The advancement of forestry is intrinsic in achievement of sustainable development global goals.
This is due to the intricate roles that they play in the ecosystem ranging from providing food through agroforestry, acting as carbon sinks thus promoting good health by absorbing approximately two billion tonnes of CO2 each year, providing raw materials for production of consumables and as a source of income through commercial forestry.
In Kenya for example, there are five main forests that contribute to 75 percent of the entire country’s water supplies. Further, over 80 percent of energy consumed in Kenya is associated with forests.
There are also non–timber forestry products that include medicinal extracts, cosmetics. Forestry, therefore, becomes an economic pillar that needs to be advanced by actors in the government, non-State, and private sector.
It is a major contributor to the economic growth of any country. Commercially, forestry has provided several opportunities that innovators and investors need to tap into.
Countries needs more investments in commercial forestry which will provide numerous opportunities for income generation and betterment of livelihoods. There will also be other opportunities around the forestry value chain including transport, design, processing, packaging and marketing among other support services.
Investment in these value chains is not only profitable but also sustainable and considerate of making our world a better place, improving the quality of life and recognising that future generations will need to find a world that is habitable.
Strategic partnerships in commercial forestry are consequently paramount to growth of commercial forestry sector.
The recent launch of Green Economy Youth Activation Programme (GrEYAP) project by Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as an example will accelerate development of commercial forestry in the country.
The United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 provides a paradigm that promotes forests and their sustainable management. This is in line with promoting forest cover where in Kenya for instance there is a need to plant over 1.9 billion trees to achieve 10 percent forest cover.
It is also in line with the recognition of the importance of forestry to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The GrEYAP project aimed at addressing an enormous gap in the wood sector in Kenya, where the country lost 10 percent of its forest cover between 2001 and 2018 despite growing importation of woods.
There is need for more projects/programmes which are innovation -led if the challenge of forest cover is to be addressed.
Noting that commercial forestry is a relatively new concept among many players, there is a need to build on the capacity and especially overall business development services among investors to create an economically, financially and socially sustainable enterprise.
This can be achieved through technical skills transfer from experts to innovators which can be done through bootcamps, but better still, via continuous mentorship.
GrEYAP project has incorporated this as one of the services it will be offering through incubation and mentorship facilities within KCIC.
Notably, investors in this field also need access to requisite information especially from research done by forestry institutions such as Kenya Forestry Research Institute. Innovators need access to seed centres across the country as well as specialised training.
Such tailor-made services will promote sustainability of entrepreneurs’ activities and improve the output of their investment. Development partners and financial institutions need to recognise the humongous impact that a thriving commercial forestry sector will create and consequently, come in with tailored financing models focused on revitalisation of the sector.
To further incentivise commercial forestry, the government needs to work closely with different stakeholders to diagnose and enhance existing regulatory and policy frameworks.
The KCIC-UNDP programme for example has been created to align with the government’s Big Four agenda and Vision 2030.
The Draft Forest Policy, Forest Conservation and Management Bill, 2015, Forest Report recommendations, National Strategy for Achieving and Maintaining 10percent tree cover by 2022 all need to be aligned to create an enabling environment for the sector to thrive.
Investing in commercial forestry will have many benefits from the household level to the national and regional front by not only improving livelihoods but also opening more opportunities for industrialisation. It is therefore a clarion call for allied actors to support this sector.