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Adaptation to the Impacts of Climate Change on Mau Forest Management in Kenya

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 3644 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Mau Forest is one of the largest Forest in Kenya which has direct and indirect impact on community’s livelihood. The Mau Forest is the largest canopy ecosystem in Kenya and serves as the largest watershed area in most part of the country (Bird Life, International, 2013).

However, a research that has been carried out in the resent past shows how fast the Mau forest ecosystem is being degraded (Zbinden &Lee, 2005). Degradation is on the rise in developing countries such as Kenya caused by poor governance and over dependence by the people of Kenya on forest timber as a source of livelihood.

Climate Change is identified as a major threat to the social and environmental aspects of most parts of Kenyan Forests and already the pinch is being felt and it is getting difficult to cope with emerging environmental stress (Sivakumar et al 2005). Reports indicate that there has been a decrease in the distribution of rainfall annually over the last few years and further predications states that any slight changes in extreme events may result to floods (Sivakumar et al 2005).

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Climate change therefore, is threatening many forest ecosystem  and this may directly or indirectly impact on  agriculture which most people depend on in Kenya (Chandarappa et al., 2011).Due to this unforeseen climate extremes, communities have resulted to develop coping strategies according to different seasons, known as “the ability to adjust, to take advantage of the opportunities or to cope with the consequences” (IPCC 2014,115). This has resulted in the shift of focus to good policy formation and governance.

Kenya has currently made an initiative to develop very good policy framework and plans, for adaptation to the impacts of climate change in Mau Forest. The biggest challenge, however, is on the part of implementation. This essay will be looking at the Kenya policy as a key governance intervention and how it contributes towards adaptation to the impacts of Climate Change and Forest management.

Government Intervention/Strategies.

  1. Policy/Program/Plan Formation.

Sustainable Forest Management in Kenya

Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), is one of the strategies that has been incorporated to solve degradation of Mau forest ecosystem. This method has been pointed out as a means to build resilience on forest ecosystem to the impacts of climate change and solving illegal habitation, illegal logging and other forest crimes including illegal poaching (Kishor & Belle, 2004), and this has been championed at national and international level (FAO 2011, Mc ginley & Finnegan, 2003).

Since the implementation of the policy the Government has since achieved to recover 4,500 acres of land since they issued a ban on charcoal burning and illegal logging in the Mau forest (Standard Digital News Paper, 2019). The Kenya Forest Service has then come in to encourage the local community to participate in reforestation plan to restore the forest and build back its resilience to climate change (Standard Digital News Paper, 2019).

This has ensured transparent governance is achieved, since it steers the community and the economy by collaborating to achieve a common goal (Ansell and Torfing., 2016: 4). Therefore, Community Farmers Association was formed, CFAs gave local communities the right and security to participate in sustainable farming practices to protect the forest and develop resilience to climate change. These was enacted to encourage farmers to work towards increasing the Kenyan forest cover to 10 percent by the year 2030. This policy has been viewed to be good since it gives power to the community and has championed the protection of Mau Forests.

The policy has since encouraged establishment of institutions to achieve governance and provide the public with effective, transparent, impartial, and accountable manner, subject to resource constraints (World Bank, 2000), for the purpose of ensuring the Forests are properly managed and conserved. The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) was set up to conserve and sustainably manage the forest (Forest Act 2005). The government also went ahead to initiate the bottom up approach form of governance among the institutions by decentralising the institutions.

Sustainable Forest Management also recognizes that forests are source of tourist attraction and therefore enhances forest conservation.  Many institutions were then put in place to oversee the forests such as National Environment Management Authority, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) among others.

Despite this effort being put in place by national and international environmental organisations there is witnessed very little consumption of the policy and implementation of it.  (Global Witness 2009, World Bank 2003). Kenya Forest Service has claimed that some of the locals are still cutting down olive and cedar tree illegally, for charcoal burning (Standard Digital News Paper, 2019). Further, most of the communities living around the Mau Forest have moved into the forest and build permanent house structures and efforts to evict the communities from the forest has proven futile (BBC News, 2009). Mau Forest, moreover, which has been known to be the lifeline of most of the major rivers and lakes in Kenya, such as Mara River which is famous for wild beast has started to dry up and most of the wild beast are migrating (Standard News Paper Kenya, 2019), even after the implementation of the Sustainable Forest Management strategy to boost the Mau forest resilience to climate change impact.

The government has since denied the evidence and cited that insufficient funds has been the main cause for lack of implementation of the policy which will assist to put up the infrastructure, that will enable forest to adapt to climate change impacts (Gondo 2011). Which seems so ironical from the facts being brought out by the media.

