian ocean should be accelerated.

Secondly, the government should consider financing or subsidising manufacturers of innovative but affordable cooking and heating equipment that are firewood efficient or use alternative fuels.


Thirdly, the government must discourage the appetite for timber by the construction industry by promoting the use of steel or aluminium panels for roofing, windows, fixtures and fittings.

Fourthly, the government should introduce a special tax for household timber products, with the funds being used in the restoration of our forests.

Fifth, the government should discourage the export of raw timber, thereby forcing timber manufacturers to set up base locally to create employment and fund reforestation.

Sixth, the government should set targets for tree planting for each county, institution and individuals.

Finally the government must enhance surveillance of our forests by use of satellite imagery, encourage whistle-blowing and introduce jail terms for illegal forest harvesting.

Also, the Forest department must be reformed.