We SAY NO to the proposed amendment to the Forest Act

Why do members of parliament want to condemn Kenya and the world to an unbearably hot future by weakening the Forest Act?

 Nature Kenya OBJECTS to the proposed amendment to the Forest Conservation and Management Act contained in an amendment Bill 2021 published by Moses Cheboi, Chairperson of the Procedures and Rules Committee.

 According to the existing law a forest boundary can only be amended based on stakeholder consultations, environmental impact assessment report and recommendations to parliament by the Kenya Forest Service. The proposed amendment isseeking to take away the powers of the Kenya Forest Service. Instead, it allows anyone to petition for a boundary change to the Clerk of the National Assembly.

The world is burning and forests are one tool to reduce the heat. It is dangerous to weaken the laws that protect our forests. It is dangerous to entrust the remaining forests to parliamentarians alone. World nations just agreed in the 2021 Climate Change meeting (CoP 26) to protect, conserve and increase tropical forests in order to reduce climate change. Kenya promised to halt deforestation by 2030.

Removing Kenya Forest Service from decisions on forest boundaries is ill advised, ill-timed and will expose Kenya’s forests to greedy individuals whose actions could damage Kenya's water catchment areas, hydro-electricity, irrigated food and thereby human well-being and economic development.

Nature Kenya – the East Africa Natural History Society – strongly OBJECTS to the proposed amendment to repeal section 34 (2A) of the Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016. It reads:

 A petition under subsection (1) shall only be forwarded to the National Assembly on the recommendation of the Service (Kenya Forest Service”.

This MUST be kept in the forest law.

We urgently urge Kenyans to SAY NO to this amendment bill! 

Reasons for Nature Kenya’s Objection:

  1. Deletion of section 34 (2A) will reverse the gains made over the past 15 years in restoring our public forests and water catchment areas. This compromises the protection of these forests, denying Kenyans access to forest goods and services that are critical to their survival.
  2. Amendment will reduce the forests land size contrary to the government's forest land reclamation policy that seeks to increase tree cover.
  3. The amendment is detrimental to forest conservation efforts in Kenya. This includes the implementation of the National Tree Planting Campaign (NTPC), a high priority Government-driven initiative seeking to achieve and maintain over 10% tree cover by 2022. If the bill is approved, the attention of implementing agencies will be diverted towards dealing with the anticipated influx of forest excision cases.
  4. The proposed bill negates the State’s constitutional obligation to protect the environment as stipulated in Article 69 (1g) of eliminating processes and activities that are likely to endanger the environment.
  5. The proposed bill sets a bad precedent. The Taskforce Report on Forest Resource Management and Logging Activities in Kenya 2018 (pages 36-41) cited human settlement and encroachment as one of the major threats to biodiversity loss in Kenya. The passage of the amendment bill amounts to setting a bad precedent which will see gazetted forest areas exposed to the risk of degazettment and further invasion.
  6. The proposed amendment bill does not consider all necessary social, economic and environmental safeguards.  It presents a possible violation of the rights and wishes of communities through Local Forest Conservation Committees.
  7. The proposed amendment bill contravenes Kenya's international commitments on landscape restoration and climate change mitigation:
  • Kenya is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) among other international commitments to safeguard biodiversity. During UNFCCCs COP 26 in Glasgow on 2nd November 2021, Kenya joined other countries in committing to the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use which seeks to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. Making a statement during a COP 26 World Leaders Summit Plenary Session, President Uhuru Kenyatta affirmed Kenya’s commitment to restore degraded water towers, accelerate forest restoration and increase tree cover to at least 10% of the country’s land area.
  • As a state party to the Paris Agreement, Kenya recently adjusted its Nationally Determined Contribution target of emission reduction to 32% from 30% by 2030. The National Climate Change Action Plan 2018 – 2022 cites deforestation as the second largest contributor to Kenya’s greenhouse gases emissions after agriculture. The action plan further recognizes the country’s forest sector as having the greatest potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to other mitigation sectors.
  • Kenya ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This Convention is working towards reducing the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests. The Convention also seeks to bring habitat loss close to zero, where feasible, and significantly reduce degradation and fragmentation. The National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan 2019 – 2030 was developed following the objectives of the CBD. In this action plan, Kenya has committed to bringing close to zero the rate of loss of all natural habitats including forests by 2030. This also entails significantly reducing the degradation and fragmentation of these habitats by 2030. Another specific target is to increase the country’s forest cover to at least 10% of the land area.
  • Other commitments made by Kenya include:
  • Commitment to contribute towards UN Decade on Ecosystem restoration (2021-2030),
  • Bonn challenge; African region initiative called the Africa Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR 100), Kenya has committed to restoring 5.1 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030
  • Commitment to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to achieve Land degradation neutrality by 2030.

