Policy documents do not recognize the problem of charcoal/fuelwood use as a cause of deforestation. The draft forest bill suggests that 10 out of the 350 Ksh. paid by urban dwellers for each bag of charcoal should go back to the forest areas, especially drylands, and be used for reforestation. Even this small step may need further fine-tuning before it can be implemented, however (Mwangi 2000).
5.3.3. Degazetting and encroachment
As noted, by far the most severe pressure on forests is their permanent conversion to agriculture. Recently, there has been a spate of illegal encroachments and excisions and this is seen as a precursor of official degazettment of forest reserves. As 2002 elections approach, this is expected to continue to be used as a short-term safety valve to calm populations clamoring for more agricultural land. The current Forest Act, CAP 385 permits the Minister to degazette forests areas with very little public notice. Fortunately the proposed Forest Bill makes excision procedure very cumbersome by introducing requirements such as undertaking of environmental impact assessment and final concurrence of the Parliament before excision takes place. In addition, the Bill makes a provision for a watchdog quasi-independent board to oversee such decisions (Mwangi 2000). The board may include institutions, such as the Kenya Forest Service, KWS, Moi University, and National Museums of Kenya. Observers anticipate policy statements to be implemented through the new bill which will be enacted by the end of the calendar year. Penalties for removal of forest products will also be higher, based on 10-50 percent of the market value – higher for higher value products (Mwangi 2000).
5.3.4. Forest productivity
Plantation forests in Kenya are generally very low yielding at the present time. Almost all plantation areas have been severely degraded, degazetted, and converted to agriculture, or just generally mismanaged. Kamweti (1999) postulates that if these areas were to be brought back under active and sustainable management at 30-year rotations, there would be 5,333 ha annually to be harvested. At an annual yield of 20m3/ha, total volume would be 600 m3 per ha at harvest or 3 million m3 from an area of 5,333 ha. At a royalty of Kshs.1000 per m3, income would be Kshs.3 billion. If the costs of establishing and maintaining a forested area are about 30 percent, a balance of Kshs.2 billion could be put back into forest conservation and the rest could go to the Treasury.
5.3.5. Relative severity of threat to forest resources in general.
If the pace of change and loss continues as today, the severity of threat to forest ecosystems and plantations is very severe indeed – possible disappearance within five years! Disappearance, however, is not the only difficulty with forest loss – there are inevitably also impacts on related ecosystems to consider. Through erosion and increased sedimentation of waterways, water catchment stability is the biggest potential impact on downstream ecosystems. Even today, deforestation in montane areas, such as the Aberdares, Mt. Kenya, and Mt. Elgon watersheds, is a serious threat to ecosystem health downstream (Kamweti 2000). Connections with energy needs in Kenya are a significant factor in deforestation and demand for wood products, and are inadequately addressed in the forestry sector.
How the new forestry law, once in place, will change the situation is unclear. Certainly, more power will be in the hands of local communities, District environmental officials, the private sector, and the NGO community to participate in decision-making about forest use, gazettement and degazettement, and other activities (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources 1999). How well it is enforced will determine its level of success.
5.4. Agricultural resources and land use
5.4.1. General statistics and trends.
Land is the most sought-after resource in Kenya. Land has deep cultural importance for Kenyans, and in the current economy, represents the only livelihood option for many. Sadly, agricultural
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