Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Kenya


Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Kenya

By Lynette Obare and J. B. Wangwe

1. Situation analysis

Kenya’s forests are rapidly declining due to pressure from increased population and other land uses. With B of the country being arid and semi-arid, there is a lot of strain on the rest of the land since the economy is natural resource based. The productive area which forms about 20% of the country’s area falls in the medium and high potential agro-ecological zones and is under agriculture, forest and nature reserves. According to FAO Forest Resource Assessment 1990, Kenya is classified among the countries with low forest cover of less than 2% of the total land area. The dwindling forest cover has a severe effect on the climate, wildlife, streams, human population especially forest dwellers.

1.1 Introduction

Mau Forest Complex is located in the Rift Valley province, about 200 km to the south-west of Nairobi and straddles four Districts: Kericho, Nakuru, Bomet, and Narok. It lies in the montane rain forest region which has a good potential for closed-canopy growth. The forest contains the largest remaining block of moist indigenous forest in East Africa covering an area of 900 km˛.

The forest is gazetted and is under the managerial custody of the State's Forest Department. It was first gazetted in 1932 by the colonial government. Many alterations to the forest cover have taken place since it was first gazetted. These have resulted from excisions, additions, and boundary alterations.


The Mau forest is situated on the Mau escarpments in the Great Rift Valley. It forms the upper catchment of Sondu, Mara and Ewaso Ngiro rivers, which drain into Lakes Nakuru, Baringo, Victoria, Naivasha, Natron and Bogoria. The Kenya Forest Master Plan (Ministry of Natural Resources, 1994), put the Mau forest catchment protection value at 806 million Shillings per year, which is the highest of all the watershed forests in the country. It is important to note that some of these lakes are inter-boundary for example Lake Victoria which straddles three countries in East Africa namely Kenya Uganda and Tanzania. River Nile originates from this lake and flows to the Mediterranean Sea.



The forest is also rich in bio-diversity and hosts several indigenous tree species like Olea africana, Dombea goetzenii, Acacia spp, and Bamboo spp. among others. The forest has been described as being a part of the Afromontane archipelago-like. It comprises of Afromontane Forest and Afromontane Bamboo at the higher altitude. Specifically, it comprises of secondary plant community derived from Rain forest formation after logging at one time in its history (KIFCON 1994). The initial vegetation was dominated by Neoboutonia macrocalyx, which is gradually being replaced by the climax species.

Being on an escarpment, the vegetation in the Mau forest is distinct at different altitudes. Rainfall is higher and continuous on the western side with no marked dry season, and mean annual rainfall of 2,000 mm and above. On the steep slopes of the escarpment, there is a Moist Montane Forest, characterized by a mixture of evergreen, semi-deciduous and deciduous trees. The average canopy height in this area is about 20 meters. The commonest tree species are Cyathea manniana, Ensete ventricosum, Acanthus eminens and Lobelia gibberoa. The Eastern side, which lies in a rain shadow, experiences a bimodal rainfall distribution, peaking in April and again in July/August, and mean annual rainfall varying from 1,000 to 1,500 mm and there is a dry forest type of ecosystem. This forest comprises mainly of Juniperus procera, Hypericum revoltum, Olea capensis, Podocarpus latifolius and Dombeya goetzeni.

Glades are also common in the Mau forest most of which are as a result of fire burning the vegetation. It is thought that the fires are usually deliberately started as a way of improving the pastures or to clear land for cultivation especially in area with bamboo forests. High mountain bamboo thickets, Arundinaria alpina, are found at the topmost parts of the forest. Polystachya eurygnatha is an archid endemic to Mau forest while Chionanthus mildbraedii is a shrub recorded to be found only in Kenya.


Among the large animals found in this forest are Bongo, Yellow backed Duiker, Golden cat, Giant forest hog, Leopard, Hyena, Buffalo, Colobus Monkey, and Impala. The Yellow backed Duiker, the Bongo, the Golden Cat, Leopard and Elephants are some of the important mammals of international conservation concern. Other nationally endangered species found only in this forest are the Potto, the spotted Necked Otter, and the striped Hyena. The forest is also rich in a variety of birds and is ranked second among the forests west of the Rift Valley. There are no endemic bird species in this forest but it is said to represent the richest montane avifauna in the Eastern Africa. 173 species have been spotted in the forest.

