Nairobi — The Ministry of Environment and Forestry Thursday extended a moratorium on logging which was set to lapse on Sunday, November 24.
The government first declared a moratorium on timber harvesting on February 24, 2018, Deputy President William Ruto announcing at the time that logging activities will stand suspended for three months.
Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko, following the declaration of a three-month moratorium at the time, gazatted a taskforce on February 26 headed by Green Belt Movement Chairperson Marion Wakanyi to review forestry management in the country.
The initial three-month moratorium was later extended by another six months and in November 2018, Tobiko declared a further extension by a year to facilitate reforms recommended by the Wakaynyi-led taskforce.
While declaring the 12-month extension effective Sunday, November 24, Tobiko Thursday said a multi-agency team will be constituted in the coming weeks to undertake "an independent mapping, verification and valuation of all mature and over mature forest plantations and submit its report to Government within four (4) months."
The announcement coming shortly after the Thursday cabinet meeting chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta is the latest in a raft of measures undertaken by government to conserve the country's forest cover which is estimated at 7 per cent.
In March 2018, the government launched an ambitious project aimed at doubling the forest cover to at least 15 per cent by 2022.
In order to achieve United Nations recommended threshold which requires a country to have at least 10 per cent of its landmass under forest cover, Tobiko said about a million trees will be planted annually in each of the 47 counties.
National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) estimates project some 235 million seedlings will have been planted by the year 2022 to realize the 15 per cent forest cover ambition.
The government has also vowed to proceed with the eviction of illegal settlers in the Mau forest, a key water catchment area, despite concerns over human rights violations.
Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna has repeatedly dismissed reports that the exercise was politically driven.
"The process of saving Mau has to go on and that is the position of the government. It will go on in a humane way and taking into consideration that there must be dignity in doing the eviction or relocation. It is legal and it will continue. That is government position," Oguna affirmed when he briefed journalist in September.
Senate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) had raised concern over the manner the evictions have been conducted asking the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to put adequate measures in place to ensure human rights are upheld.
"We are not opposed to the relocation of people nor the conservation of our forests but before we do that let us show them where they will go and compensate them," JLAC Chairperson Samson Cherargei in September while issuing summonses against Tobiko and KFS management.
Kenya is currently operating on 350 cubic meter per capita water deficit annually, studies putting the current water supply at 647 cubic meters per capita.
The globally recommended threshold is 1,000 cubic meters per capita.
The deficit is attributed to an alarming rate at which forest cover has been diminishing in the past.
According to the Kenya Natural Resources Alliance (KeNRA), the national forest cover grew from 5.3 per cent in 2013 to 7 per cent in 2017.