5 April 2006

Kenya: Forest Department to Become Autonomous

Nairobi — The Government is turning the Forest Department into an autonomous body to save the country's shrinking forest cover.

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) board will be in place in six months, the Environment Permanent Secretary George Krhoda said yesterday.

The transformation of the department is in line with the Forest Act 2005, which expanded the department's mandate.

Prof Krhoda made the announcement yesterday when the Environment minister Prof Kivutha Kibwana launched a committee to facilitate the reforms.

In his speech read by the PS, Kibwana said Forest Act 2005 would take care of all forest and woodlands on State, local authority and private land.

The Act provides for the establishment, development, and sustainable management of the country's forest resources.

Krhoda said that without adequate reforms, Kenya risked losing its forest resources in five years under siege by "ad hoc, uncoordinated, and incoherent management".

Kenya's forest cover stands at 1.7 per cent against 9.7 per cent in the 1980s, which was below the minimum recommended 10 per cent for any country.

He said reforms at the ministry were in response to public demand, admitting that there have been deficiencies in handling forest resources.

In the reforms, the Government would "empower the communities" and concession industrial forests to the private sector to manage and take over roles like tree planting.

He said the reforms were meant to open room for public participation and scrutiny of ministry programmes.

The PS said the some institutions were secretive and did not open themselves to monitoring, limiting stakeholder participation.

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