By Christian Benard

“Increasing Commercial Forestry in public, private, community as well as arid and semi-arid lands will contribute to attainment of 10% tree cover by Kenya government while also creating employment and income generation across the value chain,” Said Dr. Joshua Cheboiwo, Chief Research Officer and Director, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI).

“Africa is endowed with a large diversified natural resource and therefore should promote intra country trade and investments to create employment, generation of incomes and overall continental economic development.”

He was speaking at Kenya’s first Commercial Forestry Investment Conference and Expo held in Nairobi which provided a platform among commercial forestry stakeholders including producers, traders, researchers, policy makers, academia, financial institutions to exchange knowledge and experience, and to suggest future policy direction to improve the performance of forest cover in Kenya and the African region

The Chief Conservator of Forests, Kenya Forests Service, Julius Kamau said that sustainable expansion of plantation forestry in Africa if executed per global best practices, has the potential of addressing both climate change mitigation and adaptation in line with national priorities.

“Plantations can support local biodiversity, reduce soil degradation and improve water quality, all of which greatly benefit local communities that likely lack the resources to manage natural resources,” he said.

With the Kenyan population projected to increase from the current 47.6 million (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2019) to over 80 million in 2050 (World Bank 2010), such an increase in population will translate to increased demand for forestry products in order to support other sectors of the economy such as timber, fuel wood and charcoal.

With regards to this, Kamau said: “We should strive to expand sustainable forest cover in order to secure the future. Sustainable forestry practices through investment schemes that integrate responsible resource use is one way that profit-oriented businesses and afforestation objectives can be aligned.”

Nellie Oduor, a research scientist at KEFRI urged on the need to promote value addition of tree products for enhanced livelihoods and industrial development.

“About 42% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is from natural resource-based sector with forests alone contributing about 36%. In order to produce energy for industrial processes and domestic use, materials for building and construction, and environmental services, everyone has to take responsibility,” she said.

The conference was organized by a Multi-Institutional Team from both private and public sectors that encompasses The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, KEFRI, Kenya Forest Service, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, United Nations Development Program, The Cooperative Bank, Base Titanium Limited among other key partners.

There were also exhibitions where various innovations, technologies, products and services in Commercial Forestry were showcased to members of the public thus creating a marketing opportunity as well interactions.

Kenya is expected to make progressive strides in Commercial Forestry investment as a result.