A rising demand for wood products continues to frustrate Kenya’s efforts to attain the UN recommended minimum forest cover of 10 per cent by 2020.
Data from the World Bank indicates that Kenya currently has a forest cover of 7.8 per cent, representing a total of 44,130 square kilometres.
A high consumption of wood products however frustrates the efforts aimed at bridging the shortfall in the minimum forest cover amid an upsurge in illegal logging.
Projection by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) shows that the demand for wood products is set to increase sharply by 2032 with poles likely to witness the fastest growth at 58.2 per cent, building timber(43.2 per cent), firewood (16.1per cent) and charcoal 17.8 (per cent).
The overall supply of wood products is however projected to grow slower than the demand, increasing the deficit by 26.5 per cent to 13,064,250 square metres by 2032.
According to KFS, the country currently has a wood supply potential of 31.4 million square metres against a demand of 41.7 million square metres.
Timber surplus is set to decrease by 7.4 per cent while that of the poles will go down by four per cent by 2032.
The growing rural population and urban poor is also expected to push up the demand for charcoal and firewood.
Because of the rising demand, firewood and charcoal deficit is projected to increase by 18.3 per cent and 19.1 per cent respectively.
In the last four years, the country has increased tree cover by 5.3 per cent, according to the World Bank. The area under forest increased from 43,266 square kilometres to 44,130 square kilometres in 2015.
Counties in Mt Kenya and Rift Valley regions account for the largest areas under forest cover. The lake region is the least forested despite receiving sufficient rainfall annually compared to northern counties.
According to the Kenya Data Open 2015, Isiolo is the most forested county with 53.45 per cent compared to Kisumu with 0.44 per cent of land under trees.
Following Isiolo, is Nyeri County with 38 per cent of its area under forest cover while Kirinyaga has 20.6 per cent, whereas Nyandarua and Meru counties have 18.44 per cent and 18.3 per cent respectively. Counties in the Rift Valley are also heavily forested with Elgeyo Marakwet having 37.4 per cent ot its land under trees. Nandi and Baringo have 26.2 per cent and 25.1 per cent cover respectively.
Other counties with low forest cover are Mombasa, Siaya, Busia, Migori, Kisii, and Vihiga.
Nairobi City, the smallest county in size but with the highest population, has 7.78 per cent of its land mass under trees.
Garissa has 7.09 per cent compared to Mandera’s 3.04 per cent, which is better than some counties in the lake region that receive average rainfall throughout the year.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data on national population census, 64.6 per cent of households rely on wood fuel, putting a strain on the country’s forest cover.
In East Africa, Rwanda is the only country that has increased tree cover over the last two decades. The data from the World Bank reveals that the country has increased its forest area by 6.6 per cent from 12.9 per cent in 1990.
Tanzania has the largest area under forest cover with 52 per cent of its land mass covered by trees. Burundi has 11.3 per cent and Uganda 10.4 per cent.
Kenya lost a huge chunk of its forest cover in the 1980s and 90s. Between 1990 and 2005 Kenya lost five per cent of forest cover, an average of 12,600 hectares per year, due to human settlement, illegal logging, corruption, unsustainable use of woods products and poverty.
The government targets 10 per cent forest cover by 2020 and 15 per cent by 2022. As part of efforts to meet the target, the government through the Kenya Forest Service has put over 400,000 hectares of degraded public land under forestry.
Through the tree planting exercise launched early this month by Environment secretary Keriako Tobiko, the government aims at planting over one million trees annually in all the 47 counties.