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Planting commercial forests can reduce poverty and boost forest

Planting and managing trees to produce wood can deliver biodiversity benefits alongside playing a vital role in eradicating poverty.

Researcher Stephen Maina, a natural resource scientist at KEFRI, drew on a large body of research and case studies to argue that suitably-planted forests for wood production can deliver great benefits for communities, and that appropriate harvesting can often enhance its biodiversity value.

Speaking during the commercial forestry boot camp organized by Kenya Climate Innovation Centre and GATSBY Africa, Mr. Maina acknowledged the commercial forestry program being conducted by the two organizations.

“Our forest cover is way below the international minimum of ten percent. Any effort that is supporting the forest sector is also tackling massive societal challenges like poverty and unemployment,” he said.

He further added that, commercial forestry is a market driven approach that most farmers have been waiting for. “A business market that helps eradicate poverty and boost the country’s need to meet the ten percent forest cover is what is needed.

“To meet the Kenya Government’s hugely ambitious target of 10 percent forest cover by 2022, (planting 1.8 billion trees in the next two years), we need to the confidence to embrace all types of new planting. Modern productive forests avoid trade-offs between tackling climate change or promoting biodiversity. They also deliver green jobs, economic growth at a time of recession and the low-carbon, renewable wood products that we use so much in our daily lives.”

The research scientist says that better management of commercial forests to produce wood will benefit wildlife, people, support local jobs and reduce imports.

The commercial forestry program, under a for-profit model, is financing indigenous communities and small landowners to establish commercial forest plantations, technical assistance and plantation maintenance. By creating a secure market for timber and generating decent jobs in commercial tree plantations, the program aims to reduce poverty and increase the percentage forest cover in the country.

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