24th January 2022
Joint Statement on the Proposed Amendment to Kenya’s Forest Law by the Conservation Sector
We, the undersigned leading public and private organizations concerned with the conservation and management of forests in Kenya, are alarmed by a decision by the Parliamentary Procedures and House Rules Committee to initiate a move to amend section 34 of the Forest Conservation and Management Act (2016).
The current Section 34(2A) requests that any proposed public forest boundary alteration or excision: shall only be considered by the National Assembly upon the technical recommendation by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).
The current Forest Act and its Section 34(2A) were carefully drafted in response to arbitrary excisions that led to wanton destruction of forests in the 1990s and early 2000s. Indeed, before the introduction of the above requirements set in Section 34 of the Act, approximately 5,000 hectares of public forests were excised every year, representing an area five times the size of Karura Forest Reserve. Unwarranted excisions culminated in 2001 with over 65,000 hectares of public land excised in one day. Since the introduction of the above requirements in the Forest Act of 2005 and then the Forest Conservation and Management Act of 2016, no legal excision of a public forest has taken place. This has made the general public and International Community have high regards to the national aspiration to conserve and protect forests. This gain is likely to be lost by the proposed change.
The proposed amendment seeks to repeal Section 34(2A) which provides that any petition to alter boundaries or excise public forests or a portion thereof shall only be considered by the National Assembly upon technical recommendation by the Kenya Forest Service. The proposed amendment seeks to vest the power to determine the fate of any such petitions on the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Parliamentary Procedures and House Rules Committee without consultation with the Kenya Forest Service, which is the government’s lead expert agency on forestry.
It is worth noting that the proposed amendment contravenes the Petitions to Parliament (Procedure) Act (2012), section 3(f) which requires that such matters should be decided by Parliament in consultation with the relevant state agency, which in such matters is the Kenya Forest Service.
We, the undersigned leading public and private organisations concerned with the conservation and management of forests in Kenya, STRONGLY OPPOSE the intended changes to the Forest Conservation and Management Act and demand that the said amendments be withdrawn forthwith for the sake the conservation of our forests and our well-being.
Forests are vital bastions of biodiversity. Although they cover only 7.4% of Kenya’s land area, they harbour a disproportionate amount of Kenya’s biodiversity in terms of fauna and flora species. Forests host an estimated 50% of all woody plants, 40% of all large mammals 30% of the birds and 35% of the butterflies. Our forests provide a wide range of ecosystem services that are critical for environmental stability, our well-being and our economic development. Our forests are vital for the nation’s water resources. They are the water catchments of all main rivers in Kenya, providing the much-needed water in support of key economic sectors, including agriculture, energy, industry and tourism. The ecosystem services provided by our key mountain forests alone, known as Kenya’s five ‘water towers’, are valued at KES 621 billion every year. Indeed, forests are the bedrock for economic development and government Agenda 4.
The forestry sector alone contributes some 3.6% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and directly employs some 350,000 people annually.
Looking forward, our forests mitigate the negative effects of climate change and reduce our vulnerability to extreme weather events, including droughts and floods. Kenya included forest protection in the 2010 Constitution to stress the socio-economic and ecological importance of forests to our well-being and economic development.
Passing the proposed amendments would mean that the Kenya Forest Service will lose its power to review and sanction any proposed public forest boundary alteration before being submitted to the National Assembly. This will greatly weaken the governance mechanisms of our public forests and will be a major setback in their protection. Considering what Kenya has lost in the past, any change that weakens, rather than strengthens the mechanisms to protect our forests, is ill-advised. The country has committed to increasing forest and tree cover through the National Determined Contribution in addition to other International Conventions. Any possible loss in forest cover should be opposed. Legislations that make it easy to vary a forest’s boundary are a danger to forest conservation in Kenya.
We are fearful that the passing of the proposed amendment will take us back to the days before the enactment of the Forest Act of 2005 when forest loss through unwarranted excisions was the order of the day. The proposed repeal of Section 34(2A) will open avenues for the grabbing of public forest land. It will inevitably lead to the loss of forests. This will spell doom to our forestry sector and many other sectors that depend on the ecological services provided by forests. It will also set a bad legal precedent to other natural resource-related policies and legislations such as the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act, 2013 and the Fisheries Management and Development Act, 2016, among others, which have similar provisions.
We also note that the proposer of the amendment has not demonstrated the urgency to amend section 34 of the Forest Act and that the amendment has been proposed without public participation as enshrined in the Constitution. We note that the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is in the process of reviewing the Forest Conservation and Management Act, 2016 and so the piecemeal amendment can wait when the stakeholders are reviewing the whole document.
We would like to take this opportunity to remind the Kenyan Parliament that the country’s natural resources should be protected and prudently managed for the benefit of current and future generations.
We call upon the Parliamentary Procedures and House Rules to WITHDRAW the proposed Amendment Bill forthwith. We also urge Members of Parliament who have the public interest at heart to reject the proposed amendment to the Forest Conservation and Management Act of 2016 when it is brought before them.
We urge citizens of goodwill and other like-minded actors to join us to STAND UP AND SHOUT for the protection of our forests and our well-being.
Signed: ——————————– Date: ——————- Ann Tek: Head of Advocacy and Policy, KFWG
Signed on behalf of:
A statement issued jointly by:
- Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG)
- The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS)
- World Wide Fund for Nature- Kenya (WWF-K)
- Rhino Ark Kenya Charitable Trust
- Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI)
- National Alliance of Community Forest Association (NACOFA)
- Natural Resource Forum (NAREF)
- Green Kids’ Museum Kenya
- Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA)
- Nature Kenya – the EANHS
- CISSTA Kenya
- Kwale County Natural Resources Network (KCNRN)
- Forestry Society of Kenya (FSK)
- Mount Kenya Trust
- Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, Laikipia
- Transfo Green World
- Forsmart Limited (Private Forestry Consultant)
- Kenya Green University Network
- Campde Voices
- Chehe Community Forest Association
- Soluzioni Sostenibili Di Energia
- Friends of the Lembus Forest
- Lembus Foundation
- Ngong Road Forest Community Forest Association (CFA)
- Center for Science and Technology Innovation (CSTI)
- Forest Resource International
- Baringo Water Resources Users Association (WRUA Council)
- Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK)
- Mt Kenya Community Forest Association – Nyeri County
- Nairobi Forest Conservation Committee (FCC)
- University of Nairobi, Wangari Mathai Institute of Climate Change
- Green Belt Movement
- The Environment Institute of Kenya