1.2 Forest-Community Relationship.

Mau forest is the home of the largest group of forest dwellers, the Ogiek. Since time immemorial, the Ogiek people have been living inside the Mau forest, depending on the forest for subsistence and shelter. They divided the forest among their clans using natural features like rivers, valleys or hills as boundaries. In the period between 1904-1918, the colonial government tried to evict the community from the forest, but without success. The forest was gazetted in 1932 while these people were still inside. Once again in 1941, the colonial government tried unsuccessfully to evict them after gazetting it but this only drove them further inside the forest because there was no communication between them and the government. They did not know what was expected of them. It was unheard of for the government to consult with the community and it is said that one government officer who tried it in 1935 was rebuked and sacked by his senior.

The postcolonial government did not change its attitude towards the Ogieks. It tried to evict the people in 1972 and 1977/87. In 1972, the government succeeded in evicting the people but most of them moved back into the forest after only six months. During the 1977/87 evictions, the government instructed the people to congregate around the forest stations in order to be resettled elsewhere later on. A small percentage (about 25%) did this while others went deeper into the forest.

In 1992 the government forcefully evicted all the forest dwellers who were still inside the forest and concentrated them at the forest stations and promised to allocate them land. To date, most of the Ogieks live at the forest stations but some moved to the riverbanks where they also practise subsistence farming.

The local administration then alienated that part of the forest that had been converted into plantation forest, subdivided it into five-acre plots and allocated it to individuals. The Ogieks allege that those people allocated the land were not members of their community but from the area around the forest. The forest was still gazetted and under the custody of the forest department. The forest department was not involved in the clear felling of the forest and the allocation of the land.

The communities living around the forest also depend on the forest especially during the dry weather. A case study done in Njoro area East of the Mau forest indicated that the farming community in this area utilise the plantation area to grow food crops especially vegetables during the dry seasons.

There has been a negative environmental impact on the forest since the clear felling started. Wildlife corridors have been tampered with exposing the forest dwellers and forest neighbours to attacks from elephants. Land that is on a slope of more than 50 % gradient has been allocated to farmers with no measures to check the soil erosion.

The Ogieks have always relied on forests as a source of livelihood. Honey harvesting, hunting, gathering of wildfruits and nuts from the forests have been their occupation. They started keeping livestock in 1952. All the Ogiek groups have lived in or near high forests. Forest resources played an important role in Ogiek culture rendering their conservation vital. Whenever the Ogieks moved in the forests, they used their traditional set-up to conserve it. These conservation measures that were passed on to the community by the elders include:

  • Ensuring that there were no forest outbreaks

  • Allowing only the experienced elders to make beehives from the trees, so that the barks used to make such beehives are removed in a particular way that conserves the tree. The most commonly used tree for this is Juniperus procera.

  • Creating awareness on important tree species like Dobeya goetzeni, Olea euro, Olea hochstetteri which were used for honey and herbs. The community members were prohibited from cutting these trees.

  • In order to manage the forest properly the Ogieks allocated blocks of forests to clans to use. The forest areas are first occupied by a clan which divides it according to the family tree. Each family gives a name to their part of the forest, for identification and awareness of other families and customary respect for boundaries; the boundaries are recognised according to the customary land tenure system, where rivers, streams, valleys, glades, swamps and hills serve as boundaries. The Ogiek land tenure system aimed at defusing feuds resulting from hunting and beekeeping rights.

1.3 Direct causes and actors leading to deforestation and forest degradation

Clearing natural forests to establish plantations

In 1930, parts of Mau forests were cleared for the establishment of forest plantations using mainly exotic species. These occupy about 10% of the forest. The Ogiek community have been receding into the natural forests when this happens as their lifestyle depends on natural forests. Most of these plantations found surrounding the indigenous forests have been cleared to pave way for agriculture. Without the protection offered by the plantation the indigenous forests are now threatened.


