Monday, March 28, 2011

Kenya Celebrates the International Year of Forest

Kenya joined the world in celebrating the international year of forests with the running theme of forests for the people by planting trees at the famous Karura forests and officially launching tree planting activities for the year. The international year of forests will be observed globally and it refocuses the attention of the world to the importance of forests to mankind.
The occasion was graced by many dignitaries and guests among them UNEP’s Executive Director Achim Steiner, the Nobel laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai, Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Hon. Dr. Noah Wekesa, Minister for Livestock Honorable Mohammed Kuti, Head Friends of Karura chairperson, Alice Macaire, Ambassadors, senior government and civil society officers, the local community among others. The event was set rolling by a tree planting ceremony by both the dignitaries and the local community with the assistance of Kenya Forest Service (KFS) officers.   
Mr. Achim Steiner reiterated the importance of celebrating the international year of forests as a way of rededicating the world’s efforts towards the conservation of forests as such agendas had been forgotten and overridden by economic matters. He said that Kenyan forests were a major resource that affected virtually all socio-economic issues in the country adding the country risked losing an approximated Ksh 1.7 billion annually if the Mau forest was not conserved.
The Minister for Wildlife and Forestry affirmed that the ministry was still committed to broadening the relationship with other stakeholders in conserving and increasing Kenya’s forest cover. He said the new constitution had set the requirement of minimum forest cover 10% of the country’s land area. New forest policies that are in line with the constitution are also to be implemented. He called for more participation by the private sector in order to improve forest governance. 
Speaking at the same event, the Assistant Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Hon. Koli Nanok maintained that illegal allocations of forest land in the recent past had been a major impediment for Kenya to attain a 10% forest cover. He noted that the rainy season had just started and therefore Kenyans should take advantage to plant at least five trees this season. The Assistant Minister also assured the public that the ministry will recognise all those who had contributed to conservation and rehabilitation of forests.
Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai appreciated the government and KFS in particular of their continued efforts in forest conservation. She was encouraged with the work of forest inventory that the service had embarked on for conservation and eco-tourism activities in the country. She also encouraged planting of trees this year in arid and semi arid parts of the country so as assist in securing water sources especially during droughts.   
The KFS Director Mr. David Mbugua acknowledged that forests were major resources for sustaining livelihoods with the bulk of Kenyan forests being used mainly for water catchment and biodiversity. He welcomed the general public particularly the Nairobi citizens to tour the newly rebranded Karura forest to savor the many attractions within the forest. 

UNEP's Executive Director, Achim Steiner and Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai listen to a Kenya Forestry College Student explaining forestry techniques at their stand during the event

The KFS Board Chairman Prof. Richard Musangi plants a tree during the launch of the International Year of Forests in Karura Forest

Story by Ken Gichuki

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