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State at a crossroads as logging ban takes a toll on businesses

timber

We should co-ordinate mammoth plans to plant more trees to feed the economy with timbers. FILE PHOTO | NMG

WhatsApp Image 2020-09-22 at 13.20.40

Summary

  • When the government placed a moratorium on logging in public forests, it was aimed at protecting the existing forests as the country eyes to achieve its 10 percent cover by next year.
  • The target might have been realised according to reports of 2020 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) but it has emerged that it had socio-economic implications.

When the government placed a moratorium on logging in public forests, it was aimed at protecting the existing forests as the country eyes to achieve its 10 percent cover by next year.

The target might have been realised according to reports of 2020 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) but it has emerged that it had socio-economic implications.

According to the 2020 Economic Survey Report, the total public forest cover increased from 141,600 hectares in 2018 to 147,600 hectares in 2019 due to the ban on forest logging during the year.

The area planted during the period under review was 7,200 hectares, a decline from the 9,200 hectares in 2018. There was no area felled in 2019.

The report says the total sale of timber from public forests declined from 144,200 true cubic metres in 2018 to 10,700 true cubic metres in 2019.

The sale of softwood timber declined by 29,400 true cubic metres while hardwood timber sales declined to 9,200 true cubic metres down from 113,300 true cubic meters recorded in the previous period.

“The sale of fuelwood and charcoal declined by 78.1 percent while the sale of power poles from government forests dropped from 29,200 poles in 2018 to 13,200 poles in the review period. These declines in sale of forest products from government forests are attributable to the continued existence of moratorium imposed on logging of forest products,” reads the report.

However, Kenya lost Sh19 billion since the ban on logging came into effect in 2018, an analysis by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) has shown.

The ban on logging in community and public forests has also led to the loss of 44,000 jobs in the sector.

The Kefri estimates that since the ban it has lost Sh4 billion income loss, Sh10 billion loss due to machinery lying idle, as well as a Sh4 billion, which the Kenya Forest Service lost in revenue.

The agency further estimates that Kenya lost Sh1.04 billion in foreign exchange since it has been forced to import timber.

Kenya’s importation of timber, the Kefri says, has since shot up nine-fold, from 3,231.38 cubic metres to 29,355.39 cubic metres.

“The harvesting ban also led to the economic collapse of forest-dependent centres and communities, mostly around Maji Mazuri, Mau Summit, Elburgon, Molo, Makutano, Kaptagat, and Bukar,” Kefri chief executive Joshua Cheboiwo said in an analysis seen by the Business Daily.

THE BAN ALSO HAD RIPPLE EFFECTS IN OTHER SECTORS

Due to the ban, the Kefri found, the prices of timber have risen by 22.7 percent, that of fuelwood by 25.5 percent, charcoal by 40 percent, and the cost of treated poles is up 15.3 percent.

This has led to additional fuelwood expenditure of Sh1.3 billion by tea factories in Kenya, Sh3 billion by schools, and Sh46 million for tobacco curing. The biggest casualty of the increase in fuelwood prices, the analysis shows, was the charcoal consumers who took a Sh19.7 billion hit to cater to the increased cost.

Dr Cheboiwo called for an elaborate governance framework to promote sustainable management of the forest resource and enhance the attainment of the targeted 10 percent forest cover.

“The frequent bans undermine the investor confidence in the attainment of Big Four agenda of wood-based manufacturing, employment creation, and attainment of 10 percent tree cover aspirations through commercial plantations,” he said.

The construction and building industry consume more than 8 million cubic metres of timber annually, saving over Sh24 billion in imported timber products.

The timber industry is among the major contributors to national revenue. The North Rift region collects Sh663 million as royalties from forest products in the 2019/20 financial year.

But the sub-sector faces a bleak future due to an acute shortage of logs, pushing the cost of timber, which has impacted negatively the operations of the building and construction industry.

A spot check by the Business Daily revealed minimal operations as most of the trucks that have been transporting logs from the forest are off the road.

“I had to shift to different transport business after most of my clients — saw millers shut their operations and diversified to other trades,” said David Kosgei, truck operator in Eldoret.

The government last November partially lifted the ban on logging to allow harvesting and disposal of mature forests not exceeding 5,000ha.

“The harvesting and disposal of the forest plantation shall be oversight by a multi-agency team and done in a manner that is open, transparent, accountable, and ensures value for money,” said Cabinet secretary Ministry of Environment Keriako Tobiko in a statement.

The ban on logging has slowed down sawmilling, hurting the building and construction industry.

The scarcity of timber has pushed the prices of the products high and players in the industry have expressed fears that it will remain higher despite the partial lifting of the ban.

According to the KFS report, the cost of firewood goes for Sh1,000 per cubic metre while transmission pole wood is Sh1,200, which most farmers who have invested in commercial farm forestry consider being more profitable.

“Increased charcoal prices have ensured better returns to black wattle woodlot owners that realised an increase in price from Sh50,000 to Sh150,000 per hectare of well-stocked woodlots,” disclosed Wilson Chepkwony, a forestry expert.

The cost of charcoal has increased from Sh1,200 to Sh1,500 a bag in most parts of the North Rift due to a shortage of logs following the government moratorium in public forests.

The cost of timber has also increased from Sh20,000 to more than Sh30,000 per tonne, bringing a huge financial windfall to farmers who have ventured into private forestry.

The farmers have been asked to grow and manage trees like other land use enterprises to earn higher returns from the products.

“The profitability of farm forestry is dictated by various factors including demand and supply and changing market conditions for alternative crops and farmers need to exercise proper management practices to earn better profits,” says Jackson Chepkwony, a community forester in Uasin Gishu.

The KFS is reaching out to Community Forest Association saw millers and farmers invest in commercial farm forestry to increase the country’s forest cover to 10 percent.

At the same time, Kenya requires Sh6.2 trillion for the next 10 years in its initiative to combat climate change even as the government embarks on aggressive afforestation programs to attain international forest cover.

The country requires Sh620 billion annually- Sh180 billion for mitigation and Sh440 billion for adaptation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 percent.

Environment PS Chris Kiptoo says can raise only 13 percent of the amount and will depend on donors to achieve the remaining 87 percent.

“The funding is not only meant for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry but it will also go to all the government sectors, even infrastructure. You need resilient infrastructure, water, irrigation among others and as a ministry, we shall get a small portion to deal with issues of forestry. This money we have to raise internationally,” he said.


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