· Kenya has 3.456 million hectares of forest cover which is equivalent to 5.9% of its land area. Out of this, 1.406 million hectares or 2.4% of the total land area comprises of indigenous closed canopy forest, mangroves and plantations in both public and private lands.
· The forestry sector contributes in excess of KSh 20 billion worth of goods to the economy annually and employs over 50,000 people directly and another 300,000 indirectly.
· Forests are under tremendous pressure from a growing population and therefore innovative strategies are required to support their sustainable management.
· Targets in Kenya’s national development blueprint, the Vision 2030, indicate that the country should achieve 4% tree cover by 2012 and 10% by 2030.
· The Kenya Forestry Master Plan project was initiated in 1991 with the goal of producing a 25-year strategy to strengthen the Forest Department’s planning capacity and focus on national and regional planning.
· The Forest Act 2005 was finally passed and established Kenya Forest Service with the expanded mandate to conserve, develop and sustainably manage forestry resources.
Charles Ngunjiri, Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Kenya Forest Service
Kenya has 3.456 million hectares of forest cover which is equivalent to 5.9% of its land area. Out of this, 1.406 million hectares or 2.4% of the total land area comprises of indigenous closed canopy forest, mangroves and plantations in both public and private lands.
The forest sector contributes both tangible and intangible benefits of enormous proportions to the Kenyan society. Though the intangible benefits have not been adequately quantified, the sector contributes in excess of KSh 20 billion worth of goods to the economy annually and employs over 50,000 people directly and another 300,000 indirectly.
In addition, over 1 million households living within a radius of five kilometers from the forest reserves depend on forests for cultivation, grazing, fishing, food, fuel wood, honey, herbal medicine, water and other benefits. Despite this importance, the forests are under tremendous pressure from a growing population and therefore innovative strategies are required to support their sustainable management.
With an annual per capita wood consumption of 1 m3, the current demand stands at 40 million m3. However, the estimated sustainable wood supply is about 20 million m3 thus creating a deficit of 20 million m3. The Kenya Forest Service strategic plan 2008/09 -2010/14 outlines the strategy towards bridging this gap.
All forests at the Kenyan Coast, two miles either side of the railway line and five miles around the court-house in Nairobi were reserved as protected forests in 1900. Subsequent additions to the forest in the highlands involved non-occupied forested areas in the country.
Closed forests continued to be identified and gazetted going forward. The Colonial administration afterwards passed the East African Forest Regulations that saw a lot of progress in forest administration and reservation, which reached 3,592 square kilometers by the time of World War I.
Forest reserves covered all possible forests countrywide that included both useful and potentially useful forests in provision of timber and environmental services. There was a further push by the colonial government to have natives consolidate their farms and reserve the less productive areas of their land for tree planting. This was followed by a drive to establish plantation forest species through shift cultivation or the Shamba system. Then came initiatives to grow trees on individual land holdings.
A forest policy that was Gazetted in 1957, ensured that by independence, Kenya had a stated Forestry Policy and a forestry administrative structure. A forestry school was also established to train African forestry rangers at Londiani, Kericho.
In the 1980s, the Government implemented extreme measures. Ostensibly, in response to the rapid loss of forest species and increasing encroachment, the Forest Act Cap 385 was revised in 1982 and a series of bans and prohibition against forest exploitation were introduced, making forest management an increasingly restrictive and exclusionary system of protection.
Export of soft wood timber was banned. All saw mills (over 70) and their labor camps had to vacate the state forest lands, and forests begun being run from State House (The President’s Official Residence). In October 1985, the Head of the Department charged with forestry management in Kenya (Chief Conservator) and his deputy were removed from the radar of Kenyan Forestry.
Forestry then became characterized by bans of many forest activities and virtual criminalization of every activity to do with forestry practice, particularly in relation to forest production. Indigenous forest timber logging was also banned and exotic trees condemned. Eucalyptus trees became an anathema to the authorities as did forest villages and resident workers. Professional forest administration became voiceless.
A period of sheer incompetence followed. Plantation forest management crumbled. Forest management suffered from poor financing by government, lack of labor force, inadequate planning, and abandonment of the Shamba system. In 1989, there was brutal eviction of forest workers, aimed at stopping forest encroachment by prohibiting cultivation and grazing of livestock in the forest areas. Inevitably, these resulted in timber shortages, in the midst of many unattended forest plantations.