The government is partly to blame for lack of commitment to ensure that the sustainable forest management strategies are implemented. This is because, most Governments in power try to put more effort on the agriculture and tourism sector and leave behind the forest sector, not bearing in mind that all these sectors flourish better if forests are protected and made resilient to climate change. This has led to formation of weak policy framework in the forest sector (World Bank/WWF Alliance 2003, Gondo 2010).

It has also been highlighted that lack of stable political regimes has hindered implementation of SFM for sustainable developments (World Bank/WWF Alliance 2003, Mc Ginley and Finnegan 2003, Global Witness, 2009). Mau Politics has often been viewed as a hot bed and most politicians fear to tackle the issue on Mau forest restoration in order to gain the communities votes. However recently, a brave politician came up with an initiative still under the Sustainable Forest Management and urged the residence to drill hole and he used aerial method to plant tree seeds in the spirit of Mau Forest Restoration to build resilience to climate change impact (Standard Digital News Paper, 2019).

Recommendations for Building adaptation to the effects Climate Change and Forest Management

Kenyan Government needs to rethink the issue of governance of by focusing on the following:

Adaptive Management Strategy

Kenya needs to put in place adaptive management strategies whereby they learn from the mistakes that occurred on the previous policy and incorporate lessons into the future to improve the forest ecosystem in Kenya and build resilience to the effects of climate change.  (Millar et al., 2007).

When making plans, policies and strategies the government and law makers need to be ready to take risks and be willing to incorporate change in the course of the process (Hobbs et al., 2006). This is because there are already unpredictable number of ways in which climate change may affect the forests and this can range from species disturbance, growth and distribution of trees (Lindner et al 2014).

Building and Promoting Resilience

Forest that are resilient are not only able to cope with the changing climate extreme effects but are able to return to their previous state either naturally or with new management interventions (Spittlehouse & Stewart, 2004). The government also aims to promote Forest resilience by ensuring that there are proper maintainers of heterogenous stand structure and well prescribed fire treatment (Drever et al 2006). The government also, needs to allocate sufficient funds towards maintainers and resilience of forests, because of the adverse effects of climate change that may accumulate over time (Miller et al., 2007)

Mitigation Strategies

The government should come up with mitigation strategies that reduce Green House Gas emissions. The main strategy the government should use is conserving, protecting and increasing forest cover to reduce Green House Gas Emission, promote growth and carbon sequestration, thus reducing carbon emission. Most of the forest management practices have been known to reduce carbon sequestration in the atmosphere (Nilsson et al., 2011; Larssonet al., 2009)

Forests fires are believed to be a major cause of high concentrations of Green House Gas emission, as a result of wildfire. A recent case study of fire outbreak in Kenya occurred in Mt. Kenya where tens of thousands of hectares of bamboo forests were burnt down (BBC News, 28th February 2019).

Mitigations measures that the government needs to put in place is measures that increase fight against forests to fire, storms, pests and diseases that may decimate the forests. The government can take the initiative of introducing firebreaks along the high-risk areas and reduce spread of pest and diseases through thinning and pruning and through biological means. (Canadell & Raupach, 2008).

Integrated Management Strategy

Due to high uncertainty of climate change patterns no measure can be termed to be more appropriate for all seasons (Hobbset al., 2006; Spittlehouse & Stewart, 2004). An integrated management system can be taken by the government that will suit different dynamics. The strategic decision will depend on temporal and spatial scale. Mitigation strategies will be beneficial at global level while adaptation can be beneficial at regional level (Klein  et al., 2005).

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Under the   current constitutional dispensation, some forest functions were devolved to the county Governments to improvement on service delivery. But the impact is still not felt since forests are still facing degradation. Those in charge of forests at county level in Kenya, are yet to be passionate about forest conservation and obtain the required knowledge on the growth, productivity and suitability of different tree species, to avoid extinction of species.


Kenya faces similar problem common to any developing countries. Climate change needs to be urgently addressed by increasing resilience of the forest to improve the country’s economy. The forest sector will “need some fundamentally new approaches to address this issue” (Hamann & Wang, 2006).

Due to the rapid changes and uncertainty that are occurring in the environment such as climate change, it is vital that the Kenyan Government come up with initiatives that adapt to the extreme climate changes to promote sustainability. Proper systems should be set up both at the regional and national level for effective decision making, this is important in the process of capacity development for adaptation to climate change through Proper planning.


         IPCC, (2014).  Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability – Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Page 115

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