Saw millers obtain licences to permit them to practise logging especially within the plantations. They also have to pay logging fees to the forest department. These charges are very low and not revised often to reflect the current economic situation. The saw-millers do not stick to the guidelines on logging and the Forest department does not have the mechanisms to enforce the rules and regulations under the current retrenchment process. The forests have been logged extensively in a non-systematic way. There is no annual allowable cut established and no adequate yield regulation in place. Often, there is intensive selective cutting and overexploitation leaving behind an inferior stock to mature as a final crop. This leads to further forest loss as the Department cannot rehabilitate the areas where trees have been felled.

Conversion of natural forests into agricultural land: The Shamba system

The Shamba system is adopted from the Taungya system of South America. It was devised by the Forest Department (FD) in 1943 to facilitate plantation establishment. This was prompted by the acute land shortage faced by communities after colonisation, and a need to reduce plantation establishment costs by the Forest Department. It was also meant to provide food security to those who practised it.

Under the Shamba system, the cultivators were incorporated into the FD through employment and were permitted to clear and cultivate cut over indigenous bush cover from a specified land area; usually between 0.4-0.8 ha per year. This is done with the agreement that tree seedlings are planted on this land, and subsequently tended through weeding, pruning and safeguarding against game damage. In return the FD provided the resident cultivator with employment, social amenities and land for the cultivation of annual crops such as maize, potatoes, beans, peas and other vegetables. Cultivation proceeded until a time when tree seedlings were large enough to shade, and thus inhibit the growth of annual plant crops; usually a period of 3-5 years.

The extent of the Shamba system was restricted to the high potential areas, comprising about 3% of Kenya's land area, and representing 12% of Kenya's total agricultural land. These areas are endowed with fertile soils of volcanic origin and a high annual (>1000 mm) rainfall with a bimodal distribution.

Clearly, the Shamba system was an important arrangement which enhanced and sustained the food security of otherwise landless peasants. The system was discontinued in 1986 chiefly due to an expanded human population whose demand for forest land allocation exceeded the initial FD objective of plantation establishment. In addition, illegal activities (e.g.. forest clearing, tree poaching, hunting) from the resident cultivators and their families jeopardised forest protection and management. Interestingly, resident cultivators in forest areas with high wildlife populations voluntarily gave up the practice due to crop destruction and livestock predation.

After the Shamba system was stopped, communities living around the forest moved in and settled in areas that were cleared. Forest degradation has escalated as they do not use indigenous forest management knowledge.

In the 1990s the Forest Department introduced the Non-resident Cultivation (NRC) for the establishment of plantation forests. Through the approval of the respective District Development Committees, cultivators were involved in plantation development under certain terms and conditions that were enforced by the respective Forester, District Forest Officer and Provincial Forest Officer.

The Non-resident cultivation is a modification of the Shamba system that attempts to reduce the risk of cultivators claiming squatter rights on forest land. The system however, fails to take into account the need to protect crops from wild animals and thieves that invade the plots at night.

The Ogiek people did not practice any Shamba system or non-resident cultivation. Those who still reside in the forest do very little cultivation, but not within arrangements sanctioned and therefore controlled by the Forest department. Moreover, the Ogieks of Mau do not dwell in plantation forests where the Shamba system or non resident cultivation is done. Their homes are in natural forest reserves.

Human Settlement

Carving out of forests for human settlement is on the increase as the government is very keen to settle the forest dwelling communities along the forest boundaries or within the cleared forest plantations. However the Ogieks are strongly opposed to this and are keen on working out modalities of managing the forests together with the government. There has been continuous eviction of the community from the forests for resettlement outside the natural forests. Some community members are still back into the forests and do not want to change their current lifestyle. This resettlement is politically motivated as the community is aware of some people who have registered as part of the community in order to obtain land. So far the outsiders have been allocated land but some of the Ogieks are still concentrated in Forest Reserves.

