The Nation (Nairobi)

4 April 2006

Kenya: Reclaim Stolen Forest Land

editorial

Nairobi — A new report on the status of Kenya's forests is alarming.

According to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Kenya is among the countries recording extremely high rates of forest cover loss.

The report indicates that globally, Africa suffered a net loss of forests exceeding 4 million hectares every year between 2000 and 2005.

Specifically, Kenya has been doing badly in regard to conservation. The country's forest cover has been diminishing at a faster rate.

While the world's recommended ratio is that a country should have at least 10 per cent of the land surface under forest cover, five or so years ago, Kenya had gone to low levels of under 3 per cent.

This worsened, and in recent times, the rating has gone below 2 per cent.

Unless this trend is checked, soon, the country will be bereft of forest cover, making ours the worst ecological system one can think of.

The reasons for the quick loss of forest cover range from a highly expanding population and the consequent need for more land for human settlement, agriculture and other economic activities, to sheer greed for timber.

But the worst thing is that a great deal of forest land was dished out by politicians to their loyalists, who in turn sold or cleared the land of natural vegetation.

The consequence of forest degradation is all too clear for everyone to see. Unpredictable weather patterns characterised by low rainfall, dying rivers, as well as extremely hot conditions which we have been witnessing in recent times, are harsh indicators of how the country's forest system has been destroyed.

What is Most unnerving, however, is that despite this challenge, there is stiff opposition to any effort to reclaim the lost forest land.

For example, there has been a strident campaign against those seeking to end the shamba system.

With the emerging evidence of the dangers that forest decimation portend, it is now time the drive to reclaim forests was put into top gear.

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