Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet


Today the world celebrates World Wildlife Day. Kenya Forest Service also joins in celebrating the day to highlight the central role of forests, forest species and ecosystems services in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally, and particularly of Indigenous and local communities with historic ties to forested and forest-adjacent areas. This aligns with UN Sustainable Development Goals 1, 12, 13 and 15, the Kenya Big Four Agenda of Food and Security and their wide-ranging commitments to alleviating poverty, ensuring sustainable use of resources, and on conserving life land.


According to a report Livelihoods, Natural Resource Entitlements and Protected Areas: The Case Of Mt. Elgon Forest In Kenya, between 2.5 and 3 million people live adjacent to forested areas in Kenya, relying on the various ecosystem services provided by forest and forest species for their livelihoods and to cover their most basic needs, including food, shelter, energy and medicines.


Forests, forests species and the livelihoods that depend on them currently find themselves at the crossroads of the multiple planetary crises we currently face, from climate change, to biodiversity loss and the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Wildlife and Forests are heavily dependent on each other since Wildlife forms forests and helps them sustain and grow. In return, Forests provide wild organisms with food, shelter and other resources. Wildlife that live in the forest require it for survival. The forest protects them, in many cases feeds them.


Forests provide essential livelihoods and environmental services. They habour a disproportionate amount of the world’s biodiversity, regulate key aspects of the global carbon cycle and weather patterns, and contribute directly to national incomes and the local livelihoods of millions of people worldwide. Agriculture, livestock, forestry, honey, and handicrafts are natural resource-based livelihoods sources.


When forest cover is removed, biodiversity can be severely impacted. For wildlife this can mean loss of shelter, food sources and migration routes. Human-wildlife conflicts such as hunting and poaching increase as habitat shrinks and new logging roads extend into previously unlogged areas.


Measures and interest need to be channeled towards regrowing trees and increasing the land cover for forests. Reforestation and afforestation need to be promoted throughout the world. Proper forest management bodies need to be enforced to monitor wildlife actions and update on the latest.


This year’s World Wildlife Day celebrates forest-based livelihoods and seek to promote forest and forest wildlife management models and practices that accommodate both human well-being and the long-term conservation of forests, forest-dwelling species of wild fauna and flora and the ecosystems they sustain, and promote the value of traditional practices and knowledge that contribute to establishing a more sustainable relationship with these crucial natural systems.


We cannot afford to ignore the role of forests in sustaining livelihoods. Let us protect our forests for sustainable people and planet.

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