Author Archives: kenyaforests

Focus:Our attention is needed back!

Not too soon ago, the focus of our media was on Mau then ringera and now maybe something else is come,are we not gambling?is the kenyan media serious or taking attention of the real issues?i have only learnt that, if your content is not political then the media moght as well not even recognise your presence.

Just the other day, the Eawls gave a press conference that highlited the other areas of conservation besides Mau that needed to be focused, but only one media station highlited the issues.

One of the issues being the use of Furadan, a pesticide that was banned in America but still used in kenya.The pestcide is killing wild life and  threatening pollination of plants which is a primary process that farmers depend on for yields.They also brought up the issues of drying lakes like Naivasha .The wetlands have  also been  destroyed, an issue that has not been focused well.

With all this issues of grave concern,but still the media is not talking.Who is left to help?shoud we feed the information to a politician for it to be news?don’t we have journalists with environmental concerns?We forget so easly and the opinion shapers and those who set the agenda fro the country should not sit and watch innocent kenyans perish.

by naftal nyabuto

Community nominations to conservation committees complete

Kenya’s 10 forest conservancies now have community representation to the Forest Conservation Committees (FCC). The process of getting representatives from Community Forest Associations (CFAs) was completed in the three remaining conservancies – North Eastern, Ewaso North and Nyanza.

On 8 April 2009, a CFAs and Community Based Organizations (CBO) election forum was held for North Eastern Conservancy at Nomads Hotel, Garissa. This forum brought together CBO and CFA representatives from the four (older) districts of Garissa, Ijara, Wajir and Mandera. This was the last of the election forums.

Four qualified persons were elected for appointment to the FCC: KHATRA YAKUB (Women representative from Garisa), ADEN YUSUF (Youth representative from Ijara), ALI ABDI (Mandera), and OMAR ABDULAHI (Wajir)

The election provided information on all aspects of the FCCs formation process and a forum to explore issues related to FCC formation. In particular, issues of CFAs representation, community level umbrella body, and establishing linkages between different levels of stakeholders and communities were discussed.

Youth groups receive Equator Award

On Wednesday 18 March 2009, the Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Professor Helen Sambili presented the Equator Initiative Award to two community groups – Kijabe Environment Volunteers and the Kwetu Training Centre from Kilifi at a colourful event at the KENVO resource centre in Kimende. The prize – awarded globally to a total of 25 winners – was given to the two groups to recognize and celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. Kenvo provides local communities with the information, education, and resources they need to advance environmentally friendly businesses, while Kwetu trains local community members of the Kilifi District in conservation activities that also generate income, focusing on unemployed youth, women, and fishermen.

While lauding the efforts of the groups Prof. Sambili asked other youth to follow their example, adding that mankind has a short time to convert what has been destroyed within our environment. The Minister was accompanied to the festivities by Mr Aeneas Chuma UNDP Resident Representative and Dr. Chris Gakahu also of UNDP, and the MP for Lari, and was received by the local community, youth groups from the area and past winners of the Award. The Award carries a monetary value of USD 5000 each, which the Ministry of Youth Affairs boosted with Kshs 50,000 for each group. Mr Chuma said that the groups had made Kenya proud by being part of the twenty five winners drawn from 310 nominations globally.


David Kuria of Kenvo (right) shows Prof. Sambili (centre) round the exhibition. In the picture is Mr. Chuma UNDP Resident Rep. (to the left of the Minister) and the MP for Lari (extreme left).

Below, part of the exhibition.


Vote the earth: Earth Hour 2009


From WWF:
On 28 March 2009 at 20:30 local time, wherever you are, WWF is aiming to mobilize one billion people in 1,000 cities in 100 countries to switch off their lights for one hour. Earth Hour 2009 will represent the largest-ever global vote, and will send a uniquely powerful message to world leaders on the need for urgent, concerted action to combat climate change.

This mass mobilization of people through Earth Hour will carry through to the negotiators and decision-makers meeting to discuss the new Global Climate Deal in Copenhagen at the UN Climate Summit in December. The message is that the world demands a just, effective and science-based Global Climate Deal – and will not accept failure.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, when 2.2 million people participated. In 2008, this grew to more than 50 million people in 371 cities in 35 countries. At the beginning of March, the Earth Hour team has already received commitments from double the number of cities and countries with more coming on daily. There is a huge and growing mobilization of people worldwide who will participate in Earth Hour.

I ask that you look at ways you might mobilize individuals, communities, schools, companies, faith groups and urban areas in your region to join Earth Hour. There are tools and ideas on in a variety of languages, and support is available from both the Earth Hour Global team and WWF International.

We recognize that in some countries the idea of switching lights off may not be as straightforward as in some developed countries. If this is an issue I encourage you to be creative and find appropriate ways to join the global vote! For example, one WWF office in Africa will stage an event with the local community at a school using renewable energy.

I particularly urge you to use your networks to encourage local participation. Find ways to maximise local participation.

Earth Hour is a WWF creation, with a global reach-out, and will be followed in the nine months to the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen with a continued focus on the fact that one billion people are calling on government leaders to act responsibly and agree a just, effective, science-based Global Climate Deal.

For more information on how to participate and be counted, visit, Vote Earth, and help world leaders see the light!

For activities in Kenya, select Kenya on the website. Come on Kenya, join us for Earth Hour 2009, turn off your lights at 8.30pm Saturday 28 March and sign-up at

Kenya: Atlas of our Changing Environment

UNEP has a new atlas on the environment and its contribution to Kenya’s economy and Vision 2030. According to UNEP, this Atlas does two unique things:kenyatlas-cover.jpg

• it assesses Kenya’s progress towards its own goals of improving the environment to achieve development goals; and
• it delivers a stunning bird’s-eye view of environmental change through the use of paired satellite images taken years apart.


In the first case, it demonstrates that the social and economic pillars of Kenya’s development plan, Vision 2030, need to be built on a solid foundation of environmental sustainability. Similarly, it teases out the links between the environment and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), showing how the 7th goal, environmental sustainability, underpins them all. In its second unique contribution, the Atlas contains an array of visual tools, including dozens of current and historical remote sensing images, 65 maps, and 229 photographs, that help scientifically document site-specific environmental change at 30 locations across
the country.

The atlas is available for download here where you can also read more about the atlas in the press release. The file is however very huge and a little impractical for the average download speeds in Kenya. Try downloading by chapters. : ,
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Paradise in peril

If one went into the Baawa part of Kirisia forest in Samburu, on would be tempted to think they are in paradise. Hardly five minutes into the forest, we encountered a herd of elephants (one is barely visible in the photo below). We were told that had we stayed longer into the evening and waited for the herders to leave with their animals, the elephants would have moved closer. We would also have seen buffaloes, and, if we were lucky, leopards. Earlier on a member of the community group we had been meeting with excitedly described the forest as paradise. I could see he had not exaggerated.


But we could see that this paradise might not last.

As we left, hundreds of domestic animals (sheep, goats and cattle) were leaving the forest. The Samburu have traditionally depended on the forest for grazing. But the herds have multiplied and the population has grown exerting a lot of pressure on the forest. The Kenya Forest Service is currently not charging any fee for grazing, unlike in other forests in Kenya, for instance in the Aberdares where communities there have been forced to reduce their cattle and collect grass for zero grazing instead of letting the animals into the forest.


Nevertheless, Baawa seems to be one of the most intact parts of Kirisia forest. In other areas such as Ngari and Tamioi the forest is very degraded. In the 1980’s, a forest fire destroyed large parts of the Kirisia. The area was not closed to grazing and was not allowed to regenerate. There has also been illegal poaching of the African Pencil Cedar, the dominant species in this forest, for charcoal. The KFS reported spending a lot of time and resources to contain the destruction.

Now, communities surrounding this forest have organised themselves and are in the process of forming a CFA to help in management and conservation of the forest. Hopefully this will go some way in keeping this paradise alive.


Some steal, some labor, some buy

We complain about it, we pretend not to use it (while picking our teeth after eating nyama choma cooked with it), we castigate those who burn and sell it, and sympathies with the masses that need it. Charcoal: the outcast in Kenya’s energy family.

But who is the charcoal producer?

In this  post, we re-visit Murefu Barasa’s description of the known four types of producer.

First is the notorious and elusive ‘sneak and snip’ producer who poaches trees from gazetted government forest and other protected areas. When one mentions charcoal, this type of producer if often what a majority visualize in mind. However, our forest cover is less than 2% and so there cannot be many of theseacross the country considering much of the land in Kenya (nearly 80%) is categorized as arid and semiarid (ASAL). These producers are concentrated in districts that border or encompass forest reserves, for example Nakuru, Kakamega, Nyeri, Malindi districts.treburnt.jpg

Photo: Burnt tree in Maasai Mau, cleared to make way for farms

Second, is the ‘sideline’ producer. Unlike the ‘sneak and snip’, production is done in the ASAL areas and more specifically on large scale privately owned ranches. These producers are often labourers in the ranches and are allowed by the owners to use some of the trees for charcoal as pay for their services or incentives. This is common in Taita Taveta, Trans Mara, Makueni districts. Charcoal is not the primary source of income for these producers but takes up a supplementary role. Under this category also lie the charcoal producers in ASAL areas who make charcoal as a drought coping mechanism for example in Kitui, Turkana, Baringo and West Pokot districts.

Third is the ‘salvage’ producer, similar to the sideline as they both operate in ASAL areas. However, the salvage producer uses trees or shrubs that will otherwise have been discarded as waste. Prior to the booming charcoal production in Narok district, landowners used to burn all the vegetation on their land in readiness for cultivation. This has since changed and now salvage charcoal producers are invited to do the clearance. Production is high with yields of up to 50 bags per run. Another example is Garissa, where the controversial Prosopis shrub has taken over pasture land. While some clear this ‘weed’ freeing up land for their livestock, others use the same for charcoal production with amazing success. Salvage producers also visit areas that have been excised for human settlement and use the felled trees for charcoal and so are often wrongly accused of clearing forests for charcoal and yet the clearance is primarily for human settlement and agriculture, charcoal production being an after thought.

Fourth is the ‘sow and reap’ producer. These are few, and mostly found in the high potential areas for example Bungoma, Lugari, Meru North, Nyando districts. Production is low, often less than five bags per round as they obtain the raw materials from standing stock as opposed to felled trees. Often only branches are used through pruning.

And therefore as we consider further the charcoal debate, we can say that no one can dispute totally banning the ‘sneak and snip’ producer and perhaps we can all agree on strengthening the ‘sideline’ producer and the ‘sow and reap’.

This post is part of an article initially written for the KFWG newsletter after the National Charcoal Survey carried out in 2005.

KFS is in the process of writing, for gazettement, the charcoal rules and regulations. They will give guidance on charcoal production.

Perfumery sends Sandalwood numbers down

Kenya is losing the Sandalwood tree (Osyris lanceolata) to illegal harvesting. The harvesting – initially reported in the Chyulu hills – seems to have escalated and has now been reported in Kajiado, Taita, Amboseli and surrounding ranches, Samburu, Koibatek, and Kikuyu Escarpment and many other areas. In most areas it’s being harvested without much control.

Sandalwood is exploited for its essential oils used in perfumery. The heartwood of the trunk, main branches and roots contain an essential oil. The oil blends so well and with many fragrance materials that it has become a common blender-fixative used in countless perfumes.

The problem first existed along the Kenyan-Tanzania border, with most of the exploitation occurring in the Chyulu hills where the tree still grows in abundance compared to the other areas.

The tree grows to a height of 1-6m, but it’s the roots that are most favored. The essential oil concentration is highest in the roots, followed by the trunk. The tree is dioecious (male and female on separate trees) and the female is most preferred as it is said to have a better quality of heartwood.

Under normal conditions young trees grow slowly, only gradually developing a core of heartwood. Uprooting the tree is therefore seriously depleting its numbers. As the tree is also parasitic and regenerates via shoots from exposed roots, this mode of harvesting will undermine regeneration.

It is believed that the tree is being traded in Tanzania. The sharp rise in extraction in Kenya is linked to over exploitation coupled by strict surveillance in Tanzania. The tree is being harvested in Kenya and exported through various undisclosed routes to Tanzania. After value addition (semi processing) the products are re-exported to Indonesia, India, South Africa, France, Germany and eastern Asia countries for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry.

A taskforce of government institutions was formed to look into the harvesting and trade of sandalwood. In its preliminary survey report it says that poverty in the areas where this species occur is an underlying factor that might make the fight against the illegal trade difficult to win.

Communities in these areas are living under extreme poverty and are ready to undertake any kind of business to earn a livelihood, even when they are being exploited. For example, communities around Chyulu National Park earn KShs 4 to KShs 7 for every kilo harvested, which the middleman sells at Kshs 80 Per kilo. Successful intervention measures therefore would have to address poverty, and other sources of livelihood.

Propagation of the tree is also being researched at by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute. For now surveillance is being stepped up and appeals have been made to relevant authorities, such as the Kenya Ports Authority, to block the points of exit.

This post first appeared in an issue of KFWG’s Misitu News.

KENVO wins Equator Prize

Kijabe Environment Volunteers a long time member of KFWG is one of the 25 winners of the prestigious Equator Prize for 2008. The Equator Prize is awarded biennially to recognize and celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The winners were selected from a total pool of 310 nominations from 70 nations.

For more information on the Award see the Equator prize website 

“Pass my congratulations to KENVO”, said a KFWG member in an email on learning about KENVO’s win, “It is quite encouraging to hear of such recognition. This shows that they have made an impact which is well above the normal performance. We would like KENVO to share [information] on the initiatives that have rendered this. Well done and keep it up.” Peter Kiptanui, a member of a South Nandi bidoveristy group added, “you are not alone in this moment of joy, so many of us are following in your footsteps and this is [just] a big footprint”.

The Equator prize is a fitting recognition of KENVOs work in and around the Kereita forest. KENVO has been largely responsible for educating the public on the usefulness of the forest and other forests in the Kikuyu escarpment. They have rehabilitated parts of the forest, organized annual tree planting events that involve schools, churches and the community in addition to core projects that the group carries out. You can read more on KENVOs activities on their site here

We add our voice to that of our members and say, “Hongera!”, well done…


Eight community management plans get nod from Government

The Kenya Forest Service has approved eight forest management plans developed by communities. The plans will enable these eight communities, grouped into community forest associations, to co-manage specific areas of forest currently managed exclusively by the KFS. This type of management commonly referred to as Participatory Forest Management has been approved by the Forests Act 2005. The forests which have had their community plans approved are Eburru, Ngare Ndare, Rumuruti, Ngangao, Mukogodo, Kitobo, Mbololo-Mwambirwa and Kasighau.


One of the key features of the plans is an outline of income generating and conservation and protection activities that the community wishes to carry out at a specific site. These may include raising of seedlings and tree planting, bee keeping for honey, ecotourism development, fish farming, training of community scouts to work alongside forest guards among other things. It is important to note that although management plans have been approved, KFS is yet to enter into agreements with these communities for activities to commence.