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Understanding issues affecting Kenya’s forest cover ahead of International Day :: Kenya

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Environment Cabinet Secretary Tobiko (PHOTO: FILE)

NAIROBI, KENYA: In 2018, the International Day of Forests (IDF) will address the theme, ‘Forests for sustainable cities,’ and will focus on how forests and trees in urban areas regulate temperature and water flows, provide nutritious foods and shelter, cleanse the air and foster community cohesion and individual well-being, among other benefits.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed March 21 the International Day of Forests in 2012. The Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests. On each International Day of Forests, countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organise activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns. The theme for each International Day of Forests is chosen by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.

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The journey to deforestation and diminishing forest cover in Kenya

According to the 2017 study report of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), it is estimated that about 795 million people worldwide go hungry every day. With the world population projected to exceed nine billion people by 2050, global agricultural output must expand by an estimated 60 percent to meet global food needs.

Yet, in many places, deforestation triggered by escalating demand for food, fibre and fuel is degrading ecosystems, diminishing water availability and limiting the collection of fuelwood. Natural forests are critical for the survival of forest-dwellers, including many indigenous peoples, and they help deliver clean water to agricultural lands by protecting catchments.

Kenya has continued to face the wrath of deforestation and forest degradation since independence. The effects of this are clear. Today, Kenya is among countries of the world with a forest cover of less than 10 percent of total land mass. But what are the factors, which have contributed to massive deforestation in Kenya?

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Kenya’s rural population is concentrated in what are termed ‘high’ and ‘medium-potential’ agro-ecological zones in which rainfall levels are adequate to support agriculture. Predictably, these are also the places in which closed canopy forests, and the water towers are located.

In the same agro-ecological zones, population growth rates over the last four decades have been phenomenal and during the 70’s and even early 80’s, Kenya had one of the highest population growth rates in the world. The high population growth rate has interacted with other underlying drivers and the manifestation of that has taken the form of agricultural expansion, which is considered a major driver of forest cover loss in Kenya.

Based on earlier discussions at the national level, the principal drivers according to Kenya Forest Service study report 2010, were summarized in order of importance as clearance for agriculture that is linked to rural poverty and rapid population growth; unsustainable utilization (including timber harvesting, charcoal production, grazing in forests), and past governance and institutional failures in the forest sector. However, there was need to seek the views and opinions from various parts of the country and have a closer look at the possible underlying causes of deforestation.

Some of the causes

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Over the years through population growth and the demand for cash crops to meet rural farmers unlimited needs, a significant portion of forest land area has been cleared to provide space for farming and living. This is pushed by the local administration who are at the forefront in allocation of these parcels of land to individuals who are not conservation minded thus leading to immense deforestation.

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Politics cannot be ruled out and is a main factor that contributes to deforestation in Kenya. Our ‘polluted politics’ full of vested interested has seen a high level of destruction of our forests. For decades, politicians have used forest issues to gain political mileage at the expense of a suffering environment. They have allocated land to their allies either directly or indirectly in order to gain some political capital.

The agencies mandated with management of forests is understaffed and this impacts negatively on the patrols, monitoring and surveillance of forest areas. Human activities like logging, charcoal burning and encroachment of forest land continue to be carried out in areas where there is lack of forest guards and rangers.

Other causes are weak community participation in forest management, inadequate benefit sharing from forest resources (including revenue sharing), inadequate integration of the forest sector into the economy and national accounting, unclear tenure and access to forest resources through agricultural policies urging farmers to produce more cash crops for export, lack of inventory within County governments in order to understand the value of their forests, primary focus on gazetted forests leading to reduced attention on dry land woodlands and other types of forests including the coastal and riparian forests.  

Our stand

As Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG), we do not support the government ban on logging as this goes against the principles of forest management and utilization. However, we recommend a raft of measures that includes fastrack implementation of the Forest (Conservation and Management) Act 2016 that include operationalisation of the tree planting week to increase the current forest cover from current 7.24 percent to 10 percent minimum forest cover required by UN, Develop Benefit Sharing Regulation and Operationalise Forests Conservation and Management Trust Fund.

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Conduct country wide surveys to identify critical water catchment forests for demarcation, titling and gazettement and carrying out total economic valuation of all forest resources for planning and managements.

