A Functional Plan of Community Participation in Forest Management – Case Study: Geta Forest- Nyandarua County, Kenya

It was with great marvel that I watched a news segment entitled “Forest Converts” that was aired in one of the local TV news, Citizen News. It covered how a community surrounding Geta forest, in Kenya turned from being radical loggers to passionate and dedicated forest conservationists. Geta Forest covers 18,807 HA and is situated in Nyandarua County, in the central Kenya highlands and is part of the larger Aberdare Forest ecosystem. The community members were involved in the illegal logging in the forest and they were always clash with the government and engage in the running battles with the forest rangers. However, the then leader, Jamleck Gichuki indicates that they realized the more they used to cut down trees the more they got poor.

The government approached approached them through the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and they entered into a mutual agreement to be conserving the Geta forest ecosystem and this changed everything. They turned from being loggers to conservationists it has transformed their lives for the better. They are involved in the planting of trees in the forest after harvesting trees and they are also allowed to practice farming in the forest as well. One of the highlights that caught my attention was that on a good harvest, Jamleck Gichuki is able to make up to Ksh. 800,000. These returns have enabled the community to empower themselves, where they now own land and have been able to put up modern decent houses for their families. They have managed to invest and educate their children without challenges. Some now own multiple motorcycles, which continue to boost their income.

Any environmentalist watching the news segment can see a functional plan of the community participation in the conservation of forests. One of the major threats to our natural forests is illegal logging mainly by the locals. The government should replicate the Geta plan around all natural forests in the country. It is a fact that the government is not in a position to hire enough forest rangers to protect the trees from the illegal loggers. The community surrounding these forests stands as the biggest asset and tool towards the realization of the country’s conservation goals. As evidenced in the segment, the community highlighted that they cannot allow any person within or without to come and cut a single tree from the forest. This is the best guarding mechanism that is free from compromise from the mighty and greedy officials in the government. It is my hope that the government will be able to replicate this idea to all major forests including those of Mt. Kenya and the Mau Forest, that are among the country’s main water towers.


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A Country Headed in the Right Direction

As an upcoming environmental professional, I must highlight my appreciation for the efforts that the government is making as far as conservation of the country’s environment and natural capital is concerned. In the recent past, we have witnessed the country undertake some actions that will go in a long way to conserve out environment. One of the most notable of actions included enacting a ban on the use of plastic bags. Although Kenya lacks effective execution strategy, this ban has since taken effect. I was privileged to take a class by the former director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Prof. Michieka, and I  remember asking him why the country has not being able to effect a ban on the use of plastic bag. He noted that the cartels in the industry would not stand and see their business go down. It is a commendable thing that the ban has since being effected. However, the government has requires a team to enforce the ban as it is a sad situation where people are importing the plastic bags from the neighboring country.

The other action that the government has undertaken includes banning all logging around the country. The country is increasingly loosing a considerable amount of its forest cover because of logging, whether legal or illegal. There is a need to empower institutions such as those of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to enforce this ban, just like the Kenya Wildlife Service has been effective in enforcing the ban on illegal poaching. Kenya is known to have the best of the policies when it comes to addressing challenges affecting environment. These policies remain only good in the paper and it is time these policies are enforced and implemented to the letter. It is worthy mentioning that the county government are also joining in, where the governor of the Machakos County banned all logging activities in the county for the next 3 years.

Lastly, the appointment of a new Cabinet Secretary, Kiraitu Tobiko appear to be another great move. Needless to say, Tobiko is considered to be among the best brains in the country. It is my hope that he will bring his wisdom and astuteness in the country’s conservation efforts. Notably, Tobiko is already doing a good job as he has appointed a taskforce comprised of the best environmentalists in the country. The task force will be charged with coming up with strategies to conserve the environment and mainly the forests. The task force was as per the directive of the office of the Deputy President. Therefore, it is clear that the executive is headed at the right direction as far as conservation and environmental governance is concerned.

