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3. Kenya

Land Tenure and use
Definition and distribution of the arid and semi-arid zones
Government policy on arid zone development
Forestry organization and policy
Rural afforestation and extension
Needs for forest products and services in the arid zone
Current programmes of afforestation in the arid zone
Overcoming the major obstacles to tree planting


Land Tenure and use

The total area of Kenya is 583,000 km, and of this only 17,000 km (2.7 per cent) are statutorily dedicated forest areas (gazetted forests). About half of the forest is on Government land and the other half on trust land (County Council land). With a population of 15 million, the forest area per head of population is approximately 0.12 ha and, with a population growth rate of nearly 4 per cent (the highest in the world), this proportion may be expected to decline unless drastic steps are taken to curtail forest destruction and to increase afforestation.

The forests are generally found in the areas with high potential for agriculture, and there is continual pressure to convert forest area into farms. Approximately 70 per cent of Kenya's forests occur in water catchment areas on the slopes of high mountains and mountain ranges, e.g., Mt. Elgon, Mt. Kenya, Cherangani Hills, Nandi Hills, and the Nyandarua and Mau ranges; the remaining 30 per cent occur outside catchment areas as small isolated blocks from 1,000 to 40,000 ha in extent. During the 1970s, approximately 5,000 ha of forest land were lost by gazetted excision for agriculture, national park development, and urbanization. Some of the indigenous forests have been converted to plantations, mainly of pines and cypresses with some eucalypts, and approximately 300,000 ha of plantation now exist, divided almost equally between the Government Forest Department and private owners (on non-gazetted lands). Virtually all of these plantations exist in the high rainfall areas (over 800 mm) at altitudes of 1,800 to 2,700 m above sea level.

The bulk of the production of the country (excluding marine products) is essentially agricultural since there are few known mineral resources. However, some four-fifths of the country consists of arid or semi-arid lands (ASAL). Of the total population of 15 million, 10 per cent live in ten districts in the arid zone (248,000 km), and altogether 20 per cent live in the ASAL (473,000 km or 82 per cent of the total land area).

Although certain generalizations can be made about the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya, the term masks the great variety-social and ecological-that is found in the area. A series of spectra is useful to illustrate the complex variations and shadings that actually exist. These might be:

- Control over land: communal to individualistic
- Production system: pastoralism to agriculture and subsistence to commercial
- Settlement patterns: nomadism to sedentarization

Land Control: Communal/Individualistic

Although much literature refers to shifts from communal to individual title, the reality is always more complex, as communal lands were never open to everyone with equal rights. There was always some restriction: for example, a particular kinship group might have rights of grazing on particular lands.

In the 1950s, the colonial government of Kenya started a process of land reform, continued after independence in 1963. Emphasizing first the more heavily settled areas, land reform is now being extended and has affected many parts of the ASAL. But, even when individual title has been given, the land often continues to be used by a lineage or other traditional social group rather than exclusively by an individual.

In the semi-arid areas of Kenya where individual land titles have been given there has already been a noticeable increase in tree planting as landowners wish to secure for themselves an assured supply of fuelwood and building poles.

Instead of using inappropriate labels, it is better to ask "Who has which rights over what lands?" with special reference to rights over trees.

Production: Pastoralism/Agriculture

Most residents of the ASAL have control over some livestock, and most (especially in the semi-arid areas) grow some crops. The precise mix and the specific production system depend on a combination of ecological, historical, and social factors. Of those who own livestock, a distinction must be made between cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys as some references exaggerate the importance of cattle, whereas other forms of livestock may equal or surpass cattle in significance and/or numbers.

Production: Subsistence/Commercial

Both agricultural and pastoral systems of production usually include both subsistence and commercial (cash) sectors. Again, wide variations are found: some farmers may plant large fields of cotton for sale; some herders will regularly sell livestock at the markets, while others enter few cash transactions unless they have a pressing need for money.

