Reports & Analysis
Kenya Releases Report Linking the Value of Forests to the Economy
With support from the UN-REDD Programme, a joint Kenya Forest Service and UNEP report shows how economic benefits of forest ecosystems far exceed short-term gains from deforestation.
At a recent high-level dialogue on deforestation in Nairobi, UNEP and Kenya's Forest Service released a report revealing the causes of major economic damage due to deforestation. The report, entitled The Role and Contribution of Montane Forests and Related Ecosystem Services to the Kenyan Economy, found that forests contribute to a wide range of sectors, accounting for 3.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), compared to the current official figure of 1.1 per cent.
"The value of the Mau Forest's ecosystem services to the Kenyan economy previously calculated by UNEP has already catalyzed a response to conserve and rehabilitate this vital resource," said Hon. Dr. Noah Wekesa, Kenya's Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, adding that, "This shows we have already acknowledged the importance of forests. However, this new report quantifies the massive scale of the economic damage deforestation brings and shows much more needs to be done nation-wide."
The economic benefits of forest ecosystem services are more than four times higher than the short-term gains of deforestation, but trees continue to be felled due to multiple and complex reasons, including unregulated charcoal production, livestock grazing and human settlements.
The final document of the high-level dialogue highlighted the fact that Kenya’s new constitution calls for an increase in forest cover to 10 per cent which, coupled with an increasing public demand to halt and reverse deforestation, has the potential to trigger unprecedented investment in the forest sector.
Delegates of the high-level dialogue also encouraged Kenya to seize a unique opportunity provided by the new constitution and public opinion to reverse deforestation in the nation’s water towers, which deprives the economy of almost six billion shillings (US$70 million) annually and threatens more than 70 per cent of the water supply.
"Kenya has already signaled its intent to build up this natural capital as a vibrant and sustainable engine for growth and prosperity," said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. "The outcomes of this meeting provide an agenda for moving beyond an era when forests were seen as unproductive land that could be turned into something more valuable by cutting down the trees," he added.
Read more on the high-level dialogue that brought together more than 200 delegates, including key decision-makers, the private sector, development partners, civil society and international observers 5-7 November, 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya.