Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page




Extent and Distribution of Indigenous Natural Forests

The latest inventory done in 1994 by Kenya Indigenous Forest Conservation Programme (KIFCON) came up with a differentiation between two types of forest cover. The total indigenous forest cover in gazetted forest areas was estimated by KIFCON (Wass, 1994), to be 1.06 million ha (excluding the mangrove forests along the coastline), while the area of indigenous closed canopy forest outside the gazetted forests was estimated to be 180,000 ha (0.18 million ha). Besides the gazetted forests, the country has a total of about 37.6 million ha of natural woody vegetation consisting of 2.1 million ha of woodlands, 24.8 million ha of bush-lands and 10.7 million ha of wooded grasslands.

Most of the closed canopy forests are concentrated in the high and medium potential zones of Kenya where, incidentally, the human population and agricultural production are also concentrated; hence there is potential conflict between closed canopy forest and agriculture. Within the arid and semi-arid zones, closed forests are fewer and are found concentrated mainly on isolated mountain ranges and along river courses, both permanent and seasonal, with the rest of this zone being composed of woodlands, bush-lands and wooded grasslands.

An extensive cover of mangrove forests are found along the coastline, which is estimated to total 54,355 ha (0.54 million ha.), a figure which was not included in the national forest cover estimated by KIFCON (Wass, 1994).


Current Status of Natural Forest Management

The management of the natural forests and that of the forest resource in general is governed by the national forest policy which is implemented mainly by the Forest Department, since most forest land falls under its jurisdiction as gazetted forest reserve. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has management responsibility for all indigenous forests falling within national parks, national reserves and game sanctuaries. These two organisations recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for joint management of selected indigenous forests of particular importance. In addition to the above gazetted categories of forests, other natural forests are found falling under trust lands, lands held in trust for the local people under the jurisdiction of the local authorities commonly known as County Councils. These forests are managed by the local county councils and in some cases with assistance of the Forest Department and KWS. Forests falling within gazetted national monuments are managed by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK).

Following a presidential decree in 1985 that banned commercial exploitation of natural forests, there is no formal indigenous forest management in Kenya to date. In the recent past however, other forms of non-traditional forest management are emerging based on non-extractive uses. The current policy initiative has also proposed participatory forest management strategies based on benefit sharing, with the forest adjacent communities.

In general terms, the national parks and reserves enjoy stronger political support in conservation than gazetted forest reserves where management is low keyed. The Forest Department at the moment lacks adequate funding and other resources for effective management of the forest resources. Hence, most of the natural forests are currently facing a lot of threat from human activity that include illegal encroachment, excisions, charcoal burning, poaching of timber and other forest products and forest fires originating from adjacent farmlands. If this trend persists it is expected that the total area under national forest will decline substantially to give way to agricultural activities. This portends a catastrophe in view of this limited resource and its direct/indirect linkage with agricultural activities.

Over-exploitation and lack of proper management is also rampant in most of the forests falling under the local authorities in trust lands, some of which are faced with threat of extinction. A few of the small parcels of natural forests especially at the coast (Kaya forests) have been preserved by the local communities for religious and other ceremonial purposes who exert a lot of traditional control over their use. Their future lies to a large extent in the hands of these communities. Other problems facing the conservation and management of indigenous forests involve the following:

Forest excisions for human settlement and agriculture as a result of high population pressure;

Lack of proper management plans for most of the forest reserves

Forest research has been focusing on plantation forestry and indigenous forests have largely been overlooked:

Lack of involvement of adjacent communities and other stakeholders in conservation and management

Lack of information on the location, size and structure of privately owned natural forests

Under the above circumstance, it is envisaged that the area under natural forest will remain under pressure for conversion to other uses thereby, reducing significantly the total area during the period under review. In the last 10 years, it is noted that the country has experienced the worst forest excisions ever, rating at 5000 ha yearly.


Goods and Services

Commercial Exploitation:

It is estimated that more than 50,000 m3 valued at KSh 350 million are poached from the natural forests annually despite the ban from 1985 (Wass, 1994). Illegal felling by timber poachers has lead to over-exploitation to such an extent that most of the species of commercial value have become almost depleted and very few high quality mature trees can still be found. Some limited removal of wood products from the natural forests by licensed individuals is currently allowed but these are limited to fuel wood, deadwood for carvings, withies, poles and posts.

Since the ban has not yielded the deserved results and in view of the fact that sustainable management may offer some limited returns, it is probably the right time to review the ban and allow limited exploitation based on the concept of sustainable forest management. The communities neighbouring these resources should be given the first opportunities under this arrangements in order to develop a sense of ownership for future sustainability.

Non-wood Products:

The natural forests provide a wide range of non-wood products ranging from medicinal herbs, honey, food (meat) from trapped animals, fish (trout), fruits, vegetables, fibres, nuts and tubers which form an important source of food to forest-adjacent households especially during periods of drought and famine.

Soil and Water Conservation:

Natural forests play a very significant role in environmental conservation and water catchment protection as most of the water sources in the country originate from these areas. It should however be noted that most of Kenya’s electric energy needs are met from hydro-electric sources which are intricately linked to forest management.

Conservation of Biodiversity:

A wide range of both flora and fauna species are found within Kenya’s natural forests, some of which are endemic to specific forests in the country. Out of these, the rare and endangered forest-dependent species are found in these forests hence the conservation of these forest areas are of vital importance.

Recreation, Education and Research:

Forest recreation (e.g. eco-tourism) is today becoming very popular whereby natural forests and other natural formations are attracting a large number of eco-tourists into the country. In addition, many scientific and other social studies are carried out in natural indigenous forests yielding valuable local, regional and global benefits.

Provision of Habitat for Traditional Forest Dwellers:

Traditional forest dwellers, composed of scattered communities estimated at 10,000 households, have lived deep inside the forests since time immemorial and depend on forests for their subsistence needs. Their presence was not considered a threat to the forest resource. In addition to these traditional forest dwellers, a new breed of forest dwellers have recently encroached and in some cases invaded the forest reserves illegally and are the ones currently causing destruction in these forests. This group of people legally known as forest squatters reside, cultivate and carry out other illegal activities within the forest reserves without permission of the department and are estimated to be over 4,000 households in various forest reserves. The increasing population pressure on land, bearing in mind that these forest reserves are found within the highly productive areas where human population and agricultural activities are also concentrated, has largely brought about this encroachment into forest reserves. This squatter issue poses the biggest threat to the management and conservation of forest reserves in Kenya today though the government has been trying to solve the problem with varying degrees of success.

Grazing Havens During Drought Periods:

Forest reserves especially those situated within the dry zone forest regions provide refuge for the surrounding pastoralists communities who move into those areas to graze their animals during the dry seasons and periods of severe drought.

Cultural and Religious Roles:

Many natural forests or specific areas within the forests play a significant cultural and religious role for the surrounding communities where certain rituals and ceremonies are performed.

Carbon Sequestration:

Natural forests in addition to other vegetation cover act as carbon sinks hence playing a global role of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and decrease in the green house effect.


Estimate of Current Standing Wood Product Volumes

The latest forest inventory by KIFCON in the indigenous natural forests in Kenya estimated the total standing volume in Kenya’s forests (i.e. sum of timber, pole wood and fuel wood) at 200 million m3. The timber volume alone was estimated at 47 million m3. Besides the species composition, also the timber volume per forest region shows some difference:

The coastal forest region contains the lowest mean standing volume per ha. The mean timber volume in the closed canopy forest is estimated at under 4 m3/ha

Within the dry forest, the timber volume per ha is estimated to average 47 m³/ha

In terms of area and stocking of commercial species, the montane forest zone forms the most important zone. It contains the highest mean total volume per ha with standing volume estimated at 253 m3/ha and an average timber volume of 61 m3/ha. Majority of the vegetation is of secondary growth following past logging. In the more accessible areas the vegetation is sometimes converted into plantation forests. The remaining undisturbed primary forests are mainly confined to the deep inaccessible areas, mainly in the Mt. Kenya area.

Within the western rainforest region, the standing volume is estimated at 230 m3/ha and the mean timber volume at 78 m3/ha


Estimate of Sustainable Yields of Timber, Poles and Fuel Wood from Kenya’s Natural Forests

The total sustainable yield from the natural forests is estimated at 1.5 million m³. These figures do not take into consideration the areas falling within nature reserves, national parks and other forest areas currently or which may in future be zoned as protected areas where no harvesting is allowed. Equally important to note is the fact that no permanent sample plots (PSPs) have been maintained in the indigenous natural forests in Kenya to monitor growth and yields from those forests, hence no data is available on the growth rates or annual increment to accurately determine the sustainable yields from these forests.

