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Kenya loses Billions in deforestation

07 November 2012, 16:13 Trudy Tru

A new study by Kenya forest Service (KFS) and United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) reveals how Kenya loses billions of shillings due to deforestation.

The joint report reveals that, deforestation deprived Kenyan economy KES 5.8 billion in 2010 slightly more than a billion less in the previous year.

According to KFS, forests contribute to about 3.6 percent of the Gross domestic product (GDP).

Alarmingly KFS reveals that deforestation in Kenya's five water towers; Mau Forest Complex, Mount Kenya, the Aberdares, Mount Elgon and Cherangani has impacted an estimated 28,427 hectares leading to a reduction in water availability of 62 million cubic meters per year.

Commenting on the report, the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Dr. Noah Wekesa, said “The value of the Mau Forest’s ecosystem services to the Kenyan economy previously calculated by Unep has already catalyzed a response to conserve and rehabilitate this vital resource.This shows that we have already acknowledged the importance of forests."

He however said that the new report quantifies the massive scale of the economic damage deforestation brings and shows much more needs to be done nation-wide.

The report entitled, "The Role and Contribution of Mountain Forests and Related Ecosystem Services to the Kenyan Economy", states that the five water towers provide more than 15,800 million cubic meters of water per year and this is over 75 per cent of the country’s renewable surface water resources.

"Kenya should transition to an inclusive green economy,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Unep Executive Director.

The report cites unregulated charcoal production, logging of indigenous trees, marijuana cultivation, and cultivated fields in the indigenous forests to shamba-system practices, livestock grazing, quarry landslides and human settlements as some of the causes to deforestation.

According to the report, by the year 2010, the cumulative negative effect of deforestation on the economy through reduction in regulating services was an estimated KES 3,650 million per year, more than four times the cash revenue of deforestation.

It further shows that decreased river flows in dry season in 2010 led to reduced water supply to irrigation agriculture, at a cost of KES 1.5 billion to the sector.

The reduction in river flows also reduced hydropower generation by KES 8 million, producing a multiplier effect on the rest of the economy through power shortages.

Increased wet-season flows lead to erosion and sedimentation, resulting in a loss of productive soil resources, which in turn increases nutrient content in fresh water systems, causes siltation and increases turbidity of water supplies. This reduction in water quality reduced inland fish catch by KES 86 million and increased the cost of water treatment for potable use by KES 192 million in 2010.

Incidences of malaria as a result of deforestation are estimated to have cost KES 237 million by 2010, in the form of health costs to the government, it has also resulted into a loss in labour productivity.

Forest loss is also detrimental to the global carbon cycle. The above-ground carbon storage value forgone through deforestation was estimated at KES 511 million in 2010.

The Kenyan government has already recognized the value of its forests, and is working on the rehabilitation of the Mau Forest Complex. Over the last one-and-a-half years, more than 21,000 hectares of forestland have been repossessed, and 10,000 hectares have been rehabilitated by the Government and partners.

With a view to expanding efforts to all water towers, the Government gazetted the Kenya Water Towers Agency on 13 April 2012.

The report also found out that forests in Kenya represent a great opportunity in terms of carbon storage and the use of carbon trading schemes.

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