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How WWF is helping locals in Kenya to grow their forests and protect the environment


Kenya’s forests are deteriorating at an alarming rate. In fact, recent studies put the loss of forests in Kenya at around 50,000 hectares annually. That means the Kenyan economy loses over Sh1.9 billion – almost £14.5 million.

A farmer holding tree stalks in the forestWWF has been supporting farmers in Kwale to grow small-scale forests. © Neema Suya / WWF

At the same time, the national wood supply deficit is expected to rise to 7 million cubic metres by 2020. That’s a big problem, given that timber and fuel wood are very important to people across Kenya. A huge 80% of all the wood used in Kenya is as fuel wood (charcoal and firewood).

Instead of living sustainably within its environmental means, it seems that Kenya is borrowing from the future to pay for the present. Because of how quickly these ecosystems are being degraded, wildlife and habitats are threatened, there’s more poverty, and the impacts of climate change are worse. It will also mean that Kenya will have a hard time meeting its pledge for 10% of the country to be covered by forests by 2030. It’s currently about 7%.

But hope is far from lost!

We just need to think creatively.

To achieve national and regional forest cover targets, there’ll need to be a lot of work done on both community-owned and privately-owned land. The good news is that, at the moment, tree cover on farms is steadily increasing and farmers are coming to understand the benefits of tree growing in increasing how productive their land is and improving their livelihoods.

We in WWF also understand the important role that small-scale tree growers can play in using forests sustainably. That’s why we’ve been supporting farmers, schools, and local communities to invest in growing and managing their forests. We believe that giving local people control over their forests leads to responsible, long-term, and sustainable forest management. That, in turn, helps protect wildlife and their habitats – and improve people’s livelihoods.

How WWF is helping

In the beginning, we encouraged farmers and other groups to start growing trees, and we gave them the resources and technical support they needed to do that. Since then, we’ve also helped to set up a tree growers’ association in Kwale. It currently has almost 200 members who, between them, are responsible for 3,000 hectares of forest.

Timber laying in front of a small office in the process of being built; locals standing nearbyWWF helped set up a farmers’ co-operative. Here’s the yard and offices being built. © Neema Suya

Setting up farm forests can be challenging, so this group will help locals face those challenges together. One way of doing that is by building relationships with the private sector. That’s why we’ve helped them set up a marketing co-operative to promote a market for forests products – things like building poles, timber and honey – that have been sourced in a responsible and sustainable way.

And we’re not stopping there! Going forward, the group is planning to start producing sustainable wood fuel like charcoal and firewood. They’ve also been approached by local companies as well as bigger, multi-national companies who want to work with them to produce other products like Moringa seeds and eucalyptus.

A farmer in Kwale walks among timber in the forestBy growing small-scale and sustainable forests, Kenyan farmers, with WWF’s support, are helping to protect the environment and improve people’s lives.

It isn’t easy, mind you. Growing trees is an expensive business, and it can take a while before you see any return. But it’s clear that there’s incredible potential here to use the forests sustainably. By doing that, we can help grow and strengthen Kenya’s forests, protect the environment, and improve people’s lives.

Why do you love forests? Tell us in the comments below!

WWF’s work in Kwale-Kilifi is part of WWF’s Coastal Kenya Programme, which is gratefully supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Size of Wales and the UK Government through the Department for International Development.

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