The government’s moratorium on logging has paid off as the latest economic survey reveals that the country’s forest cover has increased by 10 per cent in the last two years.
The report shows an increase of about 2,000 hectares of forestland following an extension of the embargo in November last year after the first order in 2018.
It has also resulted in more income from environment and natural resources as revenue improved by Sh45.3 billion, a 0.3 per cent increase in the last one year.
Of the three natural resources, only mineral production declined by 5.8 per cent. Fisheries and forests recorded an exponential growth that led to a better Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the sector.
The logging ban may have affected timber sales as the country reportedly lost Sh19 billion in 2018, but it has had a positive impact on the environment.
Rainfall distribution – especially the long rains witnessed in March, April and May – was ‘generally good’ in the last one year. The short rains were, however, below normal in most parts of the country.
More money was pumped in water supply services, an increase of about Sh9.7 billion.
While the ban stemmed from a prolonged drought season in 2017 that led to an acute shortage of water and dry rivers, streams and wells, this year’s positive news on the forest cover has coincided with President Kenyatta’s Wednesday declaration of drought as a national disaster. This was last declared in 2017.
Counties experiencing drought may cripple one of the Jubilee administration’s Big Four Agenda on food security.
To avert such occurrences in future, more trees have to be planted as stated in last year’s Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) plan.
The agency said it planned to plant about two billion tree seedlings to reach the expected goal by 2022. This would translate to an even better GDP from forests.
The country reportedly lost about 310,000 hectares of forestland between 1999 and 2015. The loss was largely orchestrated by people who convert forests to settlements, crop farming, infrastructure developments, unregulated charcoal production and trade.
While declaring the moratorium in 2017, the Ministry of Environment said human activities had led to degradation and encroachment of water towers and riparian land.
An inadequate forest cover is known for having a negative impact on climate change. A World Wildlife Fund report on stopping illegal logging indicates that huge amounts of carbon emissions are released when trees are harvested illegally.
“Forest trees and other plants soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it away as they grow and thrive,” states the WWF report.
Apart from contributing to an adaptable environment and sustainable climate change, forests also cover a wider range of sectors and could bring in more revenue to a country. The sectors include agriculture, horticulture, tourism, wildlife, and energy.
In the latest report from ‘The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ that was released on August 9, scientists warned that human activities such as cutting down trees will make the planet warmer.
In order to reach the net zero goal (a balance between the greenhouse gas produced and that which is released from the atmosphere), one of the ways that climate scientists advise is that more trees should be planted so that they can absorb greenhouse gas emissions.