Settlement: Nomadism/Sedentarization

This is another misleading dichotomy, because some form of transhumance is common for those whose livelihood derives primarily from their herds, and true nomadism is seldom found. Transhumance involves a seasonal pattern of migration in search of grazing and water within a defined area. Even those residents of the semi-arid areas who are predominantly agriculturalists frequently have dispersed farm plots, in an attempt to minimize risk of crop failure. Other variable factors include the following.

Adaptive Strategies

Recently, anthropologists and other micro-level social scientists have paid particular attention to adaptive strategies or risk-aversion behaviour of people who live in marginal environments such as the ASAL. Given that people live in an area that is subject to all sorts of risks and hazards-crop failure, insect and bird pests, animal marauders, livestock disease, and, in some cases, hostile neighbours-how do people cope? Whenever detailed and systematic studies have been made, it is clear that each society has evolved successful mechanisms of coping. This is not to say that local people have completely mastered their hazards, nor that their strategies are necessarily appropriate today with major changes in population density or technology. But it does mean that an understanding of indigenous knowledge systems (see Brokensha et al. 1980) is essential before preparing any specific proposals for development.

Social/ Stratification

What is the degree of rural inequality? (See Castro et al. 1981 for a discussion of indicators.) Who controls wealth and resources -livestock, pasture, water, credit, good land? What is the degree of occupational specialization? What is the number and influence of teachers (and other government officials), of traders (especially livestock traders) and shop keepers and lorry owners?

Degree of Modernization

This can be measured by basic figures on schools, clinics, and other services or especially in the semi-arid areas) by such proxy indicators as the proportion of dwellings that are at least partly roofed with corrugated iron.

Rural-Urban Links

None of the societies concerned is a closed system. All have links with the outside world, which include export of cash crops, livestock, and migratory labour to plantations and cities. Labour migration varies from place to place. In some areas, migration is a well-established adaptive strategy for coping with recurrent periods of food shortage. There is also a steady stream of imported goods, people, and ideas, so that any ASAL society must be considered in its total socioeconomic setting.

One important rural-urban link consists of charcoal production. With growing demand by townspeople for charcoal as a relatively cheap and preferred fuel, charcoal production increases in the ASAL. Driving along main highways in the ASAL (Mombasa-Voi, Meru-lsiolo, and, further north, Mtito Andei-Kitui), one sees stack after stack of charcoal sacks piled up on the roadside and waiting collection by one of the specialist lorry owners. Poor people treat charcoal as a cash crop, and it is indeed a useful source of cash, but the long-term effects of charcoal production are usually disastrous, in terms both of reducing trees available for fuelwood and of accelerating soil erosion. Some observers (e.g., Kokwaro 1974, p. 18) have suggested the use of improved kilns rather than the traditional covered hod, but kilos are too costly for most producers.


Trees have many uses, some of them conflicting. They are a source of fodder for livestock, wood fuels, shade, building poles, and tool handles. Some trees are multipurpose. People's perceptions of trees vary, with the agriculturalists often having more negative attitudes, desiring to clear their arable land of all trees. Some pastoralists also like to clear trees because they harbor tsetse flies.

Marginal Lands

A major problem results when pressure of population drives people to attempt cultivation on the drier lands, many of which are both very vulnerable and also often unsuited to rainfed agriculture.


How well is the area served by all-weather roads, and by regular markets? How many people have access to a transistor radio? (Radios are likely to be an important source of information, as there are virtually no television sets in the ASAL, and very few people read a daily newspaper.)

Settlement Patterns

What is the density of population, and to what degree is it concentrated or dispersed? How many small towns or market centres exist ?

