CHIEF CONSERVATOR OF FORESTS END OF THE YEAR 2022 MESSAGE
Chief Conservator of Forests, Julius Kamau, EBS
Our National Heritage- The Forests
Our mandate to protect, conserve and manage state forests is service to humanity and nature. The forests that we protect and manage 24/7 are our National Heritage. They support our economic growth, social development, and ensures environmental integrity. In the midst of adverse effects of climate change, as has manifested this year, they continue to play a critical role of regulating the climate, providing water and mitigating natural disasters such as floods and droughts thus saving lives and livelihoods for many Kenyans. As such, if you are a staff of the Kenya Forest Service, you have a reason to take pride, whether as a support staff, conservator, an officer, or a ranger -yours is a divine duty! And in case you wonder how, make reference to the scriptures in Genesis 2:9 “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” Appreciate yourself!
Reflecting on Our Journey
As 2022 draws to a close I want to take this opportunity to look back, and reflect on a year that turned out much differently than anyone could have ever imagined. While it was certainly challenging in many ways, it was also unique and placed the Service to a new trajectory of success, confirming that if we trust in God, put Him 1st in everything we do, if we believe in ourselves, if we work together and pull in a common direction towards a common purpose, no mountain is too high to climb – this demonstrate how strong we are as an organization – even in the toughest of times.
Lest we forget, we must remain thankful to God that this year is a post-covid recovery period, after a serious Covid-19 pandemic that brought the entire world including our beloved country to a halt and forced us to keep our distance from family, friends and one another. At a closer reflection, the work we do helped people to stay connected and made the difficult times hopefully a little easier. It went further and still continue to support the post-covid recovery of forest adjacent communities through the various user rights such as Plantation Establishment Livelihood Improvement Scheme (PELIS), grazing, bee keeping and ecotourism.
Kenya to Self and to The World
In addition, the urban forests for which we are stewards ranging from where we are today, Karura forest, City Park and Ngong Road in Nairobi to Ngong Hills and Olorua in Kajiado to Arabuko Sokoke in coast to Menengai in Nakuru to Kakamega forest among all other forests continue to offer unmatched opportunity for millions of Kenyans to reconnect with nature, reflect and recreate. Indeed, the forests did not only connect Kenyans with each other and to nature, but also brought the world to Kenya where the Service hosted key personalities and events to exemplify but a few – the US Secretary of State- Antony J. Blinken; His Royal Highness, Price Edward; UN General Assembly President- H.E Volkan Bozkir; President of France-H. E Emmanuel Macron; President of Estonia-H. E Kersti Kaljulaid; US Deputy Secretary of State- H.E Wendy Ruth Sherman; Slovak Minister of Environment Hon. Jan Bugaj; His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Norway Haakon Magnus. The Service also hosted KUSI Idea Festivals, UNEA 5.2; Green Legacy Initiative, Google@15 officiated by H.E the President and Kakamega Adopt a Forest Initiative launch by H.E the 1st Lady. Is this coincidence, fate or something much more? I would say, it’s something more, it’s a shared legacy for all of us as it has taken good efforts, perhaps the improved image of the Service, enhanced service delivery and to believers, its simply a blessing!
What is not measured, cannot be managed or improved. In this realization and in line with the Forest Conservation and Management Act, 2016, the Service in collaboration with the Office of the President undertook a rigorous National Forest Resources Assessment to determine the status of both the Tree and Forest cover and assess whether the Country had met its constitutional obligation of 10% tree cover by 2022 as was directed by the President in 2018.
It is encouraging to note that the assessment report which was launched by H.E the President on 27th May this year, revealed that the country has not only met but surpassed the 10% target which currently stands at 12.13%. In addition, the assessment indicated that national forest cover has increased from 5.9% of 2018 to 8.83% in 2022.
Delivery at a Glance
This achievement is a shared legacy and attributable to several interventions undertaken by the government through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Kenya Forest Service under the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’. They include but not limited to elaborate national tree growing campaign, strong partnerships and linkages with other government agencies, county governments, private sector and non-state actors, Adopt-a-forest Initiative, reclamation of encroached forest land (57,000ha in the last 4 years), restoration and rehabilitation of forest degraded areas including urban forest green spaces, restocking of commercial forest plantations (30,000ha in the last 4 years via PELIS), continued electric fencing of Mt. Kenya Forest Ecosystem now at 230kms of the total 450kms; the cordial relationship and good will – social fencing from the forest adjacent communities (CFAs), technological innovations and advancement (artificial intelligence based Forest Alert System, Forest Resources Information Management System, Forest Fire Risk Analysis and procurement of 2 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles- drones).
