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Table 6.  Kenya, neighboring countries: forest resource profiles

Country

Forest and Other Wooded Land 1990 Extent (000 ha)

Forest Area

Total Forest

Natural Forest

Plantation Forest

1990 Extent (000 ha)

Annual % Change (1981-90)

1990 Extent (000 ha)

Annual % Change (1981-90)

1990 Extent (000 ha)

Annual % Change (1981-90)

Kenya

16,816

1,305

0

1,187

-1

118

2

Uganda

16,023

6,366

-1

6,346

-1

20

0

Tanzania

68,497

33,709

-1

33,555

-1

154

13

All Greater Horn Ctrs. (Region)

231,807

100,270

NA

99,402

NA

868

NA

(Source: Adapted from Veit, ed. 1998, p. 423.)

Local importance of Kenya's forests.  This mostly arid country relies heavily on its forests as the only protector of its critical water catchment areas.  According to Kamweti (1999), "net sustainable benefits from indigenous forests are in the order of Kshs. 1 billion" (about US$13.9 million) annually.  He adds that potential resources from plantation forests could triple that amount, if conditions were right.  Local subsistence use of forest resources may add yet more to this total, if calculated.  Although efforts were made for this assessment to find studies quantifying national or local economic impacts of forest and other resource degradation, the consensus among key informants was that such linkages are yet to be well researched.  Nevertheless, it is clear that loss of watershed protection alone endangers agricultural production and hydroelectric power systems, and therefore has significance for Kenya’s national economy as a whole.  

Forests also provide significant cultural and subsistence resources for the Kenyan people.  The Kaya forests of the coast are small but important patches of lowland forest, now protected by local custom for sacred ceremonies of nearby villages.  Sadly, even this protection does not guarantee their safety, however.  Tree poaching and clearcutting were recently discovered in a raid in Kwale District, where large and small trees suitable for carving and building were destroyed (Nation 2000).  In a country suffering from such extremes of poverty, however, it is hardly surprising.

General Facts. Forests are under enormous pressure in many countries, providing the only source of available land for farming and resources for fuel for rural migrants.  Kamweti (2000) estimates that if forest degradation in drylands and gazetted areas continues as it is today, Kenya’s forests will disappear within three to five years.  Forests – comprising montane forests, coastal forests, dry woodlands, plantations, and rain forests – cover only 2.1 percent of the total land area.  Much of this area (1.64 million ha) has been gazetted – protected in forest reserves – in varying amounts: indigenous (1.06 million ha); plantation (0.16 million ha); and lowland (0.42 million ha) areas are protected.  This protection is critical for keeping the remaining forests intact, as they occur largely in densely populated-high potential agricultural areas, covering 10 percent of the land in that zone (Kamweti 1999). Other protected indigenous forest occurs in national parks and reserves.  

Kara PagePage 2010/23/2006

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