With proper controls and sound exploitation based on sustained yield management with strict annual allowable cuts from each forest area, there are great prospects for modest utilization of the timber, fuel wood and pole wood resources from these natural forests on a sustainable basis as inventory studies have shown that the sustainable volume of hardwood that could be extracted from Kenya’s natural indigenous forests is considerably higher than the present amount used by the wood industry in Kenya today.





Just before independence, the Forest Department prepared a guide to long-term industrial plantations investment and forest-based industries, particularly pulp and paper. The target was for 136,000 ha of sawn timber plantations and 24,000 ha of pulpwood plantations to be established by 1980. These plantations are made up of about 86% exotic softwoods (mainly pines and cypress), 10% Eucalyptus and the other 5% indigenous hardwoods and softwoods. The exotic softwood plantations form the bulk of Kenya's industrial wood raw material, while the eucalyptus are primarily for transmission poles, fuel wood and to some extent, pulpwood and fibre-boards in the west of Rift Valley.


Area by Species

An analysis of plantation stocking in the county carried out by Forest Department in 1999 indicates that the country had a stocked area of approximately 78,000 ha by November 1999. Of this area, 48.8% was cypress, 34.7% was pines and 8.3% was Eucalyptus spp. This area is in contrast to a stocked area of about 163,820 ha by 1992 (KFMP, 1994) and a projected 134,000 ha by year 2000.


Area Distribution by Age

From the analysis, the areas covered by cypress plantations dominate age classes 0-28 years while pine plantations dominate age classes above 29 years. This is due to the higher preference for cypress for harvesting by saw millers. On the other hand, plantations aged over 35 years comprise of over 7,000 ha of pines and only 600 ha of cypress. This can again be attributed to inaccessibility in some areas, thus hampering the harvesting process.

On average, every year there are between 100 and 800 ha of cypress plantations between ages 0-10, while on the other hand there are between 100 and 300 ha of pines of the same age class. This material forms the basis for supply for the period 2015-2025.

Plantation aged 11-28 years average about 2,300 ha/year. Species distribution scenario is 1,000 ha for cypress and 800 ha for pines per year. This will form the timber supply base for the years 2002-2015 if harvesting is at age 28-30 years.

For the short term, plantations aged 24-30 years average about 1,000 ha per year for cypress and 900 ha per year for pines, giving a total average of less than 2,000 ha per year of clear-fell which is far below the current allocation which averages 6,500 ha per year.

The emerging scenario is one with large areas of over-mature pines, which need to be harvested immediately. Plywood factories at Elburgon, Nakuru and Eldoret can access the material. Other remnants of over-mature pines are found in inaccessible areas in Mt. Kenya and the Arberdares.


Resource Distribution by District

The overall national volume distribution of industrial plantation as at end of 1999 shows that large volumes of P. radiata are manifested in plantations aged over 34 years which amounts to approximately 1.5 million m3. Preference for cypress by the market is responsible for these large volumes of over-mature pines which are found mainly in Koibatek, Kericho, Kakamega and Mt. Elgon districts. The volume of cypress drastically declines beyond age 28 years. Old cypress plantations are only found in inaccessible areas.

The total volume of pine and cypress plantations above age 30 is approximately 5.2 million m3. For plantations aged 26-30 years, the volume of pines averages about 280,000 m3/year while cypress is about 300,000 m3/year.


3.2.5 Rationalization Strategies

Plantations Establishment and Treatment:

While the normal planting programme averages 3,000 ha per annum, areas allocated for clear fell are in excess o f 6,000 ha per annum. The resultant allocations have had a very serious effect on plantation management (sylvicultural treatment and establishment) and have contributed to an accumulation of approximately 40,000 ha of planting backlog.

The method used to establish plantations is the shamba system, which is locally known as non-resident cultivation (NRC). Currently this system is being used in all major plantation districts. NRC remains the best system of plantation establishment with potential benefits to both the Forest Department and the cultivator. It offers an opportunity for reduced cost of establishment and improved survival rate on one hand and increased food production and employment on the other. This approach has the potential to reduce land use conflict, particularly if the allocation process is fair and provides for continuity of farming benefits. However the following needs to be done in order to improve management of NRC:

Both the forest officers and the cultivators should be compelled to strictly adhere to the set guidelines. The District Forest Officers and the Provincial Forest officers must closely supervise implementation of NRC to ensure that the guidelines are followed

We should ensure that future opening is commensurate with the planting programme. A long-term plan to ensure that harvesting matches planting should also be put in place.

There is need to establish dialogue with local communities with a view to getting their support in seedling production and tree planting. NRC Management Communities, representing the interests of farmers should be formed in every station with the Forest Officers taking the leading role in organizing the committees.

The National NRC Management Committee should monitor implementation and management of NRC and also the dynamics of the system.

In order to recognize NRC as a method of plantation establishment, there is need to give the system legal basis by gazetting the guidelines as subsidiary legislation to the Forest Act.

Integrated Harvesting:

If the plantations were to be managed for multipurpose use, the integrated harvesting system of the final crop would ensure optimal prices and revenues for the various categories of wood as well as their allocation to the most appropriate user.

Policy and Institutional Changes:

In order for the forestry sector to play its role effectively in terms of providing goods and services and contribute to national economic development, policy and institutional reforms, well focused investments and adoption of sustainable forest management needs to be done.

Policy and institutional reforms are already in progress. A new forest policy and forest bill are at an advanced stage. There should however be a close follow-up to effect speedy completion. It is expected that the completion of the new forest policy and bill, will lead to the strengthening of the capacity especially expertise and logistical capability in the institution which will be charged with the management of the forest resource. To achieve this, the following interventions are envisaged:

A detailed study, followed by its implementation, should establish an efficient management organization for forest plantations.

Field implementation to rationalize the management of forest plantations.

Medium term (5-15 years) to involve full transfer of management of forest plantations to a new efficient management organization

Long term (15-25 years) to ensure that the long term objectives of the programmes is being met sustainably

Investment in Plantations:

In order to achieve sustained plantation forest management, there will be a need to carry out a well focused investment in the following areas:

Capacity building in resource planning and management, impact assessment, geographical information systems (GIS), monitoring and evaluation.

Research in non-wood tree products to enhance their economic potential

Development of credit support to private forest investments

Improving data and information for management planning through regular surveys and forest inventories

Developing and improving marketing of forest products

Streamlining the administration and management of the forest plantation enterprise

Forest Plantation Management

Management of forest plantations on public lands should primarily aim at increasing supply of forest-based products and services. Their management should be efficient, self-supporting, and profit-oriented so that they may contribute in supporting essential non-profit forest activities such as forest conservation. Efficient utilization of raw material shall take into consideration the knowledge of the market situation. In order to improve the management on public forest plantations, there is need to adopt the Kenya Forestry Master Plan scenario of a well-managed forest plantation sector, which proposes the following:

Separation of the functions of the Forest Department by transferring the management of forest plantations to an efficient forestry enterprise. Under this scenario, the land remains under the ownership of the state. In the long run, it is envisaged that forest plantations will be managed by the private sector while the Forest Department will be expected to retain and strengthen its responsibilities as forest authority, principally in the fields of forest policy, legislation, regulation and law enforcement

Reduction in cost and improvement in success of plantations established through NRC. This approach has the potential to reduce land uses conflict, particularly if the allocation process is fair and provides for continuity of farming benefits. Under NRC, survival rate is improved through weed control and improved protection against fire and animal damage. On the other hand, the farmers benefit through increased food production and family income

Carrying out sylvicultural operations as prescribed in the management plans. This will improve growth rates and product quality

Efficient collection of revenue and fair pricing of forest products

If the management strategy is implemented within a short term, the following projections are likely to be achieved:

Table 5: Projected Area of Forest Plantations (‘000 ha)








Current scenario







Future scenario








Table 6: Projections of Sustainable Wood Yields from Forest Plantations (‘000 m3)

Current Trend/Year





















Master-Plan Scenario


















Extent of Tree Cover

According to the proposed Forest Policy, the future of the Forestry Sector lies outside the gazetted forests. This is imperative given the fact that the gazetted forests are less than 2.5% of the total land area of Kenya. The country has a total of about 37.6 million ha of natural woody vegetation outside the forests. A further 9.5 million ha of woody vegetation is found in farmlands and settlements (Wass, 1994).