Forest excisions

The process of forest protection was introduced under the ‘East Africa Forest Regulations, 1902’ by the first Conservator of Forests. These regulations allowed for the gazettement and degazettement of forests, and control of forest exploitation through a system of licences and fines.

The Government through the Minister for Natural Resources has the express authority to degazette the forest through a legal process of excision. This excisions are done with the intent of converting the area to other alternative land uses like settlement, private agriculture that do not foster tree cover. The forests are degazetted then surveyed and demarcated for the proposed use.

There are several loopholes in the excision process. These include:

  • The excisions are made without consultation with the stakeholders. Procedures of collecting public views and sharpening their perspectives on causes-effects linkages as it may affect those aggrieved by the excision are never put in place and neither are provisions for compensation clear. A notice is placed in the Kenya Gazette and whoever wants to contest it is given 28 days to do so. The Minister is however under no obligation to consider the views in the final decision. The readership of the Kenya Gazette is very limited and not many people get to know about the notices.

  • The Minister has the powers to put in a notification and he can be influenced by political and economic pressure but not necessarily for the common interest of the public.

  • Excisions usually take place after the forests have already been illegally occupied.

  • There is no environmental and socio-economic impact assessment done for the proposed changes in land-use leading to unsustainable land management.


In order to clear land for cultivation or grazing, those intending to settle into the forest set the vegetation on fire. The fires spread extensively and cause a lot of damage to the forest biodiversity. Charcoal burners also destroy the forest as they use traditional kilns which are not energy efficient, this activity is done illegally and therefore no one controls or tends the fires which in most cases destroy the areas surrounding the charcoal burning sites.

The actors responsible for the mentioned direct causes include the Forest Department, saw millers, politicians, and influential persons. Since Mau Forest is a gazetted forest, and therefore government property, no individual or community has the legal right over this resource. This gives leeway for illegal exploitation as the people are alienated from their resources. The Ogieks are not able to intervene when they also see outsiders destroying what they have lived to conserve and this is very disheartening.

There are a lot of powers vested onto the Minister of Natural Resources especially regarding excision. In a situation whereby policy decisions are entrusted in the hands of a few individuals they are not made to serve the public interest.

1.4 Community interventions to counteract the deforestation process and problems encountered

Protection of the rivers and streams in the area

The community members have a system of managing the forests through their lineage system. Each clan is in charge of a forest block, zoned along natural boundaries like rivers, hills and valleys. It is the responsibility of the elders to ensure that the resources are used in the right way. This knowledge is passed on to the young generation by this elders. The community members protect the streams by ensuring no cultivation is done within 50 metres on both sides of the rivers. However this can no longer be ensured as the Government is always removing them from the forests and resettling them elsewhere. There is a lot of infiltration into the forest by outsiders who are not keen in managing the river banks and just clear the trees for short term gain.

Community involvement in forest conservation

The Ogieks recognise the fact that they have lived in the forests and depended on them through out their lives. They have used their indigenous knowledge to sustainably utilise the forest products (honey, wild fruits and nuts, game meat) and ensure the resources are protected. They noted with concern that the destruction of the forest is done by outsiders who burn charcoal and fell trees for timber. They realise that those destroying the forests will have an impact on them even when they conserve the areas where they are allocated. They propose that their traditional forest management knowledge be incorporated into conventional forest management. They also request to be involved in the decision making process regarding forest management. They are limited by the present tenure system as they live in the forest but do not have ownership rights over it from the time it was gazetted. With the current resettlement programme they are keen to obtain ownership of the land then make tangible future conservation plans. They prefer to own the allocated land communally and manage it this way. They are keen on adoption of agroforestry practices and would still like to continue hunting, collecting honey and wild fruits from the natural forests. They are however, restricted from these activities and are opposed to any forced change in their way of life.

Legal mechanisms

In order to counter political interference and allocation to forest land to individuals the Ogieks have filed a case in court which is on-going and will take time considering the legal procedures to be followed. The defendants include the Attorney General, the Area District Officer, District Forest Officer, and the Office of the President (which gave the directive that parts of the forests be subdivided for settlement).

