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Mr. George Ochieng

Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests


The FAO Representative in Kenya, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great honour for me to have been given this opportunity to make opening remarks on the occasion of the workshop on "Data Collection and Analysis for sustainable Forest Management". But before I do that, I want to welcome all of you, our guests from IGAD region, FAO, Rome, and those from both local and international NGOs, including representatives from various donor communities, here present.

In Kenya we attach a lot of importance to sustainable forest management. This is particularly so because of the linkages of the forestry sector in our country with other landuse sectors such as agriculture, and tourism which are the backbone of the national economy. Our forests are also linked to other sectors such as energy, health, education and telecommunications, to mention but a few. The forest sector in Kenya is categorised into three broad areas, namely

· Farm Forestry;

· Industrial Plantations; and

· Indigenous Forests.

The main issues affecting sustainable forest management in Kenya include:

· Rapid population growth rate;

· Inappropriate Forestry Policy and legislation; and

· Low institutional capacity of the Forest Department to implement various programs.

Today we are assembled to discuss data collection and analysis and how national capacities to compile accurate information on forestry for purposes of planning and policy decision making may be strengthened.

We shall review and assess the availability, accuracy and completeness of forestry data. We want to explore the viable options for the collection and use of data normally required by forestry practitioners for sustainable forest management. By the end of this workshop, we expect the participants to be equipped with appropriate guidelines and skills to collect, analyse and even validate the compiled data, with a view of improving the institutional capacity to disseminate information, update forestry policies, and to engage in long term strategic planning.

Accurate data can be used to predict national, regional and global forestry development trends. The harmonisation of national and international data and the use of standardised definitions will go along way in enhancing cross-border co-operation, and developing inter-regional programmes. I am aware that our countries have developed National Forestry Programmes, which have culminated into new Forest Policies and revised Forest Legislation. This process required a lot of data and information for development of national forestry programmes. But I wonder how many of you, used reliable and accurate data to develop these plans?

My experience is that inspite of new policies and elaborated programmes, our forests are being used for unsustainable production of timber, woodfuels and other forest products. Some of the richest biodiversity ecosystems nationally and even regionally are found in our forests. But there is no guarantee that this biological diversity will continue to be protected according to the current trends. There is insufficient information on the changes taking place in these ecosystems. We have a duty to ensure that the new policies and strategies being developed are based on accurate data and information that will lead to the development of institutional capacities and programmes for the sustainable management and conservation of all forest ecosystems.

Resource managers, are fond of recycling old information from the files for planning and policy formulation. On the other hand, the bulk of information on resources are largely unused because of lack of analytical skills and knowledge. In most cases the data collected are on wood products, completely ignoring the non-timber forest products. Experience has shown that non-timber forest products could be more important to the local communities terms of poverty alleviation, food security and employment creation. I therefore want to recommend that this workshop comes out with appropriate strategies for collecting information on non-timber forest products. However we should be careful, to collect only the useful data, because our libraries in the Forest Departments are full of data that nobody uses.

Ladies, and Gentlemen, by the end of this workshop, I hope we come out with clear methodologies on data collection, analysis, storage and retrieval. This approach hopefully, will enhance sustainable forest management within the region.

Our forests are going through a hard time towards success. However victory can only be achieved if the local communities, who are the major stakeholders, are directly involved in the management of our forests. But I see a problem because even in this workshop, organised in the rural setting of Kenya, the local communities are carefully excluded. I believe that the local communities have the most comprehensive data-base on non-wood forests products and we need their inputs.

It is my sincere hope that the recommendations made by this meeting will go along way in shaping the destiny, of not only the forest sub-sector, but also other related land use sectors. Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that this workshop will provide a meaningful and valuable opportunity for all the participating institutions to forge closer co-operation. I hope that other meetings, will follow to enable you to assess the extent to which the goals and objectives you have set will have been met. With these remarks I now declare this workshop officially opened.

Thank you.

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