By Ally Jamah
Farmers in arid and semi-arid areas will soon access soft loans to encourage them to grow trees to boost their incomes and the country's forest cover.
A new draft document developed by the Ministry of Forestry to seeks to develop growing trees into an attractive business model especially in arid areas.
The document, adopted at a stakeholders’ workshop on Wednesday at a Nairobi hotel, provides for a revolving fund to support farmers who take up the business, among a raft of other incentives under the Support to Community-Based Farm Forestry Enterprise (SCBFFE) project.
Once the programme is rolled out, farmers will receive soft loans disbursed through local financial institutions.
Already, Equity Bank has been identified to provide technical support on financial management and the actual disbursement and collection of payments.
Speaking while opening the workshop, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife Mohammed Wa-Mwachai said that arid and semi arid lands have the highest potential for forestry development.
He explained that if put to proper use, those areas could significantly boost incomes of Kenyans living there and also help the country accomplish the desired 10 per cent forest cover in line with the Constitution.
"The potential of dry lands of Kenya can be unlocked through exploitation of wood and non-wood products," he said
The SCBFFE project is being undertaken by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) through a Government of Japan grant under the Japan Social Development Fund that is administered by the World Bank.
Simple, clear and fast
Wa-Mwachai called on the project management to ensure that the process of accessing the loans is made simple, clear and fast to boost uptake of the resources.
In his remarks, KFS Director David Mbugua said enhanced forestry development in the non-agricultural areas would largely depend on the level of incentives provided to the communities.
"Gone are the days when the Chiefs Act was used to force wananchi to plant trees and now we have the Forest Act that provides clear guidelines on how to enlist public participation in forestation programmes," he said.
Kenya’s forest cover is about 6.2 per cent of the total land area. Private forests constitute only 2.2 per cent of forested area with 97.8 per cent being public forests.
Published on 25/05/2011 in the Standard online edition