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African continent by the virtue of its position on the globe and the nature of economic activities of its people poses as the most vulnerable and most affected by the harsh effects of climate change. Africa, most livelihoods is in the agricultural sector and poses also high dependent on natural resources. The rainfall patterns are changing and becoming unpredictable as the years goes by. Temperatures are also rising and they are expected to rise even farther gradually.

These two phenomenons are having a very big impact on the livelihoods of African people who depend upon rain for their agricultural activity. Rivers are drying and the desert landmasses are increasing in size and area. Clean water is becoming a commodity hard to find in ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid) regions. This places a greater responsibility upon the institutions of higher learning to come up with mitigation measures and adopting techniques to the effects of climate change.

Also it is upon these institutions to come up with breeds and cultivars that will adapt regardless of rainfall and with high tolerance on high temperatures and the upcoming pests and diseases that are evolving due to changes in temperature regimes. Universities are known to produce the best educated human resource and it’s therefore their responsibility to develop courses geared mitigation and adaptation of climate change at both levels of study, undergraduate and post-graduate.

This will increase extensions services to the vulnerable farmers and also will see setting up of consultancy firms in agricultural and natural resource sectors. This will reduce the information asymmetry facing the farmers as to what is happening around them and what they may expect in the future and how to make the necessary adjustments to adapt in the climate change together with their farms.

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There is a lot of debate surrounding Climate change, mostly on what is causing it, whether it is triggered by human activities and that it fate and a result of expanding human population  and the long-term and short-term effects arising from it. Climate change should however be differentiated from climate variability, the latter refers to temporary variation of weather elements  for a period not exceeding 10 years while the former which is the climate change refers to a permanent deviation of weather element from their original occurrence patterns  that has lasted for a period of or exceeding ten years.

The causes of this global phenomenon have greatly being attributed to anthropogenic activities that has increased in the last two centuries. The greatest anthropogenic activities blamed for climate change are industrialization and agriculture. These I must say as it is are based on the basis of their contribution of green house gases into the atmosphere. Industrialization is known to discharge a significance amount of GHG’s in the atmosphere which include mostly the carbon iv oxide, sulphur iv oxide and nitrous iv oxide which are the greatest contributor to greenhouse effect leading to global warming. Most industries in the developed countries are the biggest contributor to emissions of these GHG’s especially those which depend on coal for their source of energy. Like U.S.A is known to contribute to about 25% of total GHG’s emitted annually and their refusal to sign and adopt the Kyoto Protocol would leave us wondering as to why. Kyoto Protocol would commit them to lower their emission but now it not the fact.

Agriculture has become a culprit of causing climate change also for its contribution of various GHG’s gases into the atmosphere like Methane, nitrous oxide and carbon iv oxide. This mostly comes from unsustainable use of nitrogenous fertilizers which leads to giving off of nitrous oxide in air. Other activities that contribute to GHG gases are cultivation of rice and poor management of manure due to anaerobic activities that goes on in the two, also to mention is the enteric fermentation taking place in livestock’s digestive system. They may sound insignificant but in the long term these activities are contributing to global warming through discharge of the methane gas. Through mechanized activities of ploughing, weeding, fertilizer application, and harvesting, these machineries which are fully dependent on fossil fuels are known to emit co2 in the atmosphere during the above activities.

More industrialized countries may deem these phenomenon as a fate rather than a consequence of human activities as they are responsible for it, and they may want to escape their polluter pay and carbon trading that takes quite a lump some of their generated income geared to mitigate the effects and pay the developing countries that are acting as carbon sinks for their emitted carbon. This is not the time to debate whether climate change is a natural triggered phenomenon or a result of  human driven activities, but it is time to work the way forward and participate fully in reducing its effects and mitigating the already happening activities.