Woodlands and bush-lands do not have formal management strategies and they are mainly used for grazing. There are huge potentials for non-wood tree products, which can be incorporated to strengthen the management strategies. These forests are in the semi-arid and arid lands (ASALs) and are in most cases faced with the problems of drought. They act as important fodder reserves for wildlife and livestock, especially during the dry periods. The most important factor, which influences management, is land tenure. Land in ASAL is mainly owned by communities. In Eastern and Coast provinces, however, there is permanent cultivation, and progress has been made in assigning property rights. It is largely in these areas with secure land tenure that tree improvement through management can be initiated. In order to address the intensification of resource use conflict a new land use policy will need to be developed including land tenure arrangements.

There is also a need to address the problem of inefficient charcoal production technologies. Since the traditional charcoal kilns have an efficiency of about 15%, by introducing modern kilns, ploughing back a proportion of less money collected by the local authorities in afforestation programmes, promotion of food security to reduce forest/environmental degradation and promotion of other income generation activities than charcoal production alone. This way farmers can increase their benefits substantially (even double) besides improving on conservation by judicious utilization and processing of resources. About 70% of the charcoal produced in the country at present comes from the ASALs. However, wood deficits forecast to occur after year 2000 will increase to such an extent that they can no longer be met by charcoal imports from ASALs.


Management Issues

Plantation forests under companies (tea and tobacco) are usually well managed and are based on short fuel wood cycles with Eucalyptus spp as the main species. For non-wood forest products, only Acacia mearnsii plantations (under farms and companies) have a history of good management. Most of these plantations however, have been converted into agriculture.

For the production of fuel wood, agroforestry programmes, mainly in the high potential areas, have successfully been the main source of wood energy. In the same agroforestry programmes and farm woodlots, farmers have also managed to produce commercial timber and poles (Grevillea robusta, Cupressus lusitanica, Pinus patula, Eucalyptus spp, Markhamia lutea, Vitex keniensis and Melia volkensii).


Farm Forestry

Farm forestry has taken over a substantial part of the wood production function of the indigenous forests and large-scale forest plantations. The country’s farms are located mainly in the high and medium potential areas.

The results of farmers’ efforts can be seen from the Kenya Forestry Master Plan (KFMP, 1994) survey of woody biomass, which indicated that about 40% of the woody biomass outside closed-canopy indigenous forest are from planted trees, and that the total volumes of trees planted by farmers equals that of the closed-canopy indigenous forest and government forest plantations combined. From the results of this study, it is estimated that farmlands and settlements contain, on average, about 9.3 m3/ha of woody biomass, and that this is increasing annually at a rate of about 0.5 m3/ha.

By 2020, KFMP, (1994) it is estimated that the farm forests (farms and settlements) will produce about 17,825,000 m3 of wood which approximates to 80% of the total wood production in the country then. Agroforestry studies suggest that the present average wood biomass growing stock of 9.3 m3/ha (1995) could be raised to 27 m3/ha, an increase of 190%, without adversely affecting agricultural production. On current trends, assuming that the present rate of increase in tree planting on the farms continues, the farms will produce 9.4 million m3 of wood in 2000 and about 17.8 million m3 in 2020 (KFMP 1994).

It is projected that on current trends, the demand for wood in the high potential and medium potential districts will increase from 15.1 million m3 in 1995 to 30.7 million m3 in 2020. Wood fuel (firewood and wood for making charcoal) will account for about 86% of the total wood demand in 1995, and 89% in 2020.


Issues to be addressed

In order to maximize forest resource production outside the gazetted forest area, the following areas need to be focused on:

In the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs), security of tenure is the major issue. To effect sound resource management, user pay principle has to be employed so that those using the resources have a responsibility to undertake efficient measures in the use of resources. By assigning property rights, the incentive to conserve the resource will have been created

Resources management plans are largely lacking in the areas and efforts should be undertaken to draw participatory resource management plans

Use of resources has to be diversified to include not only fodder and fuel wood production but also production of non-wood forest/tree products

Resource owners of forests and trees should also be trained on the appropriate use and integrated utilization of tree resources. This will entail training in processing, value adding and marketing of non-wood tree products

In high potential areas, the main shortcoming is lack of credit and this has made forestry a low priority investment option. The inefficiency of wood utilization in this area needs to change so that wood industries are able to absorb the farm produce in an efficient way.




Non Wood Forest Products: The Kenyan Scene

According to a survey on production and marketing of NWFPs in Kenya carried out by Vomigel Ltd. (KAFU, 2000), NWFPs play an important role in Kenya’s economy, generating about US$40 million annually. The survey also found out that NWFPs are used for different purposes widely in Kenya, both at the household level and in industry, directly and indirectly.

The survey found that there are many players active in the NWFPs sector; both government and non-government are involved in different aspects of the conservation, management and exploitation of NWFPs and their trade. Most of the production, processing and marketing is done in uneconomical ways and practical strategies to address these issues have not been developed. Exploitation and marketing of NWFPs is affected by the following aspects:

a) The raw materials for NWFPs are often gathered from government owned or communal (as opposed to private) lands. Tenure systems on these lands may be more complex and rules of access are not as clear as on private lands. When users fear they may lose access to forest, they may be less likely to invest in the resource and monitor and control harvesting. This may cause conflicts between users while making plans for sustainable management becomes difficult.

b) Many NWFPs, such as mushrooms and fruits, are seasonal and depend on natural growth and regeneration, which makes their productivity unpredictable. Prices may vary depending on availability. The seasonality may be an advantage in that many of NWFPs are available during non-agricultural seasons. In this way, exploitation of these products can complement farming activities and fill gaps in household income flow.

c) Producers are frequently rural people and often poor or landless. Production is frequently small scale. NWFPs often provide income to people with limited alternative employment opportunities and low income.

d) The percentage of the final sale price for a NWFP received by the local-level collector, producer or processor is frequently extremely small. The often low profitability of NWFPs-based enterprises can be attributed to some factors such as the fact that trading is done individually, producers are unorganised and dispersed, individuals lack the necessary marketing skills and information to gain leverage in the market and individuals lack related business assets such as storage and transport.

e) Information on the exploitation of NWFPs is often lacking. There is little information available on exploitation of NWFPs attributed to many factors. Some of these include lack of training and experience with NWFPs on the part of foresters, who are trained in timber management and gaps in indigenous knowledge (concerning production and management of NWFPs) found within communities in considerable amounts. Research has generally focused on only a few products that are important on the international market (e.g. rubber, gum arabic).

f) Many NWFPs have only weak links to official marketing systems. There is little information available on exploitation of NWFPs attributed to many factors. Because NWFPs are often sold in informal markets, information about prices, product flow and marketing options is less well known than for major crops or for timber. However, absence of formal marketing channels can be advantageous since it is easier for small producers to gain access to these markets, and regulations are often less onerous than in government-regulated markets.

NWFPs currently in the market in Kenya are herbal medicines, plant resins, plant gums, oleoresins, aloe vera gel and tannins. Those that are currently either used at subsistence level but could have market potential are wild fruits, edible mushrooms, indigenous vegetables, nuts, gum arabic, silk, aloe vera plus drink and traditional oils, resins and medicines.

A major marketing constraint for NWFPs is the exclusive control of forests vested in Forestry Department. The current forestry policy does not provide for involvement of communities in management and decision making for forests. A proposed policy and bill allows for community involvement in forest management and the role of non-timber forest products. This, and deliberate effort at promoting production of NWFPs on the farm will augur well for NWFPs development in Kenya.

Another bottleneck in growth of the NWFP industry is lack of structure in NWFPs information and knowledge dissemination. Thus only a negligible proportion of Kenyans are able to relate their livelihoods to NWFPs. Towards solving some of these problems, the Kenya Association of Forest Users (KAFU) has been formed with the aim to oversee and liase with stakeholders for increased sustainable productivity, value-adding and product quality control for NWFPs, in order to enhance trade in the products.

There are quantified values for the use of the forests by forest-adjacent communities and forest dwellers (Larsen, 1992), which is estimated at Ksh.850 million. Grazing and hunting of game meat accounts for nearly 60% of this amount. Other non-wood uses of the forest include fibres (Ksh 149 million), honey (Ksh 139 million) and others (Ksh 70 million). The proposed policy recognises the need to develop non-wood forest products, especially those that are found outside gazetted forests.

The present forestry extension strategies incorporate NWFPs in providing extension services to farmers and pastoralists. The Forestry Department endeavours to assist communities exploit resources on their farm holdings for the greatest benefits while recognising sustainability of the resources. Communities are therefore encouraged to manage trees under them for not only timber products but NWFPs as well. Two short-term project proposals have been written by Forestry Extension Services Branch (FESB) for donor support. These are:

Gum arabic production development project in Marsabit, Kajiado and Samburu districts (duration: 3-5 years; budget: USD 3.6 million)

Forestry Products development project in both high and low agricultural potential areas, addressing both wood and non-wood products (duration: 3-5 years; budget: US$2 million).

Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) is charged with the responsibility of carrying out research and development on forestry matters on behalf of the Kenya government. KEFRI’s R&D activities are implemented through the following four core research programmes, listed in order of priority.

Farm Forestry

Natural Forests

Dryland Forestry

Forest Plantations

Research in the area of non-wood forest products is carried out in the four programmes listed above. It looks at:

Improved utilisation of known and lesser known indigenous species for NWFPs

Improving the harvesting and utilisation of NWFPs

Development of marketing systems for products

Policy issues on guidelines of harvesting-protecting the intellectual knowledge, benefit sharing and commercialisation


3.4.2 Common NWFPs in Kenya

Medicinal Plants:

In Kenya, about 80% of the local population meet their Primary Health Care (PHC) needs through herbal medicines (Situma, 1999). In rural areas where about 20% of the medical services are realised, people are treated largely by use of traditional medicines. This is mainly due to inadequate supply of modern medicines, shortage of qualified medical staff, increased population and high poverty levels.

A good example of a medicinal plant with great potential is Prunus africana whose bark has a large cash value as a remedy against prostate disorders, a condition that afflicts many men over the age of 50. While western science ‘discovered’ prunus in mid-1960, its medicinal properties were known in African communities long before then.

Global trade in prunus remedies is estimated to be worth US$220 million per year. The demand is expected to double or triple in the second millennium as the population in the North ages. The threat of extinction of the prunus tree is expected to increase as well. The tree matures in 15-20 years when its bark can produce the active ingredient for the medicine. Harvesting has not been done sustainably as most harvesters have been stripping the whole tree. When a tree is stripped bare in this way, the yield of bark is about 1 tonne (worth about US$200, about a year’s income for many of Africa’s rural poor) but this leads to the death of the tree. Sustainable harvesting, on the other hand, would entail removing the lower part of 2 opposite quarters or panels of the trunk and allowing 8 years for regeneration before harvesting the other 2 quarters. The yield obtainable this way averages about 55 kg/tree/harvest and fetches around US$10-20 when delivered to a processing factory.

In 1995, because of the threat of extinction of this tree species, the government of Kenya requested the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to place the tree in Appendix II. This means that although trade is not banned, it must be strictly regulated under a licensing regime. Deliberate cultivation on farmers’ fields is the only option that will ensure sustainability of bark supply.

Gum Arabic:

Gum arabic is produced from Acacia senegal trees. Kenya is rated as one of the emerging important sources of gum arabic though the amount is little and the gum is of poorer quality when compared to the Sudanese gum, which is used as the international standard setter (Koppel, 1995; Kareko, 1999). Low production is attributed to land ecological degradation, rainfall shortages, disorganisation in trade networks, bureaucracy and focus on other products such as fuel wood and poles. Efforts are being made to revive interest through education of private entrepreneurships, effective involvement of relevant government agencies and creating more awareness on the importance of gum arabic and other NWFPs, as alternative sources of income generation, environmental conservation and other products (Kareko, 1997). Organisations playing a leading role in this area are Gum Arabic and Resins Association (GARA), the Arid Lands Resources Project (ALRP) of the Semi-Arid Lands Training and Livestock Improvement Centres of Kenya (SALTLICK) and Kenya Association of Forest Users (KAFU).


Mushrooms are an important source of food for a substantial proportion of people all over the world. In Kenya, use of mushrooms for food is rare except in the Pokot, Turkana, Luo, Luhya and coastal (especially Giriama) communities. In some communities within East Africa, the anthill mushrooms (Termitomyces) are a social food and one does not harvest and eat these alone but has to share with the rest of the community. Mushrooms also find use in dyeing, medicine, and ornamentation and as a lactating agent for breast-feeding mothers.


Beekeeping as a forestry-related activity is not very well developed in forestry but new projects at forestry department, especially those addressing extension, are taking it up. Otherwise, the Apiculture and Emerging Livestock Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoA&RD) has officers up to the divisional level who are charged with the duty of promoting bee-keeping activities all over the republic.

Honey is a major source of income for some people in settled ASALs like in Ukambani (Mwingi, Kitui, Machakos and Makueni districts), parts of Rift Valley, Central province and indeed almost all parts of the country.

According to the 1998 annual report of the Apiculture and Emerging Livestock Division of MoA&RD, the country has 1,191,731 beehives. The amount of honey produced from these hives totals about 4,538,498 kg with a monetary value of Ksh.46,555,012. The corresponding values for beeswax are 273,899 kg and Ksh.1,766,600 respectively. These figures should, however, be taken with caution, as not all district reports are included in the national report due to non-submission.

An area of concern in beekeeping is failure to maximise honey production per beehive. This has been attributed to various problems chief among them poor harvesting techniques, failure to time properly when to harvest, depletion of honey by pests and climatic conditions as well as quality of pollen in season.

In marketing of honey, there has been no reliable national assessment done to find out quantities, markets and prices. However, the agriculture ministry indicates that as much as 75% of the honey produced in the districts is utilised within the district and the rest sold to markets not very far off.

ICIPE is also acting as an intermediary between farmers and traders to assist the beekeepers in the marketing of commercial insect products. Through IFAD’s support, the farmers benefit economically through the use of procedures designed at ICIPE to conserve and protect a fragile and eroding environment.


Research has been going on to investigate the long-term effects of Calliandra calothyrsus fodder species at the Regional Centre of the collaborative KARI-KEFRI-ICRAF agroforestry research programme. This is being done with a view to finding the possibility of promoting calliandra as a viable source of fodder for small-scale farmers who are practising zero grazing for their livestock. Even before any conclusions are arrived at, many farmers have been growing this fodder shrub and using it.

Wild and Domestic Silk:

ICIPE, under the commercial insects programme, is promoting silk production from both wild and domestic silk moths. An extensive survey to identify indigenous species of wild silk moths has been conducted throughout Kenya and Uganda and two species (Argema mimosae and Gonometa spp) found that produce silk-fibres of high quality. Also, a new domestic silkmoth hybrid that produces high quality silk has been developed. Silk production has a great potential in this country especially if it is linked to forest conservation.

Neem-based Products:

The neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is increasingly in demand because of its myriad potential uses: in afforestation, as timber-firewood-fuel, as a shade tree, in plant and livestock protection, in animal care and hygiene and in human health. Although not indigenous to Africa, it has been planted as an exotic shade tree in many areas.

The Neem Project at ICIPE promotes the tree for its remarkable properties in controlling literally hundreds of insect pests of crops and public health importance. So far, the project has achieved some success in testing neem-based management technologies against plant pests. Large-scale neem planting has been accomplished by the Neem Awareness Project in 75 schools in Suba and neighbouring districts in Kenya, Adjumani in northern Uganda, Kwimba Reforestation Project in Mwanza, Tanzania, and in numerous homesteads in western Kenya.

The project has future plans that include a follow-up project (Neem-Health and Wealth Project), which will focus on developing neem extracts for medicinal, veterinary, and plant health uses. Research and training in production, mode of action and application will be emphasised as the foundation to efficient production and utilisation of the natural resource. The mechanism of action of novel neem compounds will be demonstrated and the modes of action of major bioactive neem constituents studied in selected lepidopteran and hemipteran pests. Information materials such as publications, booklets, flyers, audio-visual tutorial modules and documentary films will be prepared, distributed and disseminated through national extension channels in the target countries. Other related activities will also be carried out.


Plant products have been traditionally used by rural communities for protection against disease vectors such as mosquitoes and have also served as sources of mosquito repellents and insecticidal compounds for modern industry. Only a fraction of the world’s plants have been analysed, in spite of the fact that more than a quarter of modern medicines are based on natural constituents derived from plants. As environmental destruction proceeds at an alarming rate, useful plants are being obliterated faster than they can be examined for their useful components.

The "Research and Development Partnership in Bioprospecting for Mosquito Repellent and Insecticidal Plants for East Africa: Capacity Strengthening Through Networking Programme" is a project being undertaken by ICIPE’s Environmental Health Division in collaboration with a network of seven institutions in four East African countries. The network approach allows for pooling of facilities, expertise, experience and resources. The project’s objective is to screen for mosquito-repellent and insecticidal plants and to develop technologies for use of these selected plants and plant products, particularly for mosquito control.

In future, the project envisages further strengthening the collaborative bioprospecting research and information network and improving research capability through seminars and training of students from the region. The mosquito repellent and insecticidal plants discovered will be analysed to determine the identity of the active components and to evaluate their toxicity. In addition, rural communities will develop new products and technologies for use of the selected plants in mosquito control, with special reference to their application. Local communities will also be encouraged to cultivate the useful plants as an income-generating activity, as part of an environmental education programme.

