East africa's deforestation crisis
Wood consumption is Africa’s leading cause of forest degradation. In the last 40 years, Africa has lost the highest percentage of tropical forests globally, and many countries -- including Kenya -- have lost over 80-90% of their tree cover. This alarming destruction of natural resources has no end in sight. Indeed, the fundamental drivers of this problem are getting much worse.
With stagnant supply and booming demand, Kenya's wood deficit will grow 300% by 2030, to 35 million cubic meters -- equivalent to a football field with wood stacked 5 kilometers high -- every single year. Most of Kenya's fuel wood comes from unsustainable harvesting of the country's seemingly vast 2 million hectares of dry woodlands. But supplying the deficit just in 2030 is equivalent to clear-felling over 700,000 hectares of dry woodlands -- 35% of Kenya's resource, gone in a single year. Over just 3 years, this would consume every single dryland tree in the country.
The magnitude of this wood deficit is impossible to fully comprehend. For Kenya to achieve its constitutionally-mandated goal of 10% forest cover for a sustainable wood supply, it needs to plant 2.5 million hectares. But East Africa is only planting 15-20,000 hectares annually. At current rates, it would take the entire region over 100 years to plant enough trees just for Kenya. This will simply never happen. As a result, Kenya, like most countries in East and West Africa, will experience truly heartbreaking levels of deforestation over the next few decades.
The only solution to Africa's wood supply crisis is to plant tens of billions of trees. Komaza has planted 2 million trees to date, and is preparing to accelerate dramatically. Our planned plantings in our first site of coastal Kenya will make a meaningful dent in the local wood deficit by meeting over 25% of demand, and the opportunity for further expansion is clear. Coastal Kenya also happens to be home to one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world for conservation.
COASTAL FORESTS OF EASTERN AFRICA
Komaza's first site in Kenya serves farmers living around the beautiful (but deteriorating) Arabuko Sokoke Forest. The Arabuko is the largest remaining piece of the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, a remarkably bio-diverse and highly degraded ecosystem that stretches along the coast from southern Somalia, down through Kenya, Tanzania, and most of Mozambique.
This ecosystem, while largely neglected from concerted conservation efforts, is highly revered by leading organizations including Conservation International, WWF, and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Globally, these forests are named "one of 11 'hyper-hot' priorities for conservation investment," and are the uniquely considered to suffer the most extinction of plant and vertebrate species for every acre of habitat lost.
While the Arabuko is fenced and somewhat protected, it is a tiny fragment of the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa. The endemic plants, animals, birds, insects, and mollusks of this ecosystem are found far beyond the fence, struggling to survive among a mosaic of unproductive farms. Less than 10% of the original ecosystem remains, and it's disappearing fast. Due to poor farming conditions, increasing populations, and booming demand for fuel wood, trees are being cleared, degraded habitat is desertifying, and many species are increasingly threatened by extinction.
Komaza is planting trees to help farmers develop environmentally sustainable livelihoods. By reforesting degraded agricultural land, Komaza delivers two critical environmental outcomes:
- Creating sustainable livelihoods. Farmers can finally earn significant income from their existing land, reducing the need to slash-and-burn more habitat to expand unproductive agricultural farming for a few seasons before fragile dryland topsoils are eroded and stripped of nutrients, requiring yet more virgin land.
- Reforesting degraded ecosystems. Biodiversity can start to bounce back, bolstered by the critical foundation of pioneer trees. Highly degraded and desertified land is highly inhospitable to most native species. Planting trees creates shade from the hot sun, boosts soil water retention, rebuilds topsoil from leaf litter (and sometimes Nitrogen-fixing roots), and provides much-needed habitat for many species of birds, reptiles, mammals and insects. After only a few years, trees can transform a hot, dusty sandbox into a recovering habitat complete with small shrubs, lizards and birds' nests.