Kenya has moved a step closer to having a national standard to promote responsible forest management as it seeks to mitigate the biting effects of climate change.
This follows the launch of the Interim National Standard for responsible management of forests by Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko.
The standard, developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), has guidelines on globally acceptable grades on forest management.
Kenya becomes the fourth country in eastern Africa to have an FSC.
The guidelines will be used by forest owners or managers to ensure compliance with the requirements as well as be the basis for businesses and consumers to identify, purchase and use wood and wood-based products, Mr Tobiko said.
The CS added that the standard seeks to streamline forest management as well as allow players in the wood industry to easily access international markets.
The development comes at a time more Kenyans are planting trees for commercial purposes.
The certification is expected to open up international markets for upcoming entrepreneurs.
He said coming up with the standards would open up more opportunities in the timber industry.
“The launch of the standard is a welcome move for the timber sector. It will enable the international markets to embrace local wood products,” Mr Tobiko said.
“I encourage Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and other stakeholders to embrace the idea and build on it to come up with national standards.”
The standard is broadly based on the 10 FSC principles and criteria like compliance with national laws, conserving areas with high value, assessing environmental values and impacts, enhancing community relations, indigenous people’s rights, workers’ rights, employment conditions, among others.
KFS Chief Conservator Julius Kamau said the agency would speed up dialogue with other stakeholders to develop national standards.
“If you drive on Ngong Road, you will see beautiful furniture. You may think the items are imported but they are locally made,” Mr Kamau said.
“Through certification, they will easily be exported and embraced by international buyers keen on sustainably manufactured wood products.”
FSC Eastern Africa Regional Coordinator, Anna Agasha, said the standards will be the basis for businesses and consumers to identify, purchase and use wood and wood-based products from well-managed forests in Kenya.
“The regulations will show that a particular forest block or area is being managed in a manner that conserves biological diversity and benefits local people and workers while ensuring it sustains economic viability,” Ms Agasha said.
FSC Director, Harrison Kojwang, said the initiative would streamline forest management.
He added that some markets are sensitive due to the effects of global warming.
“The Interim National Standard has instruments that will help counties, the national government and private firms to assess the sustainable level of forest management,” he said.