By Faith Atieno

Kenya has launched its first Commercial Forestry Investment Conference and Expo held at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) headquarters. The theme for the four-day conference is Commercial forestry investment for wealth creation, enhancing manufacturing, food security, health and attainment of 10% tree Cover in Kenya.

Forests have critical ecological, social, cultural and economic functions. They contribute to both the national and local economies through revenue generation with an estimate of 3.6 percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

According to KEFRI, the Kenyan population is projected to increase to over 80 million people in 2050. With this rapidly growing population and infrastructural development, the demand of wood products especially engineered wood and furniture is projected to increase exponentially against a diminishing resource base thus a dire need to secure sustainable forest.

According to experts at the forum, commercial forestry has the potential to bridge the wood deficit of 10.3 million cubic meters and increase the forest cover.

To tackle this, planting commercial trees should not only happen on the public land but also private and community land as well as the Arid and Semi-arid lands (ASALs)-which cover about 80 percent of Kenyan land.

The Conference and Expo is an opportunity for stakeholders in the commercial forestry sector in the country and the region to educate the public as well as showcase exhibit the technologies and opportunities that investors tap into.

The forum brings together the national and county government, timber industries and merchants, Non-governmental and development partners, Tree Growers Association, investors, financial institutions among other key players in the industry.

Moreover, the expo demonstrates the contribution of the sector to the economy that has for a long time been under-valued as it show cased various forests and tree products.

With an increase uptake of voluntary carbon projects assorted,  ratification of Paris Agreement and COP26 Glasgow decisions, the conference provides an opportunity to reflect on the foundations for future development and financing of commercial forestry in the country and the region at large hence, ensuring a forest sustainability.

Being the first of its kind, the Conference aims to upscale commercial forestry in the country that will contribute to its attainment of 10 percent tree cover by 2022.

According to KEFRI, improving the performance of the sector will not only contribute to reducing the wood supply deficit in the country but also create jobs along the value chain, raise incomes, increase tax revenues as well as contribute to the achievement of the Government’s Big 4 agenda through boosting manufacturing and affordable housing