To summarize, the ASAL population consists of a range of agricultural and pastoral types. There is some commercial agriculture in the ASAL, but it has tended to be limited by physical resources, such as lack of rainfall and poor soils, as well as by socio-economic considerations, including poor transport facilities and a shortage of capital. Subsistence-oriented production, supplemented by seasonal labour migrations and various non-farm activities, continues to be important There is some landlessness, and it is being accentuated by rapid population growth. The pastoral population is comprised of sedentary, transhumant, and nomadic groups who are involved in varying degrees of subsistence and commercially oriented production. The bulk of Kenya's cattle, sheep, and goats are found in the ASAL (Kaufman 1976, p. 255).

Demographic and socio-economic changes have produced important consequences for the ASAL population and environment. (See Hecklav 1978.) The ASAL population has always been subject to periodic fluctuations in rainfall, with the constant threat of livestock losses, crop failures, and food shortages. Traditional responses to seasonal and periodic droughts included temporary migration of both humans and livestock, relying on local wild game and vegetation and exchanges with other areas of stock and labour for food. Within recent decades wage labour, non farm commercial activities, the establishment of commercial livestock and agricultural markets, and improvement in roads and transport, allowing for the easier importing of goods, have reduced in some areas the levelling effect of droughts. People can now purchase food in stores. Moreover, the growth of commercial livestock and agricultural markets have created incentives for intensifying production, increasing herd sizes, and expanding farm operations (see O'Leary 1980).

These changes have not been experienced in all areas of the ASAL. Transport facilities and involvement in labour, livestock, and farm markets remain limited. However, population growth in itself has led to an intensification of resource use, with herd sizes increasing and agriculture pushed into marginal areas.

As in other areas of the sub-Saharan belt, environmental deterioration is occurring in Kenya's ASAL. Over-grazing, soil exhaustion from intensive or continuous cultivation, the expansion of grazing or farming into environmentally sensitive areas, and the general over-exploitation of vegetation and soil resources have been in large part the result of demographic and socio-economic changes and pressures.

Land degradation in areas with such harsh ecological conditions is difficult to repair, and trees and forests have a major role in protecting the rural environment for current and future generations. Yet at present virtually no protected forests exist.

Perceptions of Trees

All detailed studies of uses and perceptions of trees by rural peoples show that there is an extensive ethnobotanical knowledge, with a keen appreciation of species" properties, and that trees are used for a wide variety of purposes. Settled agriculturalists, who have more material culture, probably have more uses than do the transhumant pastoralists. Parts of trees are used for fuelwood and construction timber and also for tools, weapons, musical instruments, dyes, glues, medicines, poisons, fibres, fences, clothing, adornment, ritual purposes, hanging beehives, and other needs.

People in these regions vary in their knowledge and experience in growing and managing tree crops. One example from Kenya indicates that local people knew more about the techniques of propagating one species (Melia volkensii -the seeds must pass through a goat's intestines) than did government forestry officials (Brokensha et al. 1980, p. 123). Generally, people show an unusual degree of resilience in coping with changes in an important resource base. However, experience shows that certain individuals - women, the elderly, ill, handicapped-are likely to suffer more than those who have more effective control over societal resources.


Definition and distribution of the arid and semi-arid zones

As stated, for the purpose of this report an exact definition of aridity is unnecessary, and the areas principally considered are those recognized as arid (350-500 mm annual rainfall) and very arid (200-350 mm) by the Government of Kenya (1979), although some of the discussion refers equally to semiarid areas (500-800 mm). The 500 mm isohyet is shown in figure 2 (page 3), the total area receiving less than 500 mm rainfall being 379,000 km.

Government policy on arid zone development

The Government of Kenya is seriously concerned about the welfare of people in the drier areas of the country. In the Five-Year Development Plan (1978-1983) there is special emphasis on the development of the ASAL, and an interministerial task force was set up in 1978 to define issues in ASAL development and to assist in preparing the framework for a co-ordinated approach. This framework was published (Government of Kenya 1979) to provide guidance to all ministries, aid donors, and nongovernmental organizations on the Government's objectives and strategies for the programme.