2. Description of the underlying causes and the actors responsible for them

2.1 Underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation

Weak policy formulation and enforcement

The land policies in totality often tend to be agrarian favouring large-scale farmers. They are not consistent as they application varies with different regions or sectors depending on the land tenure systems. This leads to confusion, misuse, non-use, and indiscriminate destruction of the resources. The government has acknowledged the need for a serious review of the land tenure system but has not implemented this. The Policy Framework Paper on Economic Reforms for 1996-1998 confirmed the intention of the government to establish a Land Use Commission to address land tenure and land policy issues with a view to improving sustainable agricultural productivity and food security situation as well as ensuring biodiversity considerations are taken in land-use decisions. To date, no commission has been set up this being the last year of the reform period.

Policy mandates on conservation, governance, accessibility and sustainable use of forestry resources does not offer a broader range of public participation and approval in its decision making process. The current policy and legal framework does not promote sustainable forest management. It was inherited from the colonial era and more concerned with control and distribution rather than management. It is based on Session Paper No. 1 of 1968 which was a restatement with minimal changes of White Paper No. 1 of 1957 that was the basis of colonial forest policy. It does not give room for collaborative forest management and neither does it take into consideration the lifestyle of the forest dwellers. It further fails to clarify issues of forest resource ownership, accessibility, mechanism for public approval and redress in its judicial and administrative procedures. The policy is enacted through the Forest Act that vests a lot of power in the hands of the Minister for Natural Resources.

An amended forest policy based on the Kenya Forestry Master Plan that recommends the development of several forms of partnerships which will incorporate and involve all forestry stakeholders in forest management is yet to be tabled in parliament for debate.

The Ogieks lived in the forest before it was gazetted and it is their ancestral land. They had customary land rights over the forests. The forest dwellers find themselves in a very precarious position as they do not have security of tenure under the present system and are often victims of inappropriate decisions made for them. For instance they have been evicted from the forest many times and are no longer provided with social amenities in the forest. They are also prohibited from grazing, hunting and collecting honey in the forest.

In terms of enforcement, the penalties that are laid down on infringement of forest land is very low compared to the potential gains from illegal activities. Those in-charge enforcing the legislation are lax as they not well motivated to do so and often work together with those destroying the forests.

Political factors

As a result of political rivalry, forests were given to supporters of particular politicians as a bribe or repayment for political patronage. Most of the forest was subdivided into five hectares plot for allocation just before the last elections. This was done to woo the voters from particular communities. There were a lot of outsiders posing as Ogieks in order to obtain land. There has also been a move to try and assimilate the Ogieks into bigger tribes. Those allocated the land are after quick gain and not interested in conservation. In any case this sub-division interferes with forest biodiversity as the plots are put under different land use systems.

The decision regarding forests lies in the hands of the Minister of Natural Resources who is influenced by other top politicians. Natural resources are destroyed to enrich the political royalty. Therefore it is the politically correct who benefit from forest excisions. The decision to subdivide Mau forest was made in an ad-hoc manner without consultation with those depending on them or the environmentalists. Even the Forest department was not consulted on this issue yet they are the custodian of this forest. The forest dwellers adversely affected by such decisions.

Macro economic policies

Cash crop production for export: Cash crop farming is on the increase on the cleared portions of forest. These cash crops are grown for export to the industrialised countries and compete in the world market to earn the country the much needed foreign exchange.

The crops grown include tea and pyrethrum. The Ogieks claimed that pyrethrum and pesticides applied on the farms kill bees and have rendered bee keeping unviable. Bee keeping is affected by the growing of pyrethrum and the use of pesticides on the farm, it is therefore not a suitable alternative to harvesting of honey in the forest.

Nyayo Tea Zones Development Corporation was assigned forest land in order to grow tea to provide a buffer between the agricultural land and forests designated for protection as well as an alternative source of income and employment. This was established by Presidential order in 1986 and Act of Parliament in 1988. The approximate boundary planting width that the zones were to occupy were not formally established but a general width of 100m into the forest was nominally accepted. Little consideration was given to the suitability of these areas, they are moderate to poor for tea growing in some parts. Further, the areas have been affected by poor management and poor access leading to further degradation of the forest. This tea zones have been the largest alternative use of forest land in Mau, out of a total of 2152 ha cleared in Mau Forest, only 542 ha were planted with tea leading to serious forest loss and degradation. The market promotes growing of these commodities for global trading thus impact on the activities at the local level.