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Increase financial allocation to enable Kenya Forest Service (KFS) develop sustainable Forest Management Plans and carry out nationwide recruitment of foresters and forest guards to man expansive forest areas and carry a country wide reshuffle of forest staff and forest guards to ensure enhanced enforcement and transparency.

Other key areas to be considered include forest resources management and Logging Taskforce should hold consultative forums with CSOs and Communities to enrich their report, train magistrates and Judges on the Forest (Conservation and Management) Act 2016 and especially on offences and convene a meeting of the National Climate Change Council to develop a work plan and allocate resources to County Governments on Climate Change issues.

Also enhance the capacity of communities on Mobile application monitoring of forest resources to cut costs on joint forest monitoring.

Jackson Bambo, National Coordinator, Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG)





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Canada PM says informal NAFTA talks likely in next few days at U.N.

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MONTREAL (Reuters) – U.S. and Canadian officials trying to reach a deal on NAFTA are “very likely” to hold informal talks on the sidelines of a major U.N. meeting in the next few days, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday.

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau waits for the Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez before a military welcoming ceremony at The Royal Canadian Hussars Armoury in Montreal, Quebec, Canada September 23, 2018. REUTERS/Dario Ayala

With time running out ahead of a U.S.-imposed deadline of the end of September, negotiators are making slow progress on updating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. President Donald Trump struck a side deal on NAFTA with Mexico last month and has threatened to exclude Canada if necessary. He also said he might impose a 25 percent tariff on Canadian autos exports, which would badly hurt Canada’s economy.

Trump took office last year vowing to tear up NAFTA unless major changes were made to a pact he blames for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer – the two top officials at the talks – are due to be in New York on Monday and Tuesday for the U.N. General Assembly.

“Certainly the fact that many of our negotiators, many of our teams, will be in New York at the same time (means) it’s very likely that conversations continue in a constructive but less formal way,” Trudeau told reporters.

Trudeau, speaking after talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, said nothing had formally been arranged. A Freeland spokesman declined to comment.

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The United States and Canada are divided over the best way to resolve trade disputes and a U.S. demand for more access to Canada’s protected dairy market.

Markets are reacting nervously to uncertainty over the future of the 1994 pact, which underpins $1.2 trillion in annual trade. Over the past 25 years, the three countries’ economies have become increasingly integrated, especially the auto industry.

Canadian negotiators have said they will not be rushed and Trudeau reiterated on Sunday that he would not sign a bad NAFTA deal.

Freeland and Lighthizer met in Washington last Thursday and made little progress. Canada also made clear the United States needed to withdraw the threat of auto tariffs for a deal to be possible.

Reporting by Allison Lampert; Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Cooney

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WPP preparing to merge Young & Rubicam and digital ad firm VML: WSJ

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(Reuters) – The world’s largest advertising company WPP Plc’s (WPP.L) is preparing to consolidate some of its businesses in a bid to keep pace with the industry’s digital shift, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: A logo hangs on the wall outside the WPP offices in London, Britain April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

The company, under its new boss Mark Read, is considering a merger between Young & Rubicam and WPP’s digital-ad firm VML, putting the combined group under the leadership of VML CEO Jon Cook, WSJ reported, citing sources.

There are talks about having the group’s direct-marketing company Wunderman work with its creative firms to provide access to consumer data to help them craft more relevant ads, the WSJ reported, citing a source.

The market leader has been hit hard in the last year as clients have increasingly turn to online platforms such as Google and Facebook to reach consumers.

The group is also recovering from the departure of its founder and veteran CEO Martin Sorrell who left in April after complaint about personal misconduct, which he denied.

WPP was not immediately available to comment on the report.

Reporting by Mekhla Raina in Bengaluru; Editing by Edmund Blair

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European Banking Authority is asked to investigate oversight of Danske Bank

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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – The European Commisssion has asked the European Banking Authority (EBA) to investigate what went wrong in the oversight of Danske Bank’s (DANSKE.CO) Estonian branch, which is at the center of a major money laundering scandal, it said on Sunday, confirming a report in Financial Times.

FILE PHOTO: Danske Bank sign is seen at the bank’s Estonian branch in Tallinn, Estonia August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

The Commission has also sent letters, written at the request of justice commissioner Vera Jourova, to the Danish and Estonian governments to ask about the case and its supervision, the spokesman said.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Writing by Teis Jensen; Editing by David Goodman

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