The success of such initiatives will provide ready remedial measures for the improvement of forest health especially industrial plantations through the control of diseases and pests using bio-insecticides.


Though this is not strictly a NWFP, eco-tourism has potential to generate income and ensure sustainable management of forest. ICIPE has a project under the Biodiversity and Conservation Programme, Environmental Health Division of ICIPE. It is scheduled to be implemented between 2000 and 2005. The Kakamega forest, the only surviving rain forest in Kenya, harbours many endemic plants and animals found nowhere else in the region. The highest human population density and growth in Kenya also occurs in the surrounding areas. Pressure on the forest, in form of conversion of forestland for agriculture and as a source of forest products, is high. A recent valuation of the off-take of these multiple products from the forest was conservatively estimated at US$1.7 million per year.

ICIPE has entered into a collaborative venture with several agencies and NGOs to contribute to the conservation of the Kakamega forest through community-driven education, reduction of the communities’ dependence on the forest, inventorying and monitoring of target taxa and improvement of forest management. Activities undertaken so far include field operations, holding of 2 large meetings (with collaborating agencies, community leaders and stakeholders) for co-ordination of activities and working out of detailed plans for the various project components.

In coming times, ICIPE will provide the overall co-ordination to a group of conservation organisations in a multi-faceted approach to conserving the remainder of this important rain forest.

By introducing alternative, sustainable income-generating activities, the local people will be more eager to preserve the forest. These activities include apiculture, sericulture, silk moth-culture, butterfly farming, harvesting of medicinal plants etc.


3.4.3 Emerging Issues

In addressing issues of NWFP, a take-off strategy would be to focus on production and processing of tree and shrub species with commercial potentials. In the high potential agricultural areas, what could be lacking is management techniques for optimal production and processing technologies. The following tree species have great potential:

Eucalyptus spp for eucalyptus oil

Prunus africana for its bark

Pinus radiata and P. elliottii for rosin

Acacia mearnsii and other tree species that can produce tannin

In the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), specifically the settled areas, there is huge potential in NWFP, not only in terms of honey, wild and domesticated silk and fruit production, but also in terms of tree species with potential for other products:

Acacia tortilis for its protein rich fodder

Acacia xanthophloea for its fast growth (high volume yielder) in dry areas.

Tamarindus indica for nuts, juice, jams, wine, etc

Sclerocarya birrea for wine, juice, fruits, etc

Trichilia emetica for nuts and soap production

Commiphora africana for resins

Acacia senegal for gum arabic

Moringa oleifera. The leaves are a good source of protein, vitamins A, B and C, and calcium and iron. Young plants are eaten as a vegetable, and young pods and "peas" are cooked in various ways. The bark provides a fibre for ropes and mats. Seeds are effective against skin infections, provide an excellent salad oil and their powder is an excellent coagulant for clarification of muddy water. The tree also helps to control soil erosion.

Azadirachta indica for fruits ,young twigs and flowers for consumption. Leaves are used as dry-season fodder. The wood is excellent both as firewood and charcoal. Resin tapped from the trunk is widely used in Southeast Asia as "neem glue". Oil from the seeds is used in Asia for soaps, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Seeds also produce an extract as a liquid pesticide for crops. An excellent shade tree, it is also a multi-purpose medicinal resource. Saroc Ltd, Nairobi and ICIPE are currently exploiting the tree for oil.

Hyphaene compressa for baskets and mats, which can be exported outside the country for better prices

Adansonia digitata produces a powdery fruit pulp rich in vitamin C and B2, used in Ukambani, Kenya for flavouring porridge. Young leaves are in demand in West Africa as a vegetable soup. Leaves, fruit, pods and seeds provide fodder for animals. Wild bees perforate the soft wood and produce honey there. The bark from young trees produces a valuable fibre for a multiplicity of uses, its most famous being the world-famous kiondo baskets of Kenya (Ukambani region). Its most "valuable" product is the strong, tough, tear-resistant paper that makes India’s rupee banknotes

Aloe spp. This species should be explored for commercial uses and tied with forest conservation


3.4.4 The Way Forward in the Next Decade

The increasing demand for forest products, as a result of the increasing population, has lead to a major shift to farm forestry. Currently research and development activities are geared towards this area of forestry. This is seen as the direction in the next decade as the land area of plantation and indigenous forests diminishes. It is therefore, envisioned that there will be increased on-farm domestication and commercialisation of trees for NWFPs, thus benefiting the smallholder farmers, traders and processors. This will cause a realisation of social benefits in the form of food security, poverty alleviation and employment as well as environmental benefits.

As the development of the NWFP industry in Kenya grows there is need to focus on the following areas to improve it:

There is need to deliberately operationalise support for NWFPs development enshrined in the proposed forestry policy and legal frameworks through practical action

Awareness on the role of NWFPs in provision of added benefits from forests needs to be created

Promotion of production of NWFPs on the farms (domestication)

Identification, assessment and use of efficient and cost-effective NWFPs information and knowledge dissemination structures and instruments in order to reach a wider segment of the country’s population. This will enable people to see the relationship between their livelihoods and NWFPs and therefore, take concerted action at conservation and sustainable management of the same

There is need for training of NWFPs producers on sustainable harvesting methods. The role of private sector, the major buyers of NWFPs, cannot be overemphasised

There is need to regulate harvesting of, and trade in NWFPs, through community involvement in forest management (CIFM) and/or licensing regimes, especially for those species facing threat of extinction

There is need to put in place effective policy and legal measures to halt further excisions of forest land into agricultural or development land

There is need to carry out resource surveys to determine exactly how much of NWFPs resources we have, and status of management, extractability and potential in terms of income generation

Facilitation of networking between farmers in different parts of the country for information, technology and seed exchange, and marketing of NWFPs is required

There is need to organise forums for sharing of knowledge and experiences for government agencies, researchers and universities, to develop new technologies, product processing techniques and marketing mechanisms

11.There is need to consider putting in place mechanisms for standardisation and certification of processed NWFPs



3.5.1 Overview

The forest industries operating in Kenya can be classified as wood based and non-wood based. Wood based types include mechanical wood industries and pulp and paper. The mechanical wood industries include saw milling, wood based panels manufacture (plywood, particle board and fibre board), furniture and joinery and pole production.

Among the non-wood products includes tannin and resins and other non-wood products.


3.5.2 Mechanical Wood Industries

Saw milling:

There are about 450 sawmills in Kenya, which serve mostly the domestic market. The potential annual capacity of the mills ranges from less than 500m3 of log input to more than 30,000m3. The sawmills, as well as the other mechanical wood industries, are privately owned, but the ownership of the small establishments changes frequently because the entry barrier is low and inputs are easily affordable

The small mills depend mainly on circular saws, while the larger mills use also band saws. The recovery rate ranges from 18% to about 30%. The main reasons for the low post-recovery rate are the use of thick saw blades, poor cutting practices and employment of unskilled labour. The sawmilling industry employs 14,000 people, corresponding to an annual output of only 15m3/person. The challenges facing the industry are therefore:

Restructuring by reducing the number of sawmills and increasing the size of the remaining ones

Modernization of the sector in conjunction with the restructuring process so that by the year 2020 the whole process is modernized

Introduction of kiln drying so that by 2020, 60-70% of the output is artificially dried

Skill development at all organizational levels to improve competitiveness, productivity, and product quality

To encourage the mill owners to invest in new machinery in the Master Plan Scenario, a secure and competitive raw material base for forest based industries must be developed

Plywood Mills:

There are three plywood mills with a total annual achievable capacity estimated at about 40,000 m3, while the actual output in 1990 was 35,000 m3. All the plywood mills are integrated with a sawmill. The industry produces interior grades of plywood with thickness running from 3 to 25 mm, the emphasis being on thin panels. Pine accounts for more than 80% of the input, followed by cypress.