The liberalisation process has put a lot of emphasis on the privatisation of public land and forests resulting in the non recognition of customary resource tenure. The Ogieks have been denied their ancestral rights to the land they occupy. The government is in the process of issuing title deeds for forests and this process can be abused in terms of area the area quoted in the title deed being much less than the actual forest area.

Structural Adjustment Programmes: As a result of the restructuring process going on the Government has had to trim the public sector and reduce the budget allocated to its various departments. The Forest department has not been spared from this. Most of the forest guards have been retrenched making it very difficult for the forests to be managed well. This encourages illegal use of forests.

Population pressure

Kenya’s population is concentrated on the arable land which is about 20% of the country’s area. This puts a lot of strain on the forests which are seen as ‘free land for potential use’. In Mau Forest, those coming from outside (the forest neighbours) would like to reap maximum benefits from it. They come to get land for cultivation (some practise commercial tractor farming) and grazing. They supplement their income by felling indigenous trees for charcoal. The Ogieks are keen on utilising the forest sustainably as they depend on it for their livelihood. This brings about a lot of conflict between these two groups resulting to further destruction.

2.2 Actors

Those responsible for the underlying causes at different levels include:

Local Level: Cash crop farmers who grow crops and continue to increase the area under cultivation to be able to get more income. The local administration have been instrumental in allocating land to individuals without considering conservation issues.

National level: The policy makers do not have the will to incorporate the lifestyle of the Ogieks in their plans. The Forest Department does not train their staff to recognise that role of indigenous knowledge in forest conservation. Political leaders are only interested in gaining mileage by giving people land so that they become popular. They do not consider the long term effects of destroying the catchment areas and are only interested in the economic gain. They only plan for their five year term in office. The Ogieks do not have representatives in paliarment and there have been attempts to assimilate them into other community.

Global level: The Industries and consumers in developed world promote the export of cash crops in bulk mainly in raw form for processing. Structural adjustment programmes of the World Bank that are economically oriented with little regard to sustainable environmental conservation also encourage intensive exploitation of forest land.

These two actors operate behind the scene. They influence those at the local level as they come up with the measures on how the global economy should run. The decision made by them will determine the kind of national plans in place and therefore influence the local communities.

2.3 Objectives, motivations, and incentives for all the actors

  • The capitalistic nature of the global economy. Global trade and the market forces influence commodities to be produced for export. The focus is on those fetching good prices in the world market.

  • The industries in the developed countries require cheap raw materials from the developing countries.

  • The Forest department practices traditional forestry through protection of forest areas by strict control of fire and grazing and by eradication of private rights in gazetted forests as defined in the current forest policy. The Department works on accruing economic benefits from the forests.

  • To gain quick profit through exploitation of land resources. This leads to plundering of resources in the get-rich-quickly culture.

2.4 Strategies applied by different actors to achieve their goals

  • The forest department gives priority to developing the forest industry thus establishment of forest plantations.

  • The production of cash crops in bulk for the export market will promote international/trans boundary trading.

  • Privatisation of land for better and more economical utilisation.

2.5 The relationship between the various actors

The community members are very suspicious of the local government and the forest department as they have been marginalised for a long time.

The Minister does not have the will to stop forest destruction as he is appointed to this post. He has to take into consideration the views of those who appointed him.

The local actors (cash crop growers) are encouraged to produce for export by the national exporters. These are para-statal corporations formed to market cash crops for the farmers.

2.6 Contradictions between the underling causes actors

The Minister of Natural Resources does not need legislative intervention to order the suspension of excisions of natural forests as the Forest Act protects endangered plant and animal species and water catchment areas. In most cases the Minister cannot reverse the excisions since there is a lot of political influence on his decision to degazette the forest.

