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The History of Forestry in Kenya

The History of Forestry in Kenya

When the British developed Kenya in the early 20th Century they needed large quantities of timber and set about felling the country's hardwood forests. They knew this was not sustainable. The British tried to grow a number of indigenous species including that of podo and cedar but found they simply took too long to mature. The British had no commercial use for bamboo at the time, which was only used in Asia, so they decided to import exotic tree species from Europe and Australia.

The British then cleared large areas of bamboo across Kenya and replaced it with foreign plantations of pine, cypress and eucalyptus. The market responded positively to the new timber. But large areas of water catchment and wildlife habitat were destroyed in the process especially in areas like the Mau and the Aberdares.

In the early 1960's Kenya obtained independence from Britain and forestry in the country under went major change. The new government allocated areas of indigenous forest with bamboo to communities so that they could grow crops like potatoes, cabbages and tea. Much of the plantation timber was harvested and very little was replaced - leaving large areas of fallow land.

Today many of these areas remain bare - devoid of water catchment, wildlife habitat and forestry.

by Dr. Radut.