By all Means Necessary
These achievements and implementation of these interventions could not have been possible were it not for your hard work, sacrifice and unwavering commitment amidst various challenges among them increased pressure on forest resources, complex and emerging forest security threats, financial constraint, inadequate staffing and indigent infrastructure. I could confidently say that by all measure, this year was fruitful and well spent thanks to our combined strength. Thanks to you all!
The Spirit of Servitude
On sacrifice and by the nature of our jobs and in protecting our national heritage – the forests we have sadly lost some of our colleagues while on their line of duty, others have been injured. These are our heroes and we celebrate them. To those who retired from the service this year, we appreciate your efforts and wish you well in your future endeavors.
Direction to the Future
Based on the outcome of the National Forest Resources Assessment Report of 12.13% Tree Cover, H.E the President has raised the bar and directed the attainment of 30% tree cover by 2032, the road to growing 15 billion trees has begun i.e. 5 billion in the next 5 years and another 10 billion trees between 2027 and 2032. While the target sounds ambitious, when simply broken down, it comes to 30 trees per Kenyan, every year for the next ten years, this is doable and to do we must again under the rallying call of ‘Leaving No One Behind’. Other incentives and interventions that will get us there is taking this as an individual challenge but a collective responsibility, trees for birthday, partnerships and collaborations, leveraging it as an opportunity for creating green jobs and micro-enterprises, issuance of Certificate of Green Conduct to every Kenyan who grows 300 trees among other innovative approaches.
Looking into the future as the Kenya Forest Service, we have a job to do and all is clear and well cut out. Under the guidance of the Ministry, we have a key, central and strategic role to play in the attainment of the 30% tree cover by 2032 beyond our mandate to protect and conserve the current forest resources. On this realization, and on behalf the Kenya Forest Service I wish to sincerely thank H.E the President through the Ministry for directing the recruitment of 2,700 forest rangers and 600 forest officers which will go a long way in strengthening the institutional capacity of the Service to effectively execute her mandate.
The key focus in the next year will be on the following but not limited to; Efforts towards the attainment of 30% tree cover, protecting and conserving the current forest and resources in Kenya, leveraging on partnerships to complement the funding gap, recruitment of the 2,700 Forest Rangers, 600 forest officer and continuous replacement of retiring staff, enhancing internally generated revenue, infrastructure rehabilitation and restoration i.e. forest road, offices and housing, restoration of degraded forest areas, reclamation of encroached forest land, integration of KFS systems and connectivity of forest offices to power and internet, improvement of staff welfare and enhanced participation of forest adjacent communities in forest management.
The ‘Bee Spirit’
Individually we are one drop, together we an ocean, I therefore urge all of us to work together, each one of us has a critical role to play and our individual efforts counts in the delivery of our corporate mandate.
Appreciation to All
I wish to most sincerely thank the Government, through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry for the unwavering policy direction under the leadership of the CS Hon. Soipan Tuya, the PS State Department for Forestry Mr. Ephantus Kimani, and the entire KFS Board represented here by our very able Vice Chairman, Mr Peter Wandera for the strategic guidance to the management and staff of the Kenya Forest Service. Without your support it would have been impossible to register the aforementioned achievements.
Kenya our Common Home we owe it to each other and to Nature
As I conclude I wish to most sincerely thank all Kenyans for their goodwill and accepting the rallying call towards tree growing with great passion and to remind them that Kenya is our common home, and by growing a tree you are inspiring life, hope and a future not only to the current generation but future generations, this is the best demonstration of patriotism to our beloved country Kenya. In any case, trees are our closest relatives. What trees exhale, we inhale; what we exhale, they inhale. They are half our respiratory system. They are our second lung”
I hope that when you’re celebrating the holidays with friends and family, that you look back on the year with the same sense of accomplishment that we all should feel.
I wish you and your families all a happy holiday season and a prosperous green year 2023 filled with God’s grace and protection.
I wish to end my message by urging you all to be encouraged by the words of Prophet Jeremiah as recorded in; Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.