By Mercy Njane; Forestry Society of Kenya
A recent study stated that an addition of 2.2 billion acres of tree cover in the world will help capture up to two-thirds of the carbon in the atmosphere. Trees are said to be the best solution to mitigate climate change. However, the increasing population and the need for development is limiting the space that would otherwise be converted to forest lands. But what about the existing forests? What are the actual conditions of the forests in Kenya?
A number of the forests in the country are under pressure from increasing human population, to illegal logging and increased demand for fuelwood leading to increased deforestation. The forests are diminishing at an alarming rate and thus limiting their ability to provide ecosystem goods and services such as sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
Other than human activities, natural occurrences like wildfires have also threatened the forest ecosystems in the country. Demand for forest products and services has increased over the years exerting increasing pressure on the resource. Another current challenge facing the forests in Kenya is conversion to agricultural lands or for settlement and development purposes. This has jeopardised efforts made by the government and other institutions to conserve and protect our forests.
Kenya’s forest cover is at 7.2% of the total land area is below recommended forest cover of 10%. The percentage may, however, drop if action is not taken to stop illegal activities in the forest ecosystems.
The world is moving towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions to below 1.50c. To achieve this goal as a nation, there is a need to reclaim the forests lands. Forests are among the most effective tools that help in mitigating against the impact of climate change. The Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment and Forests recently stated that it will be impossible to reduce the temperature increase globally if the existing forests are not maintained, forest cover expanded, and conversion of forest lands to other land uses halted. forest. He further announced that Phase II of the Mau eviction will commence in order to manage the increased number of squatters and illegal settlers inhibiting the
As much as there is a need to increase forested areas and the trees globally, reforestation should first be conducted. The assigned forest lands should be restored and trees planted and managed well till they reach maturity. Most of the forest lands have been grabbed and converted to other land uses. If the natural forests and other forest lands are conserved first, then the forest cover in Kenya will increase.
Restoration of the existing degraded forests in the country will help in reducing the negative effects of climate change in Kenya. The number of trees added on the degraded lands will help sequester more carbon from the atmosphere a move that benefits not only Kenya but the globe as a whole.
Forest restoration will ensure there is an efficient supply of a wide range of ecosystem services and products that they provide to human beings, animals, and other biodiversity. Degradation of the forests limits their ability to provide the above services efficiently. For example, most forests, especially the natural forests are water catchment areas. They provide water that feeds the rivers and lakes in the country in this ensures there is enough water for activities such as hydropower generation.
Restoration of the forests will also ensure that the habitats of most of the biodiversity are protected and conserved. In the world today, the rate at which animals and birds are becoming extinct is astonishing. The destruction of their homes is one of the causes of extinction. Forest restoration will ensure that these species are protected and conserved. Forest restoration will aid in protecting and conserving ecosystems and also increase the ability of the forest ecosystems to sequester more carbon from the atmosphere.