With the support of the Government of Finland, the Kenya Forestry Master Plan project was initiated in 1991 with the goal of producing a 25-year strategy to strengthen the Forest Department’s planning capacity and focus on national and regional planning.
Clamor increased for change in the country’s leadership and radical changes in forest management. This was followed by initiation of participatory forest management (PFM) activities led by two nongovernmental organizations – the Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG) and the Forest Action Network (FAN) in several sites in the country, but with minimal legislative support.
Large tracts of forest land were allocated to individuals, and even the small urban vestiges of forests were not spared but rather allocated for transformation into up-market residential areas. A plan to strip Kenya of all its forest estate was in the offing, yet some defended these activities as agrarian reform.
The Forest Act 2005 was finally passed and established Kenya Forest Service with the expanded mandate to conserve, develop and sustainably manage forestry resources.
Role of media in forest conservation
Talking of the environment in Kenya is synonymous with talking about forest conservation. The credit goes to the media with its coverage of environmental issues, the renowned Green Belt Movement co-ordinator, Wangari Mathai, Communities such as the Ogiek and the Sagana Scheme farmers group who are directly affected, organizations like World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG), East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS), the Catholic church, United Nations among many. 
The role of media in forest conservation is to provide a platform for stakeholders to voice their concerns including campaigning / policy advocacy, lamenting, celebrating, fund raising, general information dissemination, and setting agendas.
The media provides a voice for forest conservation and links the government, the communities and the general public on forest issues. In addition, the media interprets government policies on environment, land and forestry, and often propels uptake of forest / environmental laws. Media generally sets the tone and the pace of stakeholder groups information uptake. They are also play a key role in deterrence communication, as well as rewarding compliance.
Media too plays the protector role for the defenseless. Often, media roles are interchanging and overwrapping and often driven by media owners’ interests, media houses policies and operating markets interests.
Who owns the media clearly has an enormous bearing on the way in which they will cover elections - or any other political issue. State-owned media are often under direct government control and will therefore tend to favour the ruling party. Privately-owned media may also serve the political interests of their proprietors, while in some countries, the political parties themselves may own significant media outlets.
In the 1980s, few media outlets were in place with the dominant ones in geographical coverage State owned. Media ownership has since evolved with entry of private ownership and currently the trend moving towards political ownership.
The relationship between media and government on forestry issues has been frosty, especially in the period late 80s to early 2000s. Government handling of media was often through the state owned outlets whose objectivity was often questioned by the general public. Often the outlets would devote 50% of news content to the Head of State functions, leaving the public distraught.
With the change of Government in 2002, a new approach was put in place for dealing with media. An office of public communication was put in place to directly undertake public relations including media relations for Government. A new development blue print, the Vision 2030, was generated and communicated intensely through the mass media.
The Vision 2030 places environmental conservation among its flagship activities that include the attainment of 10% tree cover by the year 2030. The public begun to better appreciate the role of the new Government in environmental conservation through the media coverage of restoration efforts. Notably, coverage in the media was instrumental in getting communities living inside forest areas to relocate. Often, community’s relocation from forest areas is peaceful with little incidences of violence reported.
Upon establishment of the Kenya Forest Service as part of the process of implementation of the Forest Act 2005, the mandate to engage with media was shifted from the parent Ministry to the KFS. This entailed established of a corporate communication department to steer communication with the various public interest groups.
Coming from a history of sustained harassment and often humiliation while in the line of duty, foresters initially shied away from media. The KFS with the support of Public Relations Society of Kenya undertook to train individuals involved with forestry management from the Board of Management level to regional managers.
Communication was also included in training at the forestry college especially during short courses. Gradually, the foresters have relaxed and are more willing to engage with media after realizing the value of communication with media which contributes to the implementation of the KFS mandate.
As always, uptake of media engagement has differed with individual officers’ character. While majority have taken upon themselves to know the media in their area of work, some still feel this is somebody else’s responsibility.
