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Figure 1.  Land area under major forest types, 000 ha

(Source:  Data from Kamweti 1999. Note:  Dryland forests include grassy areas as forests if they have 10-40 percent woody plants.)

Kamweti (1999) notes that some common constraints facing indigenous forest types are:

High population pressure that puts enormous strains on limited resources

Inadequate involvement of local communities, including lack of incentives for local people to conserve indigenous forests

Limited alternative resources to offset pressure on forest resources

Low agricultural yields as a result of which forest land is encroached (i.e., excision to make room for food production)

The most severe threats noted include the need for fuelwood, as current population pressures on these resources make the level of extraction unsustainable (Mwangi 2000), and the permanent conversion of forests to agriculture, especially in marginal/low productivity areas.  As these are low productivity areas to begin with, they produce little, which drives further conversion. “Such extended cultivation has drastically reduced the once [wide] dispersal area of wildlife, with typical cases being the areas under wheat cultivation in Narok District and other new settlements around the Aberdares Forests.  Wildlife has as a result been confined to the protected forests and national park areas.  Degradation of protected areas, such as Tsavo National Park and the Aberdares National Parks, particularly at the Salient areas, are a result of wildlife confinement” (Kamweti 1999).  The failure of sustainable agroforestry practices to be successful on a national scale after decades of investment in research points to inadequate support for practical approaches and incentives for community woodlots, on-farm tree management, and private sector plantation management.

Kamweti’s (1999) conclusion from a perspective of several decades of forestry work in Kenya is that “most of the constraints are institutional in nature.” For example, although there is a national ban on cutting down indigenous forests, trees are illegally cut down anyway.  Part of the problem is the lack of political will to implement the policies and laws already in place.  They could also be greatly improved; a newly proposed Forest Bill, released in March 2000, bears the weight of many hopes for such improvement.  On-farm tree planting has increased; this may also be supported further once the bill becomes law.

5.3.2. Fuelwood and charcoal use

Out of the 22 million tons of wood products used every year in Kenya, 2 million tons are required for the country’s production of paper, construction, poles, etc.; 20 million tons are used for fuel.  Fuelwood use for domestic needs is increasing, according to Mwangi (2000).  He estimates that while in 1981 about 92 percent of domestic energy needs came from fuelwood and charcoal, in 2000 roughly 98 percent come from these sources.  In urban areas only 10 percent of the population use non-wood sources for fuel, thus 90 percent still require wood-based fuels transported and sold in urban areas.  As charcoal is lighter to transport, it is the more common fuel, despite its inefficient use of wood.  

Kara PagePage 2110/23/2006

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