The basic machinery is of reasonable quality, but the operations are very labour intensive. The technology currently used can only take logs up to a certain minimum size. However in future, smaller logs may form the main bulk of the input material. Technology development should move towards developing technology that can take a wide range of log sizes. Annual labour productivity is estimated at 20 m3/person, which is low, by average international standard; this urgently requires improvement. The challenges faced by plywood industry includes:

Improvement of productivity

Change of the raw material mix

Coping with lower quality raw material; this can be overcome partly by restoring pruning and thinning operations to the prescribed levels

Investment in new machinery will also be enhanced by:

Dissemination of information to the industry on government policies and regulations, raw material availability and characteristics, efficient conversion technology, product quality improvement, market development and other relevant matters

Facilitating financial arrangements for industry modernisation and expansion (including setting up of effective pollution control systems) in cooperation with national and international financing institutions

Re-tooling and modernising industrial processes, the government should facilitate this process by reducing import duties on machinery

In order to ensure the development of a favourable business environment, the following measures are proposed:

Monitoring and analysis of the performance of the forest based industry and dissemination of the results

Development of dialogue between government and the industry to discus issues and problems and workout solutions


Reconstituted Wood-Based Panel Industry:

There is one fibreboard mill and two particleboard mills. The fibreboard mill has an annual capacity of 700 tonnes. It uses plywood and sawmill residues, as well as Eucalyptus roundwood. The technology employed is outdated. Unlike most mills in the world, this one does not use resin or wax in the production process, which makes the board unsuitable for exterior use. The mill re-circulates some of its process water, but the effluent water is not treated at all. When it is completely worn out, the mill will most probably be closed, because the future of fibreboard manufacture is in the dry process and practically no new wet process mills are being built in the world at present. The particleboard industry was started in the early 1980s, but output has remained low, about 6000m3 in 1990, which represents a very low capacity utilization rate. In the entire wood-based panel industry, annual labour productivity is low (even when considering the scale of operation); it stands at about 25 m3/person.

Furniture and Joinery Industry:

The furniture and joinery industry consists of thousands of small-scale entrepreneurs both in the rural and urban areas, mainly in the informal sector. About 60% of the furniture market is controlled by the so-called jua kali ("informal sector) artisans.

The traditional raw materials of the furniture and joinery industry were indigenous hardwoods. The ban on their exploitation has forced a shift to plantation-grown softwoods; the market however, appear to accept softwoods very slowly. The softwood-sawn wood is generally of poor quality, because of poor drying and consequent staining. A few large units are capable of exporting furniture, but the volume exported so far has been modest. All the others suffer from lack of tools and equipment as well as from shortage of working capital. Development of the joinery industry also includes two prefabricated house plants. Investment in new machinery will also be enhanced by:

Dissemination of information to the industry on government policies and regulations, raw-material availability and characteristics, efficient conversion technology, product quality improvement, market developments and other relevant matters

Facilitating financial arrangements for industry modernization and expansion in co-operation with national and international financing institutions

Re-tooling and modernizing industrial processes, the government should facilitate this process by reducing the import duties on machinery

In order to ensure the development of a favourable business environment, the following measures are proposed:

Monitoring and analysis of the performance of the forest-based industry, and dissemination of the results

Development of dialogue between the government and the industry to discuss issues and problems and work out solutions

Wood Carving:

Economic Potentials

Among the many handicraft activities, wood carving forms the most important component in Kenya. Study by Obunga (l998) revealed that the wood carving industry consist of a complete chain of players including resource/ harvesters, raw materials agents, the carvers, apprentices, intermediates, curio vendors/hawkers, stockists/wholesalers, retailers and exporters. The industry has about 80,000 wood carvers spread all over the country but mainly in Central, Eastern and Coast Provinces. Overall the industry provides a means of livelihood to over 30,000 people in Kenya and was valued at over KSh 100 million in 1995. Currently the industry has a turn over of about KSh 1.5 billions. The industry embraces all age groups between 16 and 92 years old with the youth (27 years) making over 50% of the current population of the industry. Comparison between monthly income among those considered "poor" in the industry with less than KSh 10,000 was found to be above most salaried employees in the civil service (Obunga, 1998).

Management Issues

The carving industry is tourism and market focused. The largest markets for the products are the United States of America, Canada and Europe. The small-scale industries (informal sector) like handicrafts are going to absorb a significant number of jobless people (Obunga, 1998). The industry (wood carving) has relied on a narrow range of slow growing indigenous hardwoods throughout its 70 years’ history, with consequent severe degradation of the resource and its base.

Some areas close to the production centre have witnessed local extinction of some of the most preferred species of timber used in the industry. The current trends indicate that all remaining populations of the preferred spp are coming under greater pressure to support the ever increasing demands of the industry; as well as the socio-economic needs of the rapidly rising local human population seeking the same species for fuel wood, building materials as well as land for cultivation and settlement. The study showed that all the four major species (Brachylaena huillensis, Dalbergia melanoxylon, Olea europaea var. africana and Combretum Schumannii (ebony) currently forming the backbone of the industry cannot sustain it.

Concern over the depletion of hardwoods natural forests and woodlands has brought about an alliance of carvers, community development organisations, concerned citizens, conservation groups, the forestry sector and traders in carving. Jointly, they aim to ensure that the woods used for carving increasingly comes from sustainable supplies

Important Facts about the Carving Industry

-The Kenyan woodcarving industry uses over 50,000 trees equivalent to almost 8,000 m3 of wood annually. This is equivalent to ten trees being felled per hectare of natural closed-canopy forest in Kenya every year.

-The collapse of Kenyan populations of muhugu, mpingo and other carving species has caused the problems to be exported into Tanzania, with hundreds of logs being smuggled across the border to meet the Kenyan demand for woodcarvings.

-Because of the shortage of traditional carvings woods, carvers have explored the possibility to use alternative species, most of which are fast-growing multi-purpose species grown on farms. These include neem (mwarubaini, Azadirachta indica), Jacaranda mimosifolia Grevillea robusta (mukima), mango (mwembe, Mangifera indica) and others. These species are also called "good woods" and can be obtained sustainably as they originate from managed farms

-The Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) of neem trees with diameters greater than 50 cm in the Kenyan Coastal strip is over 200,000m3. This species alone could therefore supply a woodcarving industry 25 times the size of the current without negative ecological consequences.

Pulp and Paper Industry:

It is estimated that the total consumption of paper and paperboard in Kenya will grow by 4.4% annually up to the year 2020. Among the different grades, the demand for newsprint, printing and writing papers, boards, and tissue will grow faster than average. During the same period the production of paper and paperboard will grow by 4.9% annually. The local paper industry can satisfy the main part of the growing demand by increasing its production capacity.

The pulp and paper industry is small by international standards. On the other hand, it must be noted that Kenya’s paper and paperboard industry is one of the biggest in Africa and the most important among the Common Market for East and Southern Africa States (COMESA). This situation is related to the protective industrial and trade policies, which provide a protective umbrella of high import duties and a bureaucratic import licensing system. The self-sufficiency objective and the lack of export-market orientation have led to industrial operations that are very inefficient by modern standards.

The paper and paperboard industry comprises 6 mills with 11 paper and board machines with a total capacity of about 110,000 tonnes. The biggest company, Pan African Paper Mills, dominates the local market with its total annual capacity of 87,000 tonnes. The company produces about 30 different paper and paperboard grades on three machines. It has a chemical pulping annual capacity of 54,000 tonnes and mechanical pulping of 23,000 tonnes. The company has plans to increase its de-inking capacity so that it can use more recycled paper. The national self-sufficiency objective has driven Pan Paper to produce large amounts of different paper and paperboard grades, involving frequent production cuts for grade changes and consequently, low productivity. The company could make considerable financial and economic gains by specializing in the grades where it is most competitive. Trade barriers would need to be abolished to facilitate the balancing of exports and imports.

Pan Paper has a monopolistic position of many paper grades in the domestic market. Development of the domestic market alone will not allow the construction of large new paper and paperboard mills in the short-term. The deregulation of international trade will provide the only means to create a competitive paper market and to open up reasonably priced paper sources to printers and converters. Deregulation would therefore force Kenya’s paper industry to develop and improve the quality of its products.

Pan African Paper Mills should keep its future expansion in line with market prospects and low material availability. Because of the low volume of the domestic markets, the export market should also be considered when assessing development options. The planned increases of mill capacities deserve critical re-evaluation, at least in terms of employing larger machines to cater partly for exports. Also more research work should be done to analyse the market development for paper in the surrounding countries.

The five small companies produce mainly recycled fibre-based packaging grades and tissue. The total annual production capacity is estimated to be 21,000 tonnes.


There are 15 tanneries of different sizes. The tanning materials used can be classified as vegetable, mineral, and synthetic. Mineral tanning materials are popular, mainly because of the scarcity and cost of vegetable tannins. Although most woody plant species contain tannin, and at least thirty Kenya species contain useful amounts, there is only one species, Acacia mearnsii (wattle), which is actually being used commercially in Kenya.

There are two factories in Kenya which extract wattle tannin. Kenya Tannin Extractors Co. Ltd. (KTE) at Thika, and the East African Tannin Extraction Co. Ltd., (EATEC) at Eldoret. The installed capacity of the KTE factory is 75 tonnes of dry bark per day but they are actually processing only 50 tonnes. The annual production of the factory is 3900 tonnes, 50% of which is solid and 50% is in the form of tannin extract. About 2.75 tonnes of solid dry bark yields 1 ton of extract. KTE does not own any plantations; they rely from farmers. Their aim of establishing plantations is hampered by the lack of land or the difficult of obtaining secure tenure.