Besides communication training, a number of initiatives are in place to boost the public image of the KFS. These actions include:
· Signage of forest installations
· Branding of facilities and vehicles
· Training and application of uniform for staff
· Themed engagement with media e.g. media tours, media breakfasts etc
· Production of quarterly publications targeting external audiences
· Training in customer care for forest ranger ranks
· Participation in national parades
· Professional handling of forest relocation
· Engagement of communities in forest management
Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Schemes (PELIS) and other income generating initiatives
Inevitably, the Government has realized the substantial gains from engaging with the public and particularly the media. These include:
· Demystification of the KFS and identification of its mandate by the public
· Increased reporting of incidences allowing quick response in forest protection matters
· Third party endorsements allowing for easier implementation of the organization’s mandate
· Increased confidence of frontline staff to implement the organization’s mandate
· Increased partnerships in projects at various levels
· Increased staff morale etc.
Inevitably, challenges still remain especially fueled by the fact that forestry issues are livelihood issues. As such the expectations of stakeholders from the Service are high, especially on issues of cost benefit sharing, emphasis placed on benefits.
At the same time, the change in government administration structures as outlined in the new Constitution is unraveling new cost center and forestry administration shifts that may affect the implementation of forest programmes.
Skewed reporting continues to pose a significant threat to KFS operations especially in plantation and project implementation areas. Skewed reporting is often driven by stakeholder interests, especially competition for resources.
Role of media in changing perceptions of the public
In light of the changing realities in environmental management, with specific reference to sustainable forest conservation, the role of media is critical in informing public perception.
At the same time, the vast of media reporting on environment and forestry issues often is not sustained and driven by various stakeholder interests. Sustained communication is therefore critical to influence a change of attitude and behavior of the public on forestry issues.
Already, the media has played a critical role in spurring increased tree growing in the country, despite current reporting practice on the environment being uncoordinated. For consistent gains in changing audience behavior and attitudes towards forest and environment conservation, organizations involved must invest more time and money in training and appreciation of efforts towards environment and forestry reporting.
Government and media can work together better through a structured platform of engagement that allows the media to explore the government to generate articles for reporting. At the same time, the media must engage in this approach from an informed point of view, by demonstrating subject knowledge on specific issues of coverage. Where there is an absence of subject knowledge, reporting must then seek to obtain the same from alternative experts in the area.
Avenues for media engagement by government to improve working relations may also include occasional media breakfast briefs with various media players e.g. media owners, senior editors, environmental reports etc. Awards too may be put in place to appreciate laudable reporting/coverage, themed tours to specific areas. It is also critical to maintain communication channels that are open and disseminate accurate information to the media.
Kenya is considered to be a low forest cover country. Her forestry resources comprise of 1.2 million hectares of indigenous forests; 145,000 hectares of industrial forest plantations; 36.7 million hectares of trees and forests in trustlands, national parks, rangelands and private farms; and 65,000 hectares of mangroves. These forests comprise of an estimated 5.6% of Kenya.
Forests underpin important sectors of the economy including agriculture, tourism, energy, water and manufacturing among others. Further, 80% of the population depends on wood as the primary source of energy while the majority of rural households depend on trees and forests for other requirements such as food, medicinal herbs, honey, fodder and building materials.
It is noteworthy that almost 2% of Kenya’s forests have been set aside and are conserved for soil, water, biodiversity, carbon sequestration and other ecological services. Elsewhere, the per capita timber consumption is 1m3 .Targets in Kenya’s national development blueprint, the Vision 2030, indicate that the country should achieve 4% tree cover by 2012 and 10% by 2030.
The country’s Constitution further directs that 10% forest cover should be achieved and maintained in perpetuity. From the forgoing, it is clear that for sustainable forest management to be achieved, a more diversified management of forest ecosystems encompassing wood and non-wood products and benefits and the need to expand the horizons of forestry to include farmlands and the drylands is imperative.
As a result of these new demands on the sector, all stakeholders must be brought on board and the policies and aspirations of the forest sector clearly articulated so as to meet the envisaged national goals. This calls for an effective communication strategy to all stakeholders.
Kenya Forest Service Programmes
The Kenya Forest Service is the government agency whose mandate is to manage all forest types in Kenya including State, Local Authorities and Private forests. This is done through the following programmes whose current areas of focus are outlined. These require effective communication at all levels.
Farm Forestry Development
It is widely acknowledged that the future of forestry in Kenya lies in commercial farm forestry enterprise since additional Government land for forestry purposes is limited. This programme covers the high potential areas of the country which comprises 20% of the country where 80% of the population resides. The last decade has witnessed vigorous growth in this subsector supplying almost 60% of the country’s timber requirement. Current areas of focus include:
· Outgrower schemes to provide wood fuel for the tea, tobacco and paper industries
· Promotion of additional commercial farm forestry tree species
· Value addition and processing
Dry land Forestry Development
80% of Kenya is categorized as marginal, semi-arid or arid. A huge potential exists in these areas with regard to forestry development. Kenya is naturally endowed with a number of promising species and research has shown that high value species e.g Melia volkensii, Acacias etc are viable plantation species and can be domesticated for timber, charcoal and fuelwood production.
