Description of plantation resources
In 1992, the vegetation cover assessment showed that the closed canopy indigenous forest covered 1 240 000 ha, while the plantation area was 230 000 ha.
Most forests are State-owned (Wass, 1995) and forest resources are mainly used for fuelwood, which supplies 70 percent of the country's energy. (MENR, 1994)
Development of forest plantations
In the early 1900s sustainability of wood production from natural forests became a matter of concern. Some exotic species had been introduced and proved suitable. The first systematic plantation was carried out under the "shamba" system, known internationally as the "taungya" system. This agroforestry practice proved to be useful as plantation method.
The first exotic plantations were composed by Eucalyptus spp. and Acacia spp. and were aimed at fuelwood and timber production. Cupressus spp. were planted as well. Exotic plantations for timber production continued until 1927. In 1902 the Forestry Department was established to manage plantations.
After the Second World War, plantation of Pinus spp. and Cupressus spp. was recommended, especially since P. patula and P. radiata had been widely planted. Since then, some additional programmes to establish plantations have been launched.
In the 1970s and 1980s tree planting was promoted on privately owned land by a number of organisations. In the mid 1980s, political pressure based on the assumption that exotic species plantations were detrimental to the environment, if compared to indigenous forests, led the government to plant more indigenous species (MENR, 1994).
The choice of plantation species has changed over time. Currently, the species used in government plantations are mainly exotics such as Cupressus, Pinus and Eucalyptus. Cupressus spp. and Pinus spp. comprise about 45 and 31 percent, of government plantations, respectively. Indigenous conifers were once planted but they are not very common now. Indigenous broadleaved species have been planted. The main product harvested in governmental plantations is timber.
As for private plantations, the main species are Eucalyptus and Acacia mearnsii, comprising about two-thirds of the private plantation area. Acacia mearnsii is planted for its bark (MENR, 1994).
In the 1990s the establishment of plantations started to decline. According to the analysis of plantation inventory during 1989-1992, more than half the area in the establishment phase is understocked and silvicultural treatments have not been carried out at the required times (MENR, 1994).
The lack of political support, budget, and changes in staff attitudes, skills and motivation, caused a steady decline of the Forestry Department as a public body responsible for forest management.
Poor quality of plantations and the delay of silvicultural treatments are also a problem. Although plantations meet the present requirements for roundwood, in the future it would be necessary to harvest immature trees (MENR, 1994).
MENR. 1994. Kenya forestry master plan. Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
Wass, P. 1995. Kenya's indigenous forests status, management and conservation.