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LAWS THAT PROTECT OUR FORESTS-THE FOREST CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT ACT 2016

By Benedetta Wasonga

 

Kenya’s forest laws are among the most stringent in the world. They protect our forests and ensure that sustainable forest management practices are followed across the country. This means that consumers can be confident that the forest and wood products they buy from and within Kenya were obtained legally and harvested under a system of sustainable forest management. Thus, various legislative forest reforms have taken place over the years. These reforms culminated to the repeal of the Forest Act 385, the enactment of the Forest Act, 2005 which established the Kenya Forest Service as a Semi-autonomous State Corporation in 2007 and the now newly formed Forest Conservation and Management Act, 2016 (FCM Act, 2016). 

The main purpose of the new Act is to give effect to Article 69 of the Constitution of Kenya with regard to forest resources; provides for the development and sustainable management, including conservation and rational utilization of all forest resources for the socio-economic development of the country and other connected purposes. 

Although Kenya Forest Service administers the FCM Act 2016, the Act requires County Governments to adopt and implement policies in adherence to the act as provided under Section 21 which requires them to prepare annual report for the Service on forestry activities. The Act also requires the Kenya Forest Service Board to prepare forest status report for the Cabinet Secretary once every two years and forest resource assessment report (FRA) once every year. It gives responsibility to the Cabinet Secretary to develop National Forest Policy in consultation with County Governments and relevant stakeholders.

Primarily, the Act calls for the establishment and implementation of various rules and regulations. Key among them are the implementation and enforcement of rules and regulations governing importation, exportation and trade in forest produce, develop rules and regulations for appointment of honorary foresters, publish rules to regulate and govern quarrying operations in forest areas. It also prescribes regulations to guide the preparation of forest management plans for public, community and private forests. 

The Act requires development of rules for incentive and benefit sharing as well as review the existing rules on production, transportation and marketing of charcoal. Rules on engagement and operationalization of payment for environmental services will also be developed. Upon request by relevant county government, the service shall develop regulations in respect of specific community forests in counties.

Consequently, The FCM Act, 2016 guarantees the long-term public benefits provided by forests. Generally, the Act requires the rehabilitation, maintenance, and protection of forestlands for the benefit of all by ensuring sustainable exploitation, utilisation, management and conservation of the environment and natural resources while working to achieve and maintain a tree cover of at least ten per cent of the land area of Kenya and as such, every person has a duty to protect and conserve our forests. 

 

 

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