Politics and Trees

Kenya’s new constitution, passed by 67 percent of voters in the August 5th referendum and effective from August 27, 2010, brings significant change to the nation’s political structure. The new framework reduces the power of politicians and places checks on Presidential authority. Parliament will be divided into the Senate and the National Assembly, the cabinet will be halved and all ministers drawn from outside Parliament, and there will be no prime minister. The new constitution also has immense implications for Kenya’s forests, giving KOMAZA reason to celebrate.

A KOMAZA farmer stands proudly with seedlings that will establish his microforest.

While Kenya has maintained a Forest Act since 1962 (revised in 1982, 1992), the previous constitution made no direct mention of the environment or forests, and the country’s trees have steadily disappeared. The alarming rate of destruction climaxed around the year 2000 when the government of President Daniel arap Moi declassified 87,000 hectares of forests. Between 2000 and 2005, 16,000 hectares were cleared. Today, Kenya’s closed forest cover stands at less than 2.5 percent.

While national forest protections were long inadequate, the tide has shifted significantly since 2005 with the passing of a new Forest Act in 2005 and Vision 2030. Now, Kenya’s Constitution builds on this progress.

Forest Act 2005
The 2005 Forest Act underscored the importance of forests for poverty reduction and development, highlighting the government’s role in sustainable land use and forest management. The Act also encouraged private sector and community participation in forestry, as well as training, education and extension services to promote farm forestry – exactly the principles KOMAZA applies to make microforestry a reality. Fostering a newly proactive approach, the Forest Act established the Kenya Forest Service to manage the country’s forest resources; today, KFS extends even into the remote areas where our farmers live.

KFS leaders and others discuss maintenance practices on KOMAZA's demonstration farm.

Vision 2030
In 2007, the Government of Kenya launched its vision for national development over the next twenty years. The ensuing Vision 2030 and its first five-year plan set environmental objectives with a specific focus on forests. They are closely aligned with KOMAZA’s own goals, weaving together a forestation, conservation and poverty reduction. The objectives include the following:

  • Increasing forest, tree cover and wood production especially at the farm level
  • Conserving and rehabilitating the remaining natural forest for biodiversity conservation
  • Enhancing participatory forest management
  • Ensuring that the forestry sector contributes to poverty reduction

The vision also sets specific goals within these objectives, such as reacquiring illegally allocated forest land, rehabilitating degraded areas like the Mau Forest Complex and increasing overall forest cover. In a developing democracy, this kind of supportive political framework is critical for KOMAZA’s smooth operations and expansion across the country.

The New Constitution
Four articles in the new constitution specifically address the environment, going so far as to allow individuals to seek legal redress if their environmental rights are infringed. Moreover, Article 69 outlines the obligations of the government in respect to environment, asserting that “The State shall ensure sustainable exploitation, utilization, management and conservation of the environment and natural resources and ensure the equitable sharing of the accruing benefits.” The constitution also mandates that the State increase tree cover to 10% of Kenya’s total land area, the minimum recommended for ecological sustainability. Our farmers’ trees, undoubtedly, will help the nation realize its promise to the people and environment.

How KOMAZA fits in
One of the most important ways that KOMAZA’s work fulfills the mandate of the new Constitution lies in our efforts to slow deforestation of remaining indigenous forests. In Ganze District, where poverty drives deforestation and disappearing trees invite desertification, we have already transformed over 400 acres into thriving microforests, focusing primarily on drought-resistant eucalyptus.

According to a guide produced by the Kenya Forest Service, “the greatest positive contribution of eucalyptus is perhaps in replacing indigenous species for fuel-wood, thereby preventing further degradation of natural forests. Although it is claimed that there is limited biodiversity in eucalyptus plantations, their cultivation saves biodiversity elsewhere by preventing the destruction of natural forests. Furthermore, certain Eucalyptus species, by quickly producing firewood, would eliminate the causes which frequently may have led to land degradation and desertification.” We are thrilled by Kenya’s increasing political and institutional support for the nation’s forests, and we are determined to be part of the solution.

The eucalyptus demonstration farm is growing rapidly and proving the potential of trees on semi-arid land.

Sharing Knowledge in the Field

On Friday the 16th of June KOMAZA hosted a team of representatives from the Miti Mingi Maisha Bora initiative. With similar goals as KOMAZA, the MMMB programme aims to “facilitate an increased contribution of forests and improved forest management to economic recovery and poverty alleviation on an economically and socially sustainable basis, and to improve the quality of life of the Kenyan rural population.”

Our operations lead Michael Malmberg explains KOMAZA's planting and maintenance techniques to representatives of the Miti Mingi Maisha Bora program.

MMMB met with KOMAZA to share knowledge and learn about our work in helping farmers produce tree crops for lumber in the Coastal region of Kenya. With representatives from Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Forestry Research Institute and the Finnish Embassy in Nairobi, this conference marks another step forward in KOMAZA’s efforts to become a country-wide resource for both research data and best-practice growing techniques in ASAL lands.

The team spent an entire morning at KOMAZA headquarters, opening with a company-wide brainstorming and an introductory session exploring the complementary aspects of our work. Later, everyone traveled to our Kilifi Demo Farm in order to survey tree growth and discuss planting, maintenance and harvesting techniques.

Members of the Miti Mingi Maisha Bora Program examine tree growth, spacing and maintenance techniques at the KOMAZA Kilifi Demo Farm.

Our Operations Team gleaned invaluable insight from the senior members of the MMMB team which will have significant influence in shaping our Monitoring and Evaluation branch as well as our Planting and Harvesting Regime. We look forward to a fruitful relationship with MMMB and are tremendously excited about the possibilities its may bring to our farming families.

Building our Seedling Nursery

As the winter season in the Southern Hemisphere enters full swing, KOMAZA has just finished construction on its Eucalyptus Nursery, to be housed at the Experimental Farm in Ganze. Following protocols obtained from the Kenyan Tree Biotechnology Project in Nairobi, our X-Farm manager Wycliffe Etemesi has constructed a three-part mini compound designed to function as a self-sustaining seedling production unit that will supply our farmers in the neighboring region.

Construction of KOMAZA's first Eucalyptus Nursery at the Ex-Farm in Ganze.

Built entirely from green materials, our first nursery is an important step towards KOMAZA’s ultimate goal of self-reliance. While plans for establishing a larger nursery are already underway, the Ganze structure will serve as the central provider of “replacement seedlings”, to be given out to farmers in case of drought or early seedling failure. In this way, our farmers are assured of a timely delivery of healthy, high-quality seedlings under any circumstances.

Select senior X-Farm workers will be trained under the tutelage of Mr. Etemesi in state-of-the-art seedling culture and development, with consulting from the Kenya Forestry Research Institute and Kenya Forest Service in order to ensure that we remain on the cutting-edge of tree culture guidelines. Training has already begun in what looks to be an exciting step forward for our organization, and we hope to have the Nursery ready to play an important role in the upcoming Long Rains in April 2011.

Related Posts with Thumbnails