The Senior Deputy Director, Mr. E.N. Mugo inspects a guard of honour mounted by KFS Rangers in one of the stops during his tour of Central Highlands and Eastern Forest Conservancies to launch management plans.
Mr. Mugo hands the management plan documents to a member of FCC during one of the events.
In pursuant to the Forest Act 2005, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) is in the process of rolling out Management Plans for the management and conservation of forests across the country in partnership with Community Forest Associations (CFA).
Management Plans are documents detailing the roles of each partner in management of forests across the country as well as the activities to be undertaken over a specified period of time in this case being five years. It is especially designed to benefit communities living adjacent to forests by giving them the opportunity to draw benefits from the forest while they assist in its conservation.
This was in realization by the drafters of the new forestry legislation that the exclusion of ‘forest communities’ from the management of forests was not only affecting the livelihoods of thousands of Kenyans but was also counterproductive as the same people were responsible for the destruction of the forests in their quest to make a living albeit illegally.
So far KFS has approved 16 Management Plans and another 14 are awaiting approval by the Director KFS in the next two months. This will give thousands of people a chance to directly benefit from sustainable forest management. The Service is currently in the process of launching Management Plans for Upper Imenti, Gathiuru, Kabaru, Hombe, Kangaita and Castle forests in Eastern and Central Provinces.
Activities that CFAs can undertake with the signing of management plans include setting up of ecotourism sites within forests, planting of trees in degraded areas for the now emerging carbon markets, joint management of important ecological areas among many other activities. All these must however be done considering the best environmental practices.
According to the Forest Act 2005, forest adjacent communities have been identified as crucial in the sustainment of forests. They have been allowed to sustainably draw benefits from the forest they live in or adjacent to in order to empower them economically and also allow them to own forest conservation as a mutual process.
This is a complete turnaround from the earlier forest act Cap 385 which to a large extent alienated local communities from the management of forests. The new forest legislation now requires communities and forest user groups to be included in the management structure of the Service. This has been achieved through the formation of Forest Conservancies and Forest Conservation Committees (FCC) to run them. Members of the FCC are a representation of a cross section of Kenyans in the public service, private sector and communities. The new laws also came with a larger mandate for KFS which is the sole organization charged with the overall management of forests in the country.
According to the Senior Deputy Director of Forests (SDDF) for KFS Mr. Emilio Mugo, participatory forest management is the new way to go in forest conservation as communities are recognized as an integral part of conservation.