FORESTRY THEMATIC AREA OF INTERVENTION
Our work in forest management is aimed at averting the worrying trend towards rapid forest encroachment, unsustainable utilization of forest resources, deteriorating river water quality, disruption of flow regimes in river and skewed distribution of benefits.
Kenya has undergone reforms in this sectors for many years with it enacting Forest Act 2016 to repeal of the Forest Act 385, the enactment of the Forest Act, 2005 which established the Kenya Forest Service as a Semi-autonomous State Corporation in 2007 and the now newly formed Forest Conservation and Management Act, 2016 (FCM Act, 2016).
The main purpose of the new Act is to give effect to Article 69 of the Constitution of Kenya with regard to forest resources; provides for the development and sustainable management, including conservation and rational utilization of all forest resources for the socio-economic development of the country and other connected purposes.
The law protects our forests and ensure that sustainable forest management practices are followed across the country. This means that consumers can be confident that the forest and wood products they buy from and within Kenya were obtained legally and harvested under a system of sustainable forest management.
Kwale County is one of the six Counties found in the coastal region of Kenya. Kaya forests (commonly called Kayas) are sacred natural forests found on hilltops but also on coastal plain land of Kenya. They are residual patches of forests averaging 10-400 ha of once-extensive diverse lowland forest found in coastal eastern Africa. The historical development, existence, location and shape of the Kayas are intertwined with the belief and culture of the coastal Miji Kenda (nine houses) ethnic groups which claim descent from one ancestral area of Singwaya (Shunhwaya, and thought to be in modern-day southern Somalia).
The Kayas thus are strategic and symbolic grounds, and as the ancestors found resting places within the Kayas, so did the spiritual, social and symbolic significance of the Kayas increase to the communities. Thus, even after the Kayas were abandoned to become uninhabited forested areas, the laws governing their protection and the rituals associated with them remained intact. The norms and taboos that have persisted to the present derive their foundation from this historical development. These remnants of much more extensive forest areas contain the traces of historic fortified settlements, which serve as a focus of cultural and ritual activities continuing on the sites today. Due to their outstanding universal value, 9 sites were recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 2008.
In addition to the spiritual importance, Kaya forests are highly recognized as having retained and still hold a lot of forest biodiversity. For example more than 50% of all Kenya rare tree species are believed to be found in the Kaya forests. At the same time, several Kayas are recognized as Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of the World. Kayas are isolated forested patches of land currently used as cultural sites by Mijikenda. Research in early 1990s, identified the Kayas as very important sites for biodiversity conservation because they hosted endemic and globally threatened species. Extraction of forest products in the Kayas was controlled by a Mijikenda council of elders through issuance of permits to locals.
This system of traditional governance worked effectively in the past and ensured minimal destruction of Kaya forest habitat, because the Mijikenda strictly obeyed their cultural traditions. However, as human population increased around these sites, the demand for resources increased and the locals started disregarding their traditions and illegally extracting forest products without seeking permission from the council of elders. In the recent time this has led to uncontrolled exploitation of forests products leading to decline in populations of globally threatened birds and other biodiversity. This trend is still continuing and is affecting Kayas listed in the World Heritage List from Kenya such as Kaya Gandini & Kaya Mtswakara.
Disasters threaten food security through disruption of cropping, marketing and overall ecosystem structures. In recent decades, episodes of drought-induced food shortage and famine have directly led to resource stress manifested in crippling conflicts which have resulted in millions of casualties, internally displaced persons and refugees, posing dilemmas for long-term solutions
We are working with various stakeholders to put in place mechanisms for sustainable forest management for biodiversity conservation, livelihoods support and national economic development. We are taking action at policy and landscape level.
Through Sustainable Forest Management approaches, we are addressing forest resources management and conservation challenges in Kwale to support local community livelihoods, biodiversity conservation, businesses and sharing lessons for scaling up similar initiatives in other landscapes in Kenya and beyond. Our work in forest management is done with stakeholders and enshrined in Kenya’s National Forest Programme and is aimed at averting the worrying trend towards rapid forest encroachment, unsustainable utilization of forest resources, deteriorating river water quality, disruption of flow regimes in river and skewed distribution of benefits among stakeholders.
Through Participatory Forest Management approaches, we are working with forest adjacent communities, Kenya Forest Service, county governments and other stakeholders to conserve and rehabilitate forests while at the same time maximizing benefits for all.