Small scale fisheries in Tana Delta: The case of Lake Shakababo

The Tana River Delta is a biodiversity-rich wetland habitat that boasts of several unique animal species. One of these species is the endemic Labeo sp. Nov. ‘Baomo’ fish listed as Vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. 

Researchers from Kenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research Team (KENWEB) are undertaking a project in the Delta aimed at conserving the Labeo sp. Nov. ‘Baomo’ fish species through securing its habitat. The project, funded by the Rufford Foundation, seeks to mitigate, reduce and, where possible, eliminate adverse impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Tana Delta floodplains. 

The project team embarked on its first conservation activity in August 2021. The team conducted fish sampling at Lake Shakababo to collect scientific information on Labeo sp. Nov. ‘Baomo’. The species belongs to the family Cyprinidae and was left unnamed due to inadequate data and specimens. During the field activity, the team did not manage to capture samples of Labeo sp. Nov. ‘Baomo’. However, fishermen reported the presence of the species at the lake. 

The team sampled seven other fish species at the lake, including Gregori’s Labeo, East Coast/Tana Squeaker, Silver Catfish, Sabaki Tilapia, Sharp-tooth Catfish, Tana Bulldog and Red-fin Robber. These represent seven of 44 fish species recorded in the entire Tana Delta wetland ecosystems, indicating a high diversity of fish species. 

In addition to sampling, the researchers also conducted a community education and awareness workshop with fisherfolk, pastoralists, farmers, and traders at the Tarassa trading centre in Tana Delta. A discussion on the importance of enhancing river connectivity with the floodplain wetlands and the need to strengthen the Lake Shakababo Beach Management Unit (BMU) to undertake monitoring, control, and surveillance of local fishing activities took place during the workshop. 

Unsustainable fishing and the use of inappropriate gear were cited as hindrances to the growth of the local fisheries during the discussion. Fisherfolk further reported the invasion of Prosopis juliflora trees onto fishing sites, calling for the clearing of dead stumps in the lake area to improve fishing efficiency. 

Members of the Lake Shakababo BMU received 20 standard gauged gill nets, alongside other fishing accessories, from the researchers. The donation will go a long way in motivating fisherfolk to adopt sustainable fishing practices and protect the ecosystem they rely on for their daily livelihoods.

In subsequent field activities, the project will conduct habitat restoration activities at Lake Shakababo. Restoration will involve uprooting stumps of Prosopis juliflora in the lake. The team will continue to support the Lake Shakababo BMU to build its capacity in fisheries resource management.

Restoration champions of Upper Yala

Jane Wangithi carefully arranges a pile of propagated tree seedlings on a new tree nursery adjacent to a stream in Kusa village, Central Asembo, Bondo Sub-county. Wangithi has been on shift for the day tending to the tree nursery at a farm. 

Wangithi is one of the 30 members of the Rambugu-Hafife Farmers’ Group, a community-based organisation (CBO) based in Siaya County. This CBO is a constituent member of the bigger Yala Ecosystem Site Support Group (YESSG), the Nature Kenya site support group for Yala Swamp. 

Rambugu-Hafife is among the vibrant community groups championing the conservation of Yala Swamp. The group’s activities revolve around habitat restoration within the upper Yala area, conservation agriculture and commercial tree farming as part of its sustainability program.

“We do all these activities as members. Everyone has a slotted time to work on the farm. It is rewarding because whoever works get some allowances,” Wangithi says. 

Rambugu-Hafife started in 2004. The group grows farm vegetables including kales and traditional indigenous vegetables. Within its established nurseries are fruit trees that include grafted mangoes and avocados that they sell to farmers locally.

“We sell the vegetables for local consumption. We also sell commercial trees to farmers and institutions in Siaya, Busia and Kakamega,” the group’s chairperson, Jacob Sijenyi, said.

For their commercial tree planting venture, the group has been leasing parcels of land to plant trees, in addition to three acres they have bought. Through this venture, they supply firewood to schools. The group also supplies logs for use in construction.

“The secret behind our success is that we have vibrant activities to support our restoration activities. We have a table banking group that has grown over time, and at the moment, every farmer has a cow courtesy of the group. We have also bought land from the earnings and savings from these ventures,” Sijenyi added.

The group was among the beneficiaries of water pumps provided by Nature Kenya, which they say have greatly helped in irrigating their produce.

Moses Nyawasa, Nature Kenya extension officer based in the Yala ecosystem, says the group is one of those that have managed to sustain their activities.

“The group has been able to sustain its restoration activities while undertaking conservation agriculture initiatives worth emulating,” Nyawasa said.

In the past year, the group has managed to plant 20,000 indigenous trees as part of its restoration plan.