The Forest department has the mandate to look after forests but the presidential or executive decrees over-ride all other plans earmarked for the forest.

The forests are gazetted and earmarked for protection but those in-charge of looking after them cannot withstand the pressure to privatise the land which is considered public property. The land can also be privatised through presidential grants.

The restructuring programmes of the world bank recommends that the Government workforce is trimmed without considering the environmental implications of such a move. Their macro-economic policies do not give due regard to environmental issues.

The Foresters are trained in traditional forestry which is not relevant to the situation on the ground especially when it comes to looking after natural forests.

The FD is in charge of monitoring the forests and ensuring that there is no illegal exploitation of the resources. They do not have the budget, the machinery, or adequate staff to ensure that this happens.

2.7 Contradictions between the underlying causes actors and other actors

The forest dwellers stay in the forest and use their indigenous knowledge to manage the forests but they have no authority to make decisions regarding forest utilisation.

The government tenure arrangement has been imposed on the Ogieks who were already in the forests under customary tenure before it was degazetted.

The Forest department is meant to earmark sections of the forests suitable for logging. They do not however have the machinery and resources to do so. This prompts the saw millers to select the trees they are interested in regardless on their maturity level. They then approach the FD to permit them to cut down the trees.

The Ogieks are prohibited from grazing and hunting on their ancestral land yet their livelihood depends on the forest.

3.0 Possible solutions

3.1 Possible actions to counteract the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation

  • Re-orienting decision makers on the need to involve local stakeholders in policy formulation. The formulation of an integrated and comprehensive land policy geared towards attaining sustainable development is crucial. This should consider the natural resources holistically not sectorally and harmonise what is in existence. This will entail restructuring the decision making process. Policy intervention to ensure collaborative forest management and security of tenure.

  • Tabling a bill in parliament to reduce the powers of the Minister and ensure that the decision making process is consultative right from the grassroot level.

  • The management of the forest should be done by a board of trustees who are drawn from the various forest stakeholder groups.

  • Meting out harsh penalties on those destroying the forest.

  • There should be elaborate measures for ensuring public accessibility to timely and relevant information as a means of empowering them and building their confidence in participation.

  • Advocacy for sustainable forest management. The Forest Action Network has an on-going project in Mau that aims at creating awareness among the Ogieks on policy and legal issues. This will include sensitising them on their rights to the forest resources. The project will also document information on the Ogiek’s traditional forest management practices, organise workshops for different stakeholders of Mau Forest to enable them come together and work out a plan of action for achieving sustainable forest management.

  • Advocacy at the Global level to sensitise the consumers and industries on accepting goods (forest products, cash crops) that are sustainably produced. The World Bank should be prevailed upon to come up with environmental responsive policies and action plans.

  • Promoting conservation of forests through sustainable harvesting of products and reforestation.

  • Promoting activities that reduce the pressure off the forest like sericulture, butterfly farming, improved bee-keeping, development of fodder banks, bio-intensive agriculture and farm forestry.

  • Facilitating marketing and value-adding processes to existing products.

  • Capacity building of forest users in technical knowledge-base in relevant fields such as species enrichment and management regimes.

  • Monitoring physical/environmental changes with a view of counteracting the observed changes in order to enhance potential of the forest.

3.2 Actors to implement the actions

NGOs, Parliamentarians/ Policy makers, The Ogiek Welfare Management Committee, Forest Department, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya Wildlife Service, the Local Authorities, Ministry of Lands and Settlement, Research and Academic Organisations, Provincial Administration, Consumers at Global level, Industries receiving raw materials for processing, Members of the National Environment Action Plan, Kenya Forest Working Group, Kenya Working Group on Biodiversity, Kenya Wetlands Working Group.

3.3 Actors who will support such actions

Kenya Human Rights Commission, Forest Action Network, Ogiek Welfare Management Committee, Local User Groups (hunters, herbalists, carvers, honey collectors etc), Oasis Development Group of Mau Forest, Research and Academic Institutions (Egerton University, National Museums of Kenya), Kenya Forest Working Group.