EATEC is a broad-based industry dealing not only with tanning material, but also with other products. It has about 18,000 ha. of land, of which 8,300 ha. are Acacia mearnsii plantations. In 1991 it produced 12,800 tonnes of bark and bought an additional 3,000 tonnes from farmers. This company is in the process of being wound-up and being converted to agriculture.

Marketing of wattle bark is quite well organized. The tannin extraction companies buy the bark from the farmers in their fields, paying KSh 850 per tonne of green bark or KSh 1100 to 1300 per tonne of dry bark. Some farmers sell dry bark at the factory. There is great scope for the export of wattle extract to Asian countries especially India.

The main problem faced by the tannin industry is obtaining raw material. Land for plantations is not readily available, and it is difficult to persuade the farmers to plant more wattle trees. There are also information gaps. In particular, information about the use of species other than wattle is not readily available.


Of the two classes of resin, oleo-resin and oleo-gum-resin, oleo-resin has the greater industrial potential. In Kenya, oleo-resin is tapped from exotic tropical or subtropical pines, the common ones being Pinus patula, P. caribaea, P. elliottii and P. radiata. Sizeable plantations of pines have been raised in Kenya for almost 35 years, but tapping for oleo-resin started only after 1985.

The only consumer of oleo-resin in the country is Rosin Kenya Ltd. at Nakuru. The annual intake of its factory is 360 tonnes. Turpentine is not recovered and it goes to waste, because recovery is more expensive than the price it would fetch. Only rosin is recovered, at a rather low rate of 55% of the raw material. No resin tapping rules have been framed by the Forest Department. Tapping is done by the factory through locally available casual labour. Tapping of pines is allowed only in the year immediately preceding clear-felling. The royalty paid to the Forest Department is KSh 650 per tonne. The main problems faced by the industry are lack of knowledge, experience, and rules on resin tapping, and the lack of a market for turpentine.


3.5.3 Export Markets For Wood Based Products

A marked growth in exports took place between 1975 and 1980 when the net volume increased from a few thousands to more than 50,000 m3 annually. If Kenya intends to fully utilize its wood production capability, it should revitalise sawn softwood exports by rebuilding the present mills and expanding new capacity in order to achieve a new position in the export markets. The sawmilling industry should, among other things:

Improve the overall quality of sawn wood

Introduce kiln-drying, grading, and packaging

Establish marketing channels suitable for the volumes in question

Work out the logistics needed to reach the target markets

Be competitive with such low-cost producers as Chile

The COMESA countries with limited wood resources would be a logical target for sawn wood export from Kenya. These include Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Sudan. However, the annual export potential to these countries ranges from only a few hundred to a few thousand cubic metres per country. Therefore these countries are suitable targets for individual companies, but not for a concentrated effort involving the entire sub-sector. Madagascar and Reunion each import 20,000-30,000m3 per year but these markets are already well covered by South Africa.

If Kenya intends to export sizeable volumes of sawn wood, it should try to penetrate the markets in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are forecast to import 1.5-2.0 million m3 and 0.4-0.6 million m3 per year, respectively. In these two countries, as well as in the other North African and Near East markets, price is the major means of competition although good appearance is also an important.

The present average delivered price of sawn softwood is estimated at US$150-250/m3 depending on the market.


Environmental Impacts of Forest Industries

In the mechanical wood industry, pollution arises from two main sources:

Wood residues from saw milling in rural areas

Effluent water from the particleboard and fibreboard mills

Pan Paper has invested heavily in effluent treatment facilities, including primary clarifiers and biological treatment in aerated lagoons. According to the mill management, its discharges are in compliance with official regulations. Optimisation of mill production and modernization of some processes could presumably still improve the situation to some extent. On the atmospheric side, controlled combustion of bark in a modern bark boiler would decrease smoke generation, make the smoke cleaner, and at the same time save much of the fuel oil which is used at present in the power-plant boilers.

The waste paper-based mills reject 20-30% of the input as process waste, which needs to be disposed of. Especially in the case of de-inking sludge, disposal (or incineration) has to be done properly to avoid harmful environmental effects. The present practices of the small mills are in need of special attention and development effort in this respect.




3.6.1 Determinants of Demand

Population growth and the economy are the major basic determinants of demand for most of the forest products. The demand supply scenario is focused on the major forest products: Fuelwood, Poles and posts, Mechanical wood products, Paper and paperboard.


3.6.2 Estimates of Future Demand for Forest Products


About 71% of the energy consumed in Kenya comes from wood fuel mainly as firewood for cooking and heating in rural areas and as charcoal in most households in urban centres. The Kenya Forestry Master Plan (1994) estimates the demand for wood fuel (charcoal and firewood) to increase systematically to 30.1 million tonnes by the year 2020. The scenario on the demand for wood fuel forecast based on the 1994 KFMP trends is shown below.

Table 7: Projected Demand for woodfuel (Million Tonnes)




Total woodfuel Demand





















Poles and Posts:

The annual demand for poles and posts is projected to grow at 2.4% from 1.4 to 2.7 million m3 between 2000 and 2020 as shown in Table 8. These will be consumed by the construction industry and as transmission poles by Kenya Power & Lighting Company and Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (Telkom).

Table 8: Projected Demand for Poles/Posts (‘000m3)


Construction Poles

Transmission Poles

Total Demand





















Mechanical Wood Products:

The mechanical wood products focused under this category include sawn timber (both hard and soft wood), plywood, particle and fibreboard. Demand for these products is projected by the Kenya Forestry Master Plan (1994) to grow at an annual rate of 3.3% whereby the demand for sawn timber is expected to increase from the current rate of 0.32 m3 to 5.39 million m3 by the year 2020. The demand for the wood based panels is projected to reach 0.13 million m3 by the same year. The demand for the various products is shown in the table below:

Table 9: Projected Demand for Mechanical Wood Products (‘000m3)


Sawn Softwood

Sawn Hardwood


Fibre Board

Particle Board






































Paper and Paper Board:

The demand for paper and paperboard in Kenya is projected to grow at an annual average rate of 7.3% within the next 20 years (2000 to 2020). The forecasted demand is projected to increase to 0.27 million tonnes by the year 2020. Table 12 below shows the projected demand for the various paper products.

Table 10: Projected Demand for Paper and Paper board (‘000 tonnes)













Printing and Writing


















Total Demand








Forestry as a sub-sector of the Kenyan economy is important in contributing to direct and indirect benefits. For the purpose of past and current national economic accounting, only direct benefits have been considered. As well as playing structural role, Kenya’s forest sub-sector is the backbone to other functional roles, which include protection of watershed and Biodiversity conservation. It is estimated that the forest provides habitation to about 40% of large mammals, 30% of birds and 35% of butterflies found in Kenya. More than half of Kenya’s threatened and endemic mammals are also forest-dependent (Wass, 1995).


Economic Implications

Forests and trees yield a wide range of products, including fuel, shelter, timber, foods and medicines. Understanding the diversity of these trees and their value in local livelihood is an important step in identifying the potential for broadening use and income generation. Tree products generate vital support to livelihoods by producing goods and services that include fuel, shelter and food which are unavailable or unaffordable elsewhere for many households.

Some of the economic activities that provide cash incomes, revenues and employment include timber industry, pulp and paper, charcoal, fuel wood, wood carving, non-wood products, tourism etc.

It is strongly felt that if statistics that show contribution of forestry/trees products to livelihoods is made available, forestry as a sector may assume an important status as an economic base in the eyes of planners and politicians. We need to devise new monitoring and reporting systems that are able to capture data on social and economic contributions arising from forestry/tree activities. The data that are currently available are only partial because most of the forests/tree products do not pass through the markets and where prices are known, they are usually distorted prices.

It is estimated that the forestry sector contributes about US$88 million to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and stimulates capital formation worth US$3 million (Republic of Kenya, 1996). Although the sector’s contribution to GDP has been reflected to be small and constant over the years (approximately 1.3% and 13% of monetary and non-monetary economy respectively), its support to informal and subsistence activities is substantial. It is estimated that the forestry sector and other associated enterprises and industries support approximately 10,000 households through formal employment and generate direct financial revenue to the Forest Department of about US$3 million annually (Republic of Kenya, 1997c). As already mentioned, it is estimated that about 3 million forest-adjacent people who live directly adjacent to forest boundaries derive cash income and meet their subsistence needs through the use of this resource, but however, the value of forests is not reflected in the national statistical abstracts.