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conventional agriculture is a mode of farming characterized by  the use of chemical artificial fertilizers,synthetic pesticides, and growth regulators which are collectively known as Agro-chemicals.conventional agriculture also pose a heavy reliance of non-renewable sorces of energy.

the effects of the above substances to the ecosystem is hazardous not only to the ecosystems at large, but also pose a great health risk to people and the soil and the biosphere that exist in the soil. It reduces biodiversity in any given agro-ecosystems due to the practises and creating unbearable surrounding environments. for instance, practicing large scale Monoculture means that only one species of plant thrive in that particular agroecosystem.

monoculture also discourages flow of essential ecosystem services like pollination as the planted crop species may not be favorable to pollinators. pollinators are known to play a very key role ensuring maturing of crops and cases are known where yield went down due lack of this important biotic component in the landscape like case in America corn field. for more details about pollination as an essential ecosystem service click.

unsustainable use of fertilizers is known to cause soil degradation like soil acidity or alkalinity, salinization and eutrophication to the surrounding riparian ecosystem. soil acidity influences availability of essential nutrients to plants and also discourages soil biota both micro and macro organisms like bacteria and earthworms which are important agents of improving soil fertility by accelerating decomposition, homogenization and mineralization of substrate into the soil.

Another effect is pollution of water resources both surface water and ground water table. This is after these chemicals percolates deep down the ground into the aquifers and consequently into water tables. Another is through surface runoff of the these agrochemicals following application and following a a heavy torrent rainfall that washes them into rivers and water bodies. This is clearly evident in where farmers practicing conventional agriculture in water catchment areas, the effects of the chemicals are usually incurred to those in the downstream.

Eutrophication is another environmental phenomenon that follows after accumulation of these chemicals in water bodies especially nitrogenous compounds. more on eutrophication click. This has become a menace in kenya and threatens the future existence of the largest fresh water lake, Lake Victoria which is being clogged and suffocated by water hyacinth(Eichornia crassipes) and also Lake Naivasha affected by the salvinia molesta due to eutrophication.

Food contamination is another menace that has hit the food industry. Residual concentration of these chemicals have increasingly gone up both in horticultural and livestock products like eggs, milk and poultry meat. Broiler chicken farmers are known nowadays to use growth hormones and boosters to accelerate maturation of their chickens so that they can make quick money. But yes, quick money at the expense of the health of general public. The next thing you get to realize is increasing statistics of lifestyle diseases and high mortality.


Ecologists and agronomists is the high time they advocate adoption of sustainable agriculture techniques like organic agriculture and also awareness of the public on what they consume is also essential. Conscious Consumption is being advocated by UNEP and not only to consume sustainably but also have clear knowledge of the cradle-to-cradle process of the commodity being consumed.


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Agriculture forms one of the best, easiest and most convenient form of making money especially in the sub-Saharan Africa like my country Kenya. Profit maximization forms the basis of venturing in  Agriculture without putting into perspective the harm it will incur to the environment. In the name of maximizing returns, the farmer adopts conventional agriculture and due to inadequate and imperfect information, he or she applies agrochemicals haphazardly.

Effects and harmful effects of conventional agriculture to our environment cannot be estimated. Contamination of ground water table and contribution to soil degradation in the long run are just to mention but a few(More on effects click; enemy to sustainable agriculture.Its time farmers approach Agriculture from an ecological point of view rather than economic point of view. This places a greater responsibility on the government institutions to prioritize on extension services in Agricultural and Natural resource sector to bring awareness to these ignorant farmers who are working hard to get out poverty but are driving their future generations into an environmental disarray.

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The start of something or venture is always surrounded by fear, doubt and confusion. One is faced by fear of failure and lack of confidence to confront the challenges and the obstacles ahead. Once you have taken a first step, rejection may be your first guest. this should not kill the vision you hold in your mind with gusto, but instead you should take sometime back and review if you are really fit for the task before hand.

One of the key ingredients for success is learning. Learning will help you acquire the required skills for the task ahead, it will also build your confidence and raise your self esteem to dive back into your dream.

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