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Favorable laws inspire Kenyan communities to conserve forests
by Robert Manyara NAKURU (Xinhua) -- Forest conservation is a thriving new job for many Kenyan communities thanks to the country’s laws encouraging community participation in environmental protection.

Daniel Korir and Wesley Kiplangat are both members of indigenous community, Ogiek Community Forest Association (CFA) registered with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

They are taking part in the conservation of a section of Mau Forest Complex in the Rift Valley region.

Since last year, Korir said he has actively involved in keeping guard of the Nessuit Forest and informing KFS officers of illegal activities such as felling trees without permit and burning of charcoal.

Together with other members of the CFA, they have also replenished the forest with indigenous trees.

Korir said they have also set up nurseries nurturing indigenous trees to maintain a consistent supply of seedlings for reforestation activities.

Korir’s efforts are a positive response to Kenya’s constitution, which provides for engagement of communities in management and conservation of forest through registered community forest associations.

He said their sensitization drives on sustainable utilization of the natural resources have yielded fruits since people have become more cautious of participating in destructive activities.

"We have noted a change of attitude towards the forest among people living adjacent to the forest.

"The pace of cutting trees has reduced," he said.

So far, their work has attracted support from some development partners and well-wishers who have enhanced their conservation skills and broadened their knowledge on management of natural resources, Korir said.

"We know the importance of conserving the forest.

"That’s why we sacrifice our time to protect it.

"We work closely with KFS guards.

"Whenever we notice any questionable activity within the forest, we quickly notify them," he added.

The country is looking forward to accomplishing a 10-percent forest cover by 2030 with community participation counted as a key strategy to speed up realization of the target.

By 2010, the forest cover stood at 6.99 percent, according to the 2016-2030 forest strategic framework by Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

In the National Forest Programme, the ministry predicts an increase in wood deficit from the current 10 million cubic meters to 15 million cubic meters per year by 2030.

At least 80 percent of the households in Kenya depend on wood for cooking and lighting.

"We (community) use firewood to cook and so we know why we need to increase the number of trees in the forest," said Kiplangat, another member of the Ogiek Community Forest Association and a volunteer scout.

Kiplangat said he monitors Logoman Forest, one of the blocks of the Mau Forest Complex.

The 400,000-hectare Mau Forest Complex spans across five counties in the Rift Valley region including Nakuru, Narok, Baringo, Kericho and Baringo.

"We always have to inform people how illegal it is to destroy the forest and the penalties involved," said Kiplangat.

"I have made a commitment to protect the forest. I am always on the lookout and the first to let the KFS guards know of what’s going in the forest," he added.

Kiplangat, however, said communities need to be empowered to escape from poverty and be able to shift to clean sources of energy.

He said extreme lack of basic needs in homes forces people to exploit forest resources to earn an income.

The environment ministry through KFS intends to rehabilitate 5.1 hectares of degraded forest land, a process involving engagement of communities in deterring indiscriminate harvesting of trees.

According to KFS forester Joseph King’ori, participation of communities in conservation of forests has greatly contributed to achieving a 10-percent forest cover.



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