Market for forest products will help increase cover, says Keriako Tobiko

From left: BGF Executive Director Jan Vandeneabeele, Environment CS Keriako Tobiko and KEFRI Acting Director Jane Njuguna during the tour in Kiambere./COURTESY

A market for forest products will help increase forest cover in Kenya.

Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko says there is need to sensitize investors and public to create market for forest products which will later incentivize tree growing in the country.

“Commercial forestry in the drylands is possible, profitable and can be done on a sustainable basis. Science is important to sound decision-making because forestry is long term. Linkages between government institutions, private sector, development partners, communities and farmers are of importance to realize the 10% tree cover,” said Tobiko.

Keriako was speaking during a stakeholder tour at Better Globe Forestry (BGF) in Kiambere.

More than 4500 small holder farmers in Embu and Kitui Counties have benefited from a joint commercial tree planting program supported by Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and Better Globe Forestry.

The program seeks to mitigate the adverse effects of hostile climatic conditions on communities living in arid and semi arid lands (ASAL).

“The environment is life and it contributes to economic development and livelihoods and has a direct correlation to health, water resources, energy, agriculture, food security as well as national, international and global security,” said Tobiko.

Speaking during the tour, BGF Managing Director Jean-Paul Deprins said many farmers were now engaging in various income-generating activities, through bio-enterprise using the trees or tree products, such as timber, fodder, apiculture, Fuel wood among others.

“Participating farmers obtain the seedlings of two drought-resistant tree species: Melia Volkensii (Mukau) and Acacia Senegal (Gum Arabica) from the BGF’s nursery, located within the Kiambere Plantation. The two species are indigenous, mukau produces high-quality timber like mahogany, and the acacias produce gum Arabic,” said Jean-Paul.

Also at the tour was KEFRI Acting Director Jane Njuguna.

“KEFRI will continue to play its key role in the development of appropriate forestry technologies, products and service for sustainable and environmental management. We are excited to be part of this impactful and innovative initiative,” said Jane.

In Kenya, 29 counties are classified as ASALS with over 60% of its inhabitants living below the poverty line.