By Saumu Juma

Provision of data has been a major challenge facing the Kenya Forests Service (KFS) but efforts are ongoing to ensure accuracy and availability of the data, the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), KFS, Julius Kamau said at the Kenya Commercial Forestry Investment Conference and Expo organized by Kenya Forestry and Research Institute (KEFRI).

Kamau said that KFS has a Forest Resource Information Management System which is working towards ensuring that there is enough data for the public.

“We have the Forest Resource Information Management System. I don’t think there’s possibly any other government agency that has so much investment in the platform for this”, Kamau said, noting that very soon the service will provide more information.

Julius Kimani at the KEFRI conference

The CCF added that there is a file that manages scenarios of forest fires by getting alerts on where fires are likely to happen through satellite imageries and they channel resources to that area before it happens.

However, Kamau said that the issue of accountability and full disclosure of data as demanded by the public is hindered because it is sometimes difficult to acquire data from their partners and therefore, delays will be experienced.

“Sometimes getting data with the full disclosure from partners is not very easy because most of it touches on the bottom line which is funding or mostly profit not losses. But as a government and a Kenya Forest Service, we are trying to make sure that the data is available”, he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) National Facilitator Forests Farm Facility, Philip Kisoyan added that illegal activities such timber movement has posed as a challenge to acquiring data because that wood is not accounted for.

Kisoyan added that when the statistics are accurate then it is going to be a contributing factor towards a success in the forestry sector.

“The contribution of forests is under valued because we don’t have the statistics. If we have these statistics of the contribution of the forests to the economy, then we can get a better budget for the forest sector in the country. We have the information and capacity to develop these foresters”, Kisoyan said.

Judy Ndichu, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Kenyan representative agreed that the private sector rarely participates in providing data on forestry because of policy gaps such as high taxation and uncoordinated policies which stop it from thriving.