The emphasis is on the alleviation of poverty through providing basic needs and increasing employment and opportunities to earn income. The people of the ASAL are among the least advantaged in the country. It is the aim of ASAL development to improve the health, education, nutrition, and skills of the people while exploiting the potential productivity of the areas. This requires rehabilitation of degraded lands and conservation of existing resources by appropriate management. The total activity in the ASAL will be seen in the light of a national development that, in the past, has tended to concentrate on the high-production areas.


Forestry organization and policy

The Forest Department within the Ministry of Natural Resources is organized like the forestry departments in many Commonwealth countries, with a Chief Conservator of Forests aided by two assistant Chief Conservators and eight Conservators of Forests with responsibility mainly on an area basis. These are supported by Assistant Conservators responsible for the detailed management of forests on a district basis. In addition there are specialist posts for silviculturist , entomologist, pathologist, engineer, utilization officer, and economist, giving a total professional staff of approximately 60. In addition there are some 200 higher technical staff, 1,500 lower technical staff, 8,000 resident workers, and 4,000 casual employees. This appears to be a large force to deal with the relatively small proportion of land under forest, but it must be remembered that the forests are scattered throughout much of Kenya, offer with poor communications, even though the bulk are in the accessible, high-production areas.

The Sixth Commonwealth Forestry Conference, held at Ottawa in 1952, resolved that each country should, as a matter of urgency, publish a statement of forest policy and that the statement should be implemented by the Government concerned. Kenya published its first policy in 1957, and this was restated by the Government of independent Kenya in 1968. It declared that, for the greater common good of all, forests in the country should be managed according to a number of critical principles: reservation of land for forest purposes; protection of forest estates; promotion of wood-using industry; provision of adequate finance; employment relief; advice on county council and private forests; public amenity; and research and education facilities. These are standard criteria in most national forest policies and cannot be criticized. Unfortunately, to carry out a policy requires legislation, but the existing forest legislation in Kenya predates the policy (the Forest Act, 1911) and it was not framed to meet the current policy. A more detailed policy and appropriate legislation are currently in preparation (Kamweti 1979).


Rural afforestation and extension

Until the early 1970s little was known by Forest Department staff about any forests outside the gazetted forest areas, partly because of deficiencies in the legislation and partly because they were of very low priority. The arid areas were considered a problem for range management officers to deal with rather than foresters. Since 1975, however, the Forest Department has been engaged in a Rural Afforestation Extension Scheme (RAES). The ultimate aim is to have an advisory or extension forester in each of Kenya's 41 administrative districts, and to date some 26 districts have a measure of support from the Forest Department within the RAES.

The scheme began with the more highly populated districts where potential productivity was greater and where adjacent, indigenous forests existed. It has now spread to the ASAL in such districts as Turkana, Narok, Kajiado, Garissa, and Tana River. It is difficult to obtain precise figures on areas or trees planted, or on survival and yield of useful products, but the Forest Department is currently requesting a large component for the RAES to be included in the World Bank's Third Forestry Project Loan now in preparation. The objects are to prevent the uncontrolled destruction of existing vegetation and to enable rural populations to satisfy their requirements.


Needs for forest products and services in the arid zone

The further one progresses into more arid areas the more difficult it becomes to obtain information on the demand and supply of wood products. This is because (a) a large proportion of the population migrates, whether pastoralists or agriculturalists seeking wage labour; (b) wood continues in some areas to be a non-commercial item, freely available except for the labour and time spent gathering it; (c) the needs for wood are few and relatively simple so that wood processing is minimal; (d) an undetermined amount of wood is being exported out of the ASAL and into towns, cities, and other market sites; (e) government recording staff are few, with poor transport and limited resources; and (e) methodologies for measuring wood production and consumption tend to be unclear, and crucial variables such as seasonality, fluctuations in household size, differences in economic position among households, and other important variables are left unconsidered.

