A Review Farm Forestry Evolution for the Last 100 Years in Kenya: A Look at Some Key Phases and Driving Factors

Joshua K. Cheboiwo, David Langat, Festus Mutiso, Florence Cherono


The study reviews the evolution of tree growing in Kenya from pre-colonial through colonial to the present day in order to understand some factors that have influenced such developments. The study is based on desktop literatures reviews of various studies done in the country over the years and the authors’ experiences. The study indicates that forest resources management during pre-colonial period were based on individual communities’traditional structures that ensured that its members had abundant supplies of land and resources to support their socioeconomic activities. Forestlands were viewed as reserves for future agricultural expansion depending on community population growth and settlement patterns. In 1895 the country was declared British Protectorate that heralded the entry of colonial settlers that drastically changed land ownership through displacement and concentration of indigenous populations. Improved health services led to drastic population growths that further shrunk available productive land and forest resources to levels that could not adequately accommodate traditional land uses. The resultant was seriousland degradation in Africa reserves that prompted the Colonial Government to initiate agricultural and land use transformations that included afforestation in highly populated for environmental conservation, boundary marking and supply of tree products. Another parallel development was forest reservation and expansion of public plantation by Forest Department that involved planting of fast growing exotic species such as Eucalyptus, Pines and Cypress among others that diffused to neighbouring farms, missionary centres, schools and emerging elite Africans for amenity and social status. The emergence of Acacia mearnsii as a cash crop for African farmers in Central and western Kenya in 1930s was another development that enhanced adoption of tree growing on farms in the country. After independence in 1963 more policies and strategies to promote tree growing on former settler farms and African reserves for environmental conservation and subsistence needs implemented.  The last chapter of the farm forestry evolution was the commercialization of farm forestry operations due increased demand for various forest products beyond the capacity of public forests. The key markets niches mostly for firewood in tea processing, transmission poles manufacturing, charcoal and sawnwood for rural and urban markets were lucrative enough to motivate millions of smallholder farmers to expand their farm forestry investments. The markets based incentives to meet the growing demand for various products has transformed farm forestry in Kenya into multibillion sector enterprises that competes with public and private plantations products in local markets. The lessons learnt in Kenya case is the multiple factors that have shaped farm forestry development over the last 100 years and the critical role played by market related factors that enabled smallholder tree growers to enter into lucrative short rotation wood product markets.

Keywords: Farm forestry evolution, phases, driving factors

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3186 ISSN (Online)2225-0921

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