Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has launched the first Kenya Commercial Forestry Investment Conference and Expo at the Kenya Forest Research Institute Headquarters at Muguga in Kiambu County.
In his remarks prior to officially opening the conference, the CS vouched for the move to harvest trees for profit, saying that wealth creation through harvesting trees and the conservation of trees can go hand in hand. “Conservation and wealth creation are not contradictory with regards to commercial forestry,” Tobiko told the participants.
The Conference brought together producers, traders, manufacturers, financial institutions, researchers, policy makers and academia who will share ideas and experiences on ways to improve the performance of commercial forestry in Kenya.
The Cabinet Secretary held that the two interests could be catered for by ensuring that there is a sustainable use of natural resources that will create a balance between conservation efforts and commercial forestry.
Tobiko, while inviting investors to bet their money on forestry, assured them that the government will play its role in facilitating those willing to go into the venture.
“We have created research institutions such as KEFRI, we have created the managers and the owners of the trees, the KFS and we have also established institutions that have been mandated to mobilize resources including from private investors and development partners. We have also set up the Sh2 billion tree fund which is a composite scheme facility,” he explained.
He further assured KEFRI of government support as Kenya seeks to pass the globally recommended minimum of 10 percent for forest cover with the Chief Conservator of Forest, Julius Kamau, confirming that the country’s current forest cover stands at 7 percent.
KEFRI Chairperson, Dr Sammy Letema, on his part, reiterated the CS’s commitment to attaining 10 percent forest cover and emphasized on the essence of commercializing forestry to reach this goal.
“We want to do 10 percent forest cover and this is also a ticket to ecosystem restoration but you cannot do it without commercial aspects because for sustainable forestry, you must have some level of commercial undertaking,” Letema expounded.
The Chairperson further explained that the aim of the three -day conference is to bring together stakeholders such as investors, researchers and other partners to develop a program that caters for both conservation and commercialization interests dubbed as the ‘Sustainable forestry and tree growing strategy.’
The CS also launched the Sh20 million Solar Heat For Drying Forest Tree Seeds (SoFDTS), a new technology that dries tree seedlings within a short time which is the outcome of a partnership between KEFRI, the Brunel University, London and Enso Impact, a United Kingdom based company that specializes in manufacturing clean energy products.
Brunel University representative, Dr Harjit Singh, who also led the development of the technology, said while it would take at least six weeks to dry tree seeds using other methods, it takes only three days with this technology.
Singh also explained that the drying technology fully relies on solar as a source of energy and can take up to 100 kilos of tree seeds per 3 day session.
By Duncan Mutwiri