In Kenya most of the surveys that have concerned the ASAL dealt with fuelwood, and there have been few estimates of total wood use, As part of the UNESCO-UNEP Integrated Project on Arid Lands (IPAL), Synnott (1979), in an excellent review of tree planting in northern Kenya, made some observations of wood use and reported those of Grum and Hussein Yussuf. Among the nomadic people in the IPAL area (Marsabit, Mt. Kulal, Ngurunit) the main food is uncooked milk, sometimes with fresh blood, so that fuel is not needed for cooking or heating, and the consumption is probably 0.1 m ha -1 year -1. Since living trees and shrubs are widespread, there is no evidence of general fuelwood shortage in northern Kenya except around some settlements (e.g., Kargi). Even house poles are not in short supply because they are conserved carefully during moves and may last up to ten years. The largest use of wood is for the construction of bomas (encirclements to protect domestic animals at night) and Synnott (1979) estimated a demand for 1.5-3.0 m year 1 for each person,

As settlement in the arid zone increases or as we progress into less harsh areas where agricultural production increases, demands for wood also rise. The standard of housing improves, towns and villages become larger, and demands for fuelwood and charcoal increase. Studies of the total energy requirements in Kenya are currently in progress by the Swedish Beijer Institute and by the US Agency for International Development.

In the absence of indigenous coal and oil in Kenya, wood has been the major energy source for cooking and industrial heating. In 1978, estimated consumption of fuelwood was 26 million metric tons annually, but the officially recorded consumption is only 24,000 metric tons. Estimated consumption of charcoal is 310,000 metric tons, while official records show only 15,640 metric tons. For the unrecorded consumption of both fuelwood and charcoal, trees outside Government gazetted forests are felled and not usually replaced (Kamweti 1979). Many estimates of fuelwood consumption have been made for all or part of Kenya, and 12 reports were summarized by Hall (1980) in an appendix to the issue paper on biomass energy for the United Nations conference on new and renewable sources of energy in Nairobi in 1981. In Kenya fuelwood provides cooking and heating energy requirements for 90 per cent of the population at a per capita consumption rate of 1-4 m year -1 (with all but one of the estimates falling in the range 1-2.5 m year -1 ); 80 per cent of the urban population rely predominantly on charcoal (approximately 0.1-0.17 metric tons per person per year). Together, wood and charcoal account for 70-80 per cent of total energy requirements (see also Brokensha and Riley 1978; Maung and Mounier 1979; Mungala 1979; Openshaw 1978, 1980; Openshaw and Morris 1980; Western and Ssemakula 1979.)

A recent fuelwood survey (in preparation for a third World Bank forestry loan) suggested that in the arid zone 1.5 million people consume 1.5 million m of fuelwood and 180,000 metric tons of charcoal for domestic use; these are equivalent to a total of 2.5 million m round wood (Akinga 1980). A further 4.3 million m are believed to be required for commercial, institutional, and industrial purposes within the arid zone. Assuming an annual growth rate for wood of 8 m ha -1 these would require 0.8 million hectares of plantation or their equivalent in hedgerow and farm or village woodlots. This is close to the estimate of 1 million hectares of plantation needed for the whole country by the year 2000 for a population of 34 million made by the World Bank Renewable Energy Task Force study in 1980; this study allowed for 25 per cent substitution by alternative fuels and 15 per cent of the residual needs to be provided by natural forest. Whichever is the more precise estimate, there is no doubt about the very urgent need for tree planting for fuel as opposed to the 300,000 ha of industrial wood plantations.

In addition to the direct production of wood and wood products, trees will play an important part in the restoration of degraded lands and in the protection of land from further desertification through creation of shelterbelts, soil stabilization, and improved soil nutrient supply and water holding. At the same time as trees are being established, however, it will be essential to attack the causes of desertification; these are illustrated in figure 9 (from Lamprey 1978) and considered below under social and economic constraints.