Table 11: Estimated Value of Projected Wood Demand (Ksh ‘000)

Wood Use/Year


















Industrial Wood












-The prices are the average for the commercial species (highest and lowest), Cypress, Pines, Grevillea and Eucalyptus. Industrial wood (Ksh.1900), Fuelwood (Ksh.70) and poles (Ksh.15).

-A 10% increase is used in prices for the projected demand for each period.

Table 12: Estimated National Unaccounted For Economic Value of Forest: Resources to Local Communities (`Million)

Forest Type

No. of Households

Estimated National Value



Dry Forests




Coastal Forests








Western Rainforest








Source: Mogaka ,1999

The results reveal that the value of forest resources unaccounted for is about KSh 9,226.2 million (US$131.7 million) per annum.

It is noted here that the contribution of the forestry sector to the national economy has remained constant for the last decade. The sector's contribution to the non-monetary and monetary economy is estimated at 13% and 1.3% respectively (CBS, 1996) for the years 1989 to 1995. Using 1995 prices, the total cont ribution of the forestry sector to the GDP was estimated at KSh 5,727.4 million (US$ 81.82 million), (CBS, 1996). Therefore, the estimated value of forest products locally consumed and traded informally reveals that approximately 62% of the total contribution of the sector to GDP is not accounted for. This confirms the argument that there is under-estimation of the value of forest resources.


Social Implications

Forests are used in Kenya by different communities for different social values. Some communities use the forests for cultural ceremonies, religious practices, while others use them for subsistence needs.

Cultural Heritage:

Kaya forests are located in Coast Province and are strictly used for religious values (traditional prayers). They are usually small natural forests scattered in Coast Province and their value as sacred sites make them important to the local people.

Christians have also in the recent past discovered caves in forest areas where such caves are used as a retreat for prayers. Some communities like Kalenjin and Maasai use their local natural forests to observe certain cultural rites like circumcision. To these communities, forests have a cultural value, which cannot be quantified in terms of money. The use value relevant to such forest (non-extractive) makes them unique to those communities and this is one strategy that makes their conservation a community agenda.

Elsewhere people (forest dwellers) live in forests and derive their subsistence livelihoods from forest resources. Other communities in Kenya have through generations isolated certain tree species as sacred trees while certain forest types are observed as sacred . For example, Ficus spp are revered by most communities in Kenya.

These values will however, vary with different communities. In some urban centres, county councils have set aside forest areas that are used as parks. These are used mainly for amenity values.

Table 13: Estimated Forest-Adjacent Population in Kenya




1999 (projected)


Forest type


No. of households


No. of households

Dry forests

Coastal forests

Montane forests

Western rainforests

















Source: Adopted from Wass, 1995; KFMP, 1994

Mogaka (1999), has argued that forest resource values vary significantly from one zone to another. However, for the purposes of estimating the national value of unaccounted for forest value, it implies that benefit transfer has to be effected. This calls for a number of assumptions to be made. The national forest value estimates are indicative of the broader picture regarding under-valuation of the forestry sector and not necessarily definitive. This assumption is made on two grounds. A more definitive picture on a national value will require more case studies and less benefit transfer. Similarly, to enhance the accuracy of the estimate calls for case studies that cover the country's non-amalgamated agro-ecological zones.

Based on absolute figures as an indication of the importance of various products within local household production and consumption activities, a hierarchy of products value is displayed. The products, in order of importance, are aimed at meeting the following community needs, which are energy-related, building, dietary and on-farm natural capital formation. For the survival of any relatively cash-poor society, these are the most fundamental requirements and it is suggested that forest resources are well placed to satisfy the local needs.

Shamba System and Food Security:

Shamba system has been used in plantation establishment in Kenya since 1910. The FD benefit is low cost of plantation establishment while the farmer benefit from the returns from the shamba. The method has proved to be a cost-effective method of plantation establishment so long as it is managed properly to avoid abuse. The farmer tills the land and cultivates crops for about one year after the trees are harvested and a further three years after the trees are planted. A study done in Kiambu District gave an average direct contribution of shamba is KSh 124,141 per ha per year. The total area opened up for cultivation in Kiambu was 2294 ha thus giving a total contribution of KSh. 284,779,454. (Kagombe, 1998). The total contribution is much higher if the added benefits by the middlemen, transporters, other people employed by this sector and family labour is considered.

The shamba system is suitable to improving the socio-economic well being of the communities’ surrounding the forest stations and ensuring food security. These benefits are in addition to the contribution the shamba has in ensuring that trees are successfully established. These benefits need to be improved through proper marketing of the products, efficient management of the shamba and joint efforts in solving constraints faced by the FD and farmer in management and administration of shamba system. There is a need to look into the sustainability of the shamba system to ensure that the benefits can be provided on a sustainable base for a long time.

These benefits can be enhanced and improved if farmers have access to agricultural extension staff, provision of credit facilities to buy input and proper marketing channels for the produce. The period a farmer cultivate crops before trees are planted has reduced from the earlier 18 months to less than a year and even several cases where trees are planted immediately after allocation is done. This is not economically suitable to the farmer because it reduces the benefits from the shamba. In addition, the farmer faces serious problem of game damage and impassable roads during wet season, both of which reduce the benefits.

The future of plantation establishment depends on the way shamba system is optimised for the continued benefits of FD and the farmer. The current area opened for shamba system is bigger than that expected under sustainable plantation development. This does not assure continued benefits for the farmer in the future. These areas need to be gradually reduced to a level that can be managed sustainably. The future outlook for shamba system is to involve farmers in decisions regarding administration and management of the system. Shamba system should be considered as one form of community participation in forest management and one that can be a solution of the persistent problem of pressure on forest land. As noted in the KFDP Midterm Review (1996), shamba system can be a compromise solution to the pressures by the surrounding communities to excise forest land. One way forward would be to adopt a Joint Forest Management approach in shamba system. This will ensure that the communities benefiting from the shamba play a role in protection and management of the forest. The FD will be expected to recognise the important role of these communities and gradually increase the benefits they get from the forest. The efforts need to be backed by the necessary legal, policy and institutional changes.




3.8.1 Forest Cover

In Kenya, the total forested area is 39.1 million ha. Out of this, there are areas of woodland and wooded grassland totalling 37.6 million ha. In addition, indigenous forests cover 1.3 million ha. while forest plantations cover 0.16 million ha. There is 9.5 million ha of farms, settlement and urban lands which have wooded biomass growing stock of 9.3 m3/ha (KFMP, 1994).

Forests in Kenya cover an area of about 1.7 million ha, which is about 2.6% of the country’s total area. This area is composed of 1.22 million hectares of closed indigenous forest and plantation forest and 0.5 million hectares of protective bush and grassland.

Forest and Biodiversity Conservation

Forests in the country sustain very high levels of forest Biodiversity. This refers not only to diversity of species but also to genetic variation within and between species and to the diversity of the forest ecosystems within which they occur. The functions of the forest ecosystem highly depend on the Biodiversity therein.

Forest ecosystems offer complex dynamic economic natural resources. This is through provision of environmental goods and services. The goods and services offered range from timber to non-wood products and environmental services. The goods and services offered by the forest highly depend on its Biodiversity.


3.8.3 Forest Values

Forest values range from material products, environmental services to roles in research and education.

Environmental services: Forests in Kenya offer a lot in terms of regulating the environments. Its capacity to regulate water flow, soil erosion control, nutrients recycling, carbon sequestration, and capacity to modify the environment for survival of other organisms will depend on its type and structure.

Watershed Protection: In Kenya all the river systems originate from forests. The main river systems in the country are:

Tana River System whose source is Mt. Kenya and The Aberdares Forest ecosystems

Athi river system whose source is the Aberdares and Ngong Hills ecosystems

Ewaso Nyiro river system whose source is Mt. Kenya and Aberdares forest ecosystems

Lake Victoria basin river system whose source is Mt. Elgon, Cherangani Hills, Mau Forest and Nandi Hills forest ecosystems

Turkwel gorge river basin whose source is Mt. Elgon forest reserve and Cherangani Hills

Any unsustainable management practices in these forests would affect forest structure, catchments functions and could contribute to dying of rivers that originate from them.

Carbon Sequestration: Kenyan forests affect the net carbon change in the country. Consequently, changes in land use from forest to other uses may result to imbalance in the carbon cycle resulting in accumulation of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Given this important role, it is therefore necessary that increase in forest cover be stepped up.

Habitat Role: Forests in Kenya act as safe havens for wildlife during dry periods. They also offer different habitat regimes for migratory species.

Aesthetic Value: Most of the Kenyan forests provide unique sceneries which ideal for recreation.

Research and Education: Kenyan forests provide unique setting for research and education in environment.



Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page