3.4 Actors opposed to such actions

Those already benefiting from the current status quo are opposed to any changes. As it is the proposed changes in the forest policy have not been debated in Parliament. It is not considered as an issue of priority yet the resources continue to be plundered.

It is not in the interest of the Minister for Environment to have his powers reduced and neither is the intention of the politicians to remove the loopholes they are using to acquire forest land.

Biased Administrators and Subject Specialist who fail to provide technical guidance prior to official excision or tolerate forest degradation.

Special Interest Groups: Commercial saw-millers, Commercial Farmers who want to convert forests into cash crop farms.

3.5 Socio-economic and environmental impact of the actions

  • Diversification of land production options that are environmentally sensitive and responsive to local needs and livelihood security.

  • Public redress system and procedures put in place.

  • Greater involvement of the community in decision making

  • Public empowerment through accessibility to relevant information.

  • Biodiversity enhancement through increase in species composition and density.

  • Counteracting the physical changes and degradation within the forest for enhanced potential of land, water and biological resources.

  • There will be sufficient consideration for socio-economic and environmental issues that are fully integrated with a broader range of public participation.

  • Local economy boosted by fair trade and environment protected through sustainable harvesting.

4.0 Conclusions

A lot of concerted effort should be taken to deal with the underlying causes of deforestation involving all the actors responsible. In Kenya the Inter Parties Parliamentary Group is working on constitutional review and will work on change of policies to suit the current reality. They intend to accommodate the view of all Kenyan by organising consultative meetings for the public. The civil society is also creating awareness on conservation and policy issues.



1904,1911,1918 - 1st evictions of the Ogiek ( To Narok ).
1932 - Gazzetment of forest.
1939 - Land cater commission.
1941 - 2nd evictions of the Ogiek to Olenguorone (Nakuru).
1953 - Rural development.
1953 - Chief Kitango Teresit - declared Dorobo ( Ogiek) chief - certificate given.
1954 - Full Gazzetment of forest.
1954 - Swynnerton plan which advanced the process of individualisation of land-ownership in Kenya. (R.J.M Swynnerton, 1954. A Plan to Intensify the Development of African Agriculture)
1961 - K.N.F.U. - Public circular of land titles.
1963 – Kenya’s independence
1967 - Trust lands vested with county council.
1969 - Ogiek trust land declared a free land ( Olenguruone area council )
1972 - Ogiek evicted to lake Nakuru settlement scheme.
1977 - 4th eviction of Ogiek from Keringet forest.
1987 - 5th eviction of Ogiek from Nessoit and Mariashoni to Ndoinet forests.
1991 - Ogiek allowed to resettle in Mau forest ( East ) around the forest stations.
1993 – Infiltration of outside communities from other districts.
1994 - Official opening of the scheme.
1995 - Year of demonstrations.
1996 - On 31 May, 1996, the Ogiek welfare management committee was formed to oversee the Ogiek problems, its causes and possible solutions and remedies. This is a community based organisation, was established in Nakuru Kenya, to arrest the current trend in which the community is getting alienated from the forests that it depends on. The Ogiek welfare council has worked out its action plan and therefore seeks material, moral and financial assistance from your organisations or institutions to implement its programme of which its details are already given and expounded. It intends to carry out advocacy on their issues and shall always be ready to participate, if invited to fora on indigenous communities protection. It was at this period that we the Ogiek prepared a detailed memorandum which they presented to all members of the parliament and diplomatic missions. Also the year more than 72 members of Ogiek community were arrested.
1997 - Ogiek take their land case to court. It was directed to the constitution court under two judge bench. 900.sq Km is the area claimed by Ogiek.
1998 - The year of the verdict which is still pending.


Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 1994. Kenya Forest Master Plan

Peter Wass, 1995. Kenya’s Indigenous Forests: Status, Management and Conservation.

Michael Ochieng’ Odhiambo, 1998. Policy Dialogue Series No.1. &2.

Source: http://www.wrm.org.uy/deforestation/Africa/Kenya.html