Originally written by Katy Migiro for AlertNet.

NAIROBI (AlertNet) – Kenya should encourage private businesses to grow trees for charcoal and timber to increase its forest cover rather than relying on the rehabilitation of indigenous forests, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) said on Monday.

Deforestation is a major problem in Kenya and its agriculture-dominated economy is highly vulnerable to drought. Less than 6 percent of the country is under forest cover although the 2010 constitution aims to increase this figure to 10 percent.

Until now, the focus has been on rehabilitating its indigenous forests, which have been decimated by illegal allocations under previous governments, illegal charcoal production, logging, marijuana cultivation, livestock grazing and human settlement.

Five indigenous mountain forests, including Mount Kenya, the Aberdares and the Mau Forest, provide 75 percent of the country’s renewable surface water. Between 2000 and 2010, 28,400 hectares of trees were lost in these natural water towers, often through “land grabbing” by politically powerful people, such as former president Daniel arap Moi.

There have since been efforts to repossess and rehabilitate this land. Last year, a 400km electrified fence was built around the Aberdares and there have been high profile public tree-planting campaigns.

However, David Mbugua, head of the Kenya Forest Service, said this approach will not solve the problem.

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