Government embarks on forest census

August 5, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, August 5 – Kenya has embarked on a process to establish the exact acreage under forest cover in the country, according to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

The exercise is being conducted in three phases with the first one being to establish the plantation areas – commercially grown tree species – while the second phase will involve taking stock of trees being grown by farmers.

The final phase will be to establish the indigenous cover, which basically means the gazetted forests, after which they will then be merged to get the total forest cover in the country.

KFS Head of Inventory Simiyu Wasike told Capital News Tuesday that the service was already in the first phase, which will take about 12 months to complete.

“We are giving the plantations a priority because that is our commercial crop and KFS would want to start engaging in the tree business,” he stated.

“But before we do that we want to be sure that what we are selling is actually available in whatever quantities, to be able to plan.”

He said that by the end of the exercise the service would be in a position to give the distribution of the trees in terms of species available, volume and the location within the country.

“You have been reading about forest cover being about 1.7 percent, a figure that we, as the Kenya Forest Service, dispute.”

“The problem is that for a long time the forest cover has been calculated from what is called gazetted forests, leaving out trees on trust land and farms,” he informed.

The exercise that is planned to take two years will cover 30 percent of the total land area in the country, at an estimated cost of Sh60 million.

The recommended forest cover by the United Nations for any country is 10 percent.

The last comprehensive national inventory exercise was conducted between 1989 and 1993 covering an area of 114,000 hectares.

Meanwhile, the Service is also in the process of changing to the Geographical Information System (GIS) which is a computerised method of providing information on forest areas.

Forest Information Systems Advisor Esa Haapasalo told Capital News that this was part of strengthening the forest service information system.

He said everything should be functional in the next two months at a cost of Sh10.2 million.

“The benefit for organisations like KFS is that when the information is in the GIS system here in the offices, then for example when we talk about forests, we know where the forest is and we can make different analyses utilising the GIS without going out in the field,” Haapasalo said.

Wasike on the other hand said the system would assist in the ongoing process of establishing the country’s forest cover, as well as the management of forests through reduced destruction.

“Like when we go to the indigenous forests we will need the GIS technology because then we can relate the actual position. At some point after we have taken stock of what we have (forest cover), we should be able to, at the touch of a button, tell whatever is happening in whichever part of the forest.”



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