It should be noted that an estimated 80% of all charcoal consumed in Kenya comes from unsustainable sources in the drylands, a situation which has resulted in severe degradation in these often fragile ecosystems. Besides this, there is enormous potential for non-wood forest products such as honey, gums and resins, indigenous and other fruits, silk production and butterfly rearing among others. Current areas of focus include:
· Sustainable management of woodlands and other dryland forest resources which cover 37.6 million Ha. especially local authority forests
· Sustainable charcoal production
· Promotion of commercial dryland timber species and non timber forest products
Industrial Plantations Development
These state owned plantations are the mainstay of the timber industry in Kenya. Plantation establishment is implemented through a KFS/community partnership, dubbed the Plantations Enterprise and Livelihoods Improvement Support Programme (PELIS).This programme allows communities neighbouring forests to participate in seedlings production and also intercrop food crops with tree seedlings until the canopy closes (about three years). Current areas of focus include:
· Promotion of efficient technologies in forest industries
· Broadening of plantation species base from the current cypress, pine and eucalyptus species
· Introduction of integrated harvesting
· Piloting concessions
Natural Forests Conservation Programme
Kenya is endowed with over 1.2million hectares of closed canopy forests which include five important water towers besides other important forests and woodlands. These forests are important as watersheds, biodiversity sinks, for soil conservation, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitats, cultural and religious sites. The forests are managed in partnership with communities via Community Forest Associations and other stakeholders who engage in enterprises such as eco-tourism, fish farming, apiculture, butterfly farming etc. Current areas of focus include:
· Mainstreaming participatory forest management (PFM)
· Promotion of nature based forest enterprises
· Strengthening Community Forest Associations
Enforcement and Compliance Programme
This programme is manned by a 2,500 strong paramilitary unit who are supported by uniformed forest officers. They are charged with enforcing the Forests Act besides collaborating with other enforcement agencies and stakeholders particularly the communities. Current areas of focus include:
· Mainstreaming community policing
· Re-orienting forest rangers from the former command and control outlook
Strengths, challenges and innovations
All the above programmes have diverse stakeholders and audiences who are required to be addressed in various and effective ways if the national goals, and ultimately sustainable forest management, is to be achieved.
KFS has been involved in the production of different extension/communication materials. For example, the technical staff need research based technical orders and other guidelines which prescribe best practices in the management of tree resources. These need to be translated into extension materials which are easily understood by the various stakeholders without diluting the technical content. Other materials for sensitization and awareness creation such as newsletters, posters, pamphlets, fliers and billboards are also produced for circulation to the general public. Electronic media (radio and television) has also been used especially to launch tree planting campaigns during the rainy seasons.
The biggest challenge arises from low resource allocation to these activities. Only 5% of the KFS recurrent budget is allocated for communication, therefore the numbers produced are always inadequate. Further, it would be prudent to involve stakeholders in the development of extension material and perhaps even do limited preliminary versions for peer review and comments before the final run.
In addition, the use of Kiswahili and vernacular languages would be desirable so as to pass on the messages to the grassroots level. While this has been done to some extent through FM radio stations, it has not been achieved through the print media. Planning for feedback and input from targeted recipients from the onset is not taken into account from the onset.
Without a formal feedback mechanism it is difficult to improve on any future editions.
On the other hand KFS now has a fully fledged Corporate Communications Department manned by communication professionals. The department has rolled out capacity building activities to forestry officers which include effective communication and media handling among others. This has been a great strength in raising the profile of the organisation and instilling confidence in the hitherto media shy forest officers as they interact with various stakeholders.
On innovation, the use of ICT through mobile telephone has also been piloted through the Sustainable Livelihood Development Project (SLDP) in the Mau Forest Complex. In this activity, a mobile phone-based data management platform was developed and has enabled project managers to monitor the progress of target groups as they implement the activities of the Livelihood Farmer Field Schools.
 http://www.forestguardian.net/forestprotection.htm - 18th June 2012, 1600 HRS