By PATRICK MAYOYO
Title deeds of all illegally grabbed forest land in different parts of the country are being revoked as part of the ongoing landscape restoration initiative it has been revealed.
The revelations were made by the Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Prof Judy Wakhungu, when she launched the Forest and Landscape Restoration Programme at a Nairobi hotel today.
The initiative aims to restore 5.1 million hectares of land affected by deforestation and forest degradation.
Prof Wakhungu said pressure for conversion of forest lands to other uses and unsustainable utilisation of forest resources have contributed to deforestation, forest degradation and general landscape degradation.
“The Government’s stated determination to reclaim, rehabilitate and conserve all the water catchment areas and other forested landscapes is intended to address this problem,” she said.
According to a study by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme shows that corruption is a major contributor to deforestation and forest degradation in Kenya.
The study demonstrates that land tenure and allegations of ‘land grabbing’, irregular allocation of land in community forest areas, infrastructure development and industrial expansion, illegal logging and forest crimes, cross border trade, illegal charcoal trade and embezzlement of funds by Community Forest Associations (CFA) executives among other reasons contribute to deforestation and forest degradation.
The study adds another area being exploited to degrade forests is the licensing of private companies to exploit a larger area of government plantation assets.
The report shows that another source of potential corruption in forest land tenure, which is relevant both for public and community forests, stems from the political challenges in managing infrastructure developments and extractive industries that can cause deforestation, forest degradation and displacement of forest-dependent communities.
However, during a press conference after launching the Forest and Landscape Restoration Programme, Prof Wakhungu said she had embarked on a process of revoking title deeds of grabbed forest land as part of efforts to address the problem of deforestation and forest degradation.
“We are determined to stop deforestation and forest degradation and we are revoking title deeds of grabbed forest land,” she added.
Prof Wakhungu said bridging the gap between demand and supply of natural resources will continue to be a major challenge for the land-based sectors, so long as the approaches are disjointed.
“My advice is that we all join forces to identify and implement effective, permanent, sustainable and collaborative solutions to the various land use challenges in the country,” she appealed.
Prof Wakhungu noted that by doing so all the stakeholders will be able to meet the growing demands for products, secure forest resources, conserve the environment and respond to effects of climate change.
The co-chair of the Global Restoration Council, Ms Wanjira Mathai, said Kenya is setting new standards in the landscape restoration process and asked both the national and county governments and the grassroots to support the initiative.
Dr Kitty Van Der Heidjen, director of World Resources Institute, said the decision by the government to consult different stakeholders before launching the restoration initiative would make it a success and a model for other countries in Africa.
Mr Jackson Kimani from the Clinton Climate Initiative said Kenyans should be committed to achieving the 5.1 million hectares forest restoration target.
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