The Forest Sector is key to Kenya’s social and economic wellbeing as most of the country’s economic sectors rely on environmental-based resources for their sustenance.
The Sector contributes about Kenya Shillings 7 billion to the economy and employs over 50,000 people directly and another 300,000 indirectly. Forest ecosystems also enhance landscape resilience to climate change.
In the country’s water towers, forests provide environmental services that include water quality and quantity, reduction of soil erosion, and creation of micro-climatic conditions that maintain or improve productivity.
Forests are also known to be among the most effective sinks of greenhouse gases, which cause climate change, and hence they are important in contributing to climate change mitigation.
Kenya’s forest cover is estimated to be about 7.4 percent of the total land area, which is a far cry from the recommended global minimum of 10 percent.
Kenya’s closed canopy forest cover currently stands at about 2 percent of the total land area, compared to the African average of 9.3 percent and a world average of 21.4 percent. Most of the closed-canopy forests in Kenya are montane forests that are also the nation’s water towers.
In recent years, Kenya’s forests have been depleted at an alarming rate of about 5,000 hectares per annum. This is estimated to lead to an annual reduction in water availability of approximately 62 million cubic meters, translating to an economic loss to the economy of over USD 19 million.
The depletion has the potential to rollback strides towards the attainment of Vision 2030 and the Government’s Big Four Agenda of food and nutritional security, affordable and decent housing, universal healthcare, and manufacturing if it is not urgently addressed.
One way to conserve forests, promote healthy living, and cut down on respiratory diseases is to encourage Kenyans to embrace the use of energy-saving jikos. Energy-saving jikos not only preserve the environment but also reduce costs.
According to Burn Manufacturing, the company has managed to help customers save more than 197 million dollars on fuel since 2013. The Jikokoa brand maker says the company has also managed to save more than 3.5 million tons of wood. At the same time, the company has helped reduce 6.2 million tons of harmful carbon dioxide emissions and benefited at least 4.3 million people.