Current programmes of afforestation in the arid zone


Although some 26 districts are now nominally included in the Government Forest Department's Rural Afforestation and Extension Scheme, only three actually have an extension forester to advise local communities or to provide planting stock. Consequently the achievements to date have been small and confined to the higher rainfall areas of the zone. The department's research section has undertaken trials of species and plantation techniques in marginal lands, notably at Bura, Siaya, and Narok, and extension foresters are encouraged to establish trials in their districts. (In contrast to arid zone afforestation, the idea of fuelwood plantations is not new in Kenya, and some 30,000 ha exist in high rainfall areas.)

The projected expenditure for the Rural Afforestation and Extension Scheme in the five year plan period is KSh 6.4 million (US$17 million) with an additional KSh 560,000 (US$1.5 million) for the afforestation component of the Machakos Integrated Development Project.

In addition a Local Afforestation Programme was planned to include the prevention of soil erosion, protection of water catchment areas, and provision of fuelwood and building poles for the rural populations of the Machakos, Kisii, Turkana, Kisumu, Taita Taveta, Kericho, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, South Nyanza, Baringo, and Samburu districts. Total expenditure in the plan period is KSh 2 million (US$5.4 million).

Silvicultural and genetics staff at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute* (formerly the East African Agricultural and Forestry Research Organization, Muguga) are beginning to become interested in research for arid zone afforestation, and the Department of Forestry in Nairobi University is also initiating a research project on species testing and nursery technique development at Kibweze (Machakos), but there is little on the ground to date.

International and Bilateral Agencies

As part of the Government of Kenya's strategy for development of the ASAL, various districts may be allotted to different assistance agencies. Several have begun operations or are preparing projects, including the World Bank (Baringo), European Economic Community (Machakos), United Kingdom (Isiolo, Embu, and Meru), Germany (Marsabit, Mt. Kulal, and Ngurunit), Norway (Turkana), and United States (Kitui). (See Uvoo 1978.) Most of these include tree planting, and all will face the constraints to tree planting discussed below: their multiplicity in itself acts as a constraint since, for their preparation and operation, they all demand considerable contributions of the same few skilled staff in the Government Forest Department. These same staff are required to prepare and manage routine work, including the second World Bank loan for plantations just finishing and the third project now in preparation. Furthermore, many are "integrated projects" and thus concern several ministries, including Environment and Natural Resources (with its Natural Environment Secretariat), Wildlife Conservation, and Livestock Development (recently separated from Agriculture). This complexity adds to the difficulties of identifying, preparing, appraising, and managing projects.

The International Council for Research in Agroforestry, together with the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Nairobi, has prepared a project to determine whether certain types of agro-forestry might not arrest the degradation, improve food and wood production on a sustained basis, and raise the living standards of the people who occupy marginal and semi arid lands. Field research will be conducted at Kibwezi in the semi arid zone (ICRAF 1979) when a donor has been found.

A small number of species trials were established in the Mt. Kulal area as part of the UNESCO/UNEP Integrated Project on Arid Lands (IPAL: see Lamprey 1978), and these have been handed over to local mission stations for continued maintenance.* The place of trees and shrubs in the prevention of desertification in the northern parts of Kenya was stressed by Lamprey (1978), and his illustration of the interacting factors contributing to desertification is reproduced as figure 9 since, in broad terms, these factors apply to the entire marginal ASAL of Kenya.

Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Although many small local community organizations, schools, Boy Scouts, and others do plant trees, some within the ASAL, particularly when encouraged by Government or national treeplanting days, the numbers of trees planted and their survival and growth are not easily assessed.

The largest identifiable group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with an interest in tree planting are the religious groups, including the National Christian Council of Kenya, the Salvation Army, and the Catholic Relief Service. Through their field missions and stations, which are largely concerned with the settlement and development of rural people, they have established plots of trees from a range of species in a variety of sites from Baringo north to Turkana and Marsabit. (See Paetkau 1980.) In many areas of Kenya, there is a marked correlation between Christianity (and westernization) and tree planting. A neat avenue of Grevillea robusta or a stand of eucalyptus often indicates a Christian homestead.


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