What you need to know:
- The lifting of the ban on logging in gazetted public plantation forests was informed by an inventory of forest plantations that was undertaken by a multi–agency taskforce between 2020 to 2022, which revealed 26,000 Ha of mature and over–mature forest plantation stocks.
- These materials if not removed would eventually die and rot with the attendant colossal loss in revenue, which would otherwise be used in restoration of degraded public forest areas
Public forest plantations cover 150,000 hectares and comprise six per cent of Kenya’s 2.49 million hectare gazetted forest estate. They are comprised of cypress, pine and eucalyptus exotic tree species.
The lifting of the ban on logging in gazetted public plantation forests was informed by an inventory of forest plantations that was undertaken by a multi–agency taskforce between 2020 to 2022, which revealed 26,000 Ha of mature and over–mature forest plantation stocks.
These materials if not removed would eventually die and rot with the attendant colossal loss in revenue, which would otherwise be used in restoration of degraded public forest areas. By resuming logging operations, the government seeks to create job opportunities, spur economic growth in rural areas and improve the livelihoods of millions of individuals and communities that depend on forests.
The multi–agency taskforce also oversaw the e-registration of saw millers, leading to the pre-qualification of applicants into various categories based on respective capacities. Forest–adjacent communities, as social fences and friends of forests, have been incorporated into the plantation forest harvesting arrangements to ensure they also draw significant benefits.
While the licensees harvest the tree, they are only allowed to take away the main log, while the community takes away the tops and branches for domestic fuelwood or sale as firewood. The communities are also allowed to farm in areas where trees have been harvested as part of the plantation establishment programme.
Besides, Kenya Forest Service engages communities in seedling production, planting, weeding and silvicultural operations that include pruning and thinning. Further, communities provide scouts to protect forests from encroachment and related illegal activities.
The government has only authorised harvesting of 5,000 hectares. This is in compliance with the guidance from the Auditor General as well as established sustainable harvesting and replanting capacity of Kenya Forest Service (KFS).
KFS uses felling plans that define the ‘allowable cutting levels’. The principle of allowable cut dictates that the number of trees to be removed annually should be equal to the number of trees to be planted annually. This is achieved through the implementation of the felling and work plans as well as other forest management protocols.
During the felling process, the forest manager has the responsibility to ensure that licensees adhere to the provisions of his/her licence. Upon completion of the felling activity, the forest manager issues an exit certificate as evidence of compliance with the harvesting protocol.
As part of the chain of custody, the manager marks each harvested log before it exits the forest. The mark is specific to the station where the logs have been harvested. Execution of penalties in case of flouting these protocols are swift and punitive to all parties that may be involved, including KFS officials who fail to enforce established procedures.
Logging is strictly limited to gazetted plantation forest areas, ensuring the health and integrity of delicate natural forest ecosystems. The government is promoting and emphasising responsible logging practices that align with strict regulations and sustainable approaches to ensure the balance between conservation and economic development.
Plantation forests are buffer zone for natural forest areas. Revenue from the sale of trees in plantation forests is used to supplement the costs of forest protection, conservation, and management of natural forests.
The author is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry