For many years now, the State has been consistent in conveying its intention to raise the country’s forest cover to the globally recommended minimum of 10 percent.
And whether showcasing school-based initiatives or community tree planting projects sponsored by corporate firms and government agencies, the plan on paper has been solid and elaborate.
On the ground, however, things have not been changing as fast.
The forest cover has continued to decline. Last year, the environment ministry put the country’s forest cover at 7.4 percent implying a mismatch between the lofty plans and action.
To illustrate the extent of this problem, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), with primary mandate of expanding area under trees, has alarmingly cut its investment in conservation efforts, according to the Auditor-General’s latest report.
The review of KFS’s books for the year to June 30, 2018 shows the agency raked in Sh2.7 billion from its tree plantations, but only committed an equivalent of five percent of the revenue on forest restoration.
The report shows that KFS spent a paltry Sh124.3 million out of which Sh67.7 million was for seeds and seedlings and Sh56.6 million for tree planting activities.
It is worth noting that the astronomical revenue was earned over the same period that the country had passed with a logging ban, something that should have refocused KFS’ attention to its tree planting mission.
Sadly, the high prices of timber that greeted the two-year ban, and the resulting public outcry, made no noticeable change on the attitudes of KFS officials. We have since been made aware of another grand, five-year Sh18 billion forest restoration plan hatched by the Environment ministry.
The plan, which is before the Presidential Delivery Unit for funding consideration, may just turn out to be another false start if officials don’t change tack.
Let KFS lead by example and match all the official talk on tree planting with action. If the high prices of timber-based products fail to nudge us to action now, the disappearing water catchment areas will expose future generations to great peril.