Forests, due to their capacity to act as carbon sinks and by providing key environmental services, are globally recognised as critical in climate change mitigation and adaptation. This capacity is enhanced through conservation, rehabilitation of degraded areas, afforestation, and reforestation.
In Kenya, forests contribute immensely to economic development and the country’s livelihoods. They support diverse economic sectors, including agriculture, horticulture, tourism, wildlife, and energy.
Forests landscapes are further credited with strengthening community resilience to climate change by providing important environmental goods and services, including water, biodiversity conservation, soil erosion control, maintenance or improvement of landscape.
Kenya continues to lose about 12,000 hectares of forests each year through deforestation. Accordingly, the 12 percent of the land area originally covered by closed-canopy forests is dwindling fast. There is a need to arrest this, despite the demand for fuelwood, charcoal and other wood products, and irrespective of the pressure for settlements, agriculture, and infrastructure expansion.
To expand forest cover in Kenya, a coordinated approach involving all stakeholders, capped with incentives for forest conservation and management, is necessary.
Kenya has set a national target of 10 percent forest cover. This is spelt out in the Vision 2030, the National Climate Change Response Strategy and the Nationally Determined Contribution.
Outlining the roadmap, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Dr Chris Kiptoo, stated: “There are a number of interventions in place to reach the 10 percent forest cover, one of which is the National Tree Cover Strategy. Under the strategy, Kenya needs to plant 1.8 billion seedlings between now and 2022 to achieve the targeted tree cover. In addition, the strategy will ensure the conservation of natural resources for environmental protection and enhanced economic growth.”
What is the justification for investing in this initiative?
The 10 Percent National Tree Cover Strategy is aligned to the National Forest Programme, which is a cross-sectoral framework that provides for the following:
- Broad institutional and multi-stakeholder participation in accelerating the achievement of the Constitutional target of 10 percent tree cover of the national land area as provided for under Article 69 (1) (b).
- Implementation of Presidential directives that the Constitutional target of 10 percent national tree cover should be achieved by 2022 through, among other initiatives, the revival of chief’s tree nurseries, with technical support of KFS and allocation of 10 percent corporate social responsibility (CSR) to tree-growing.
- Opportunity to implement several national and global commitments with respect to climate change, biodiversity conservation, and land degradation. The government has committed to restore 5.1 million Ha of degraded landscapes as a contribution to the Africa Forest Landscape Initiative (AFR100), 50 percent reduction of greenhouse gases from the forest sector by 2030 as part of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to climate change, and to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030 as a commitment to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
- Shared responsibility towards addressing climate change impacts and public concerns regarding protection, conservation and sustainable management of forest resources.
- Enhancing the contribution of the forestry sector towards the implementation of the Big 4 Agenda. The environment and forest sector are the foundation upon which the performance of the key primary sectors of the economy is anchored, including manufacturing, energy, health, and agriculture.
To attain the 10 percent tree cover by 2022, partnerships with both state and non-state actors are key, particularly through tree planting initiatives that aim to spur a tree growing culture among communities.
To achieve this, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has firmed up the national tree planting and growing campaign, with a passionate appeal to Kenyans to support the efforts to increase forest cover and implement re-afforestation programmes.
Through support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kenya, the Ministry has also strengthened policy and regulatory frameworks to ensure responsiveness to emerging issues and needs at both national and sub-national levels.
The UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya, Mr Walid Badawi, has emphasised that “the surest way to combat climate change is through reforestation”.
He says: “The Government of Kenya has recognised that combating climate change without slowing deforestation is a lost cause. At UNDP, we will continue investing in national efforts led by the government to ensure the country remains on a sustainable development path by investing in initiatives that address the nexus between environmental, social, and economic considerations as we help the country to build back better from Covid-19.”
The 10 Percent National Tree Cover Strategy inculcates a shared responsibility towards addressing climate change impacts and public concerns regarding protection, conservation, and sustainable management of forest resources. It also seeks to enhance the contribution of the forestry sector towards the implementation of the Big 4 Agenda.
The strategy provides for a series of interventions towards achieving and maintaining 10 percent tree cover by 2022. They include the following:
- Implementing innovative restoration programmes, including the Greening Kenya Initiative; Greening of Infrastructure and Institutions; the “Adopt a Forest” concept and the Environmental Soldier Programme (ESP) of the Kenya Defence Forces to support seedlings production and rehabilitation of degraded forest areas.
- Enhancing tree planting campaigns through national and county events, public education, awareness and sensitisation.
- Producing 1.8 billion quality tree seedlings by 2022, needed to increase tree cover.
- Strengthening coordination and collaboration in the governance of the forest sector for implementation of the various national and county policies, legislations and rules that require increased tree planting. This includes strengthening the capacity of Kenya Forest Service to implement its mandate.
- Enhancing conservation and protection of natural forests on public, community and private lands, and rehabilitation of degraded areas.
- Establishing commercial forest plantation on public, private and community lands to provide adequate and sustainable timber poles and fuelwood for industrial and domestic consumption.
- Adopting the use of alternative energy sources and efficient wood conversion and utilisation technologies by institutions, industry and households.
- Strengthening forest resources assessment, monitoring and reporting capabilities of forest sector institutions.
Owing to the current Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the downscaling of the national tree planting activities, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is now concentrating on the Nairobi metropolitan area, while regional heads of conservancies are spearheading tree planting activities within their areas of jurisdiction and encouraging communities to plant in their farms and homesteads.
As pointed out by the Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Mr Keriako Tobiko, “The ministry recognises the importance of the urban green spaces towards improving our biodiversity richness, as well as providing environmental benefits, such as carbon sequestration and air pollutants sinks, among others. The ministry has therefore embarked on restoration and conservation of the urban green spaces.”
A summary of the National 10 Percent Tree Cover Strategy is captured in this downloadable infographic.