Kenyan Forestry Sector

We are supporting stakeholders to close Kenya’s wood supply gap through commercial forestry. We are partnering with the private and public sector to catalyse increased productivity and quality, and secure a sustainable supply of commercial support services and collaborative research.

Kenyan Forestry Sector
Kenyan Forestry Sector
Kenyan Forestry Sector
Kenyan Forestry Sector
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Catalysing the growth of the Kenyan commercial forestry sector could have significant impact – relieving the pressure on natural forests, lowering charcoal prices for millions of Kenyans, and creating jobs and increased incomes for hundreds of thousands of people.


Kenya’s forestry sector is central to its economy and its future.  Five key forests regulate 75% of the country’s renewable water supplies, while more than 80% of the energy generated in Kenya comes from wood.

As Kenya’s population and economy grows, the demand for fuelwood and construction materials, such as sawn timber, is accelerating.  However, Kenya is only able to meet about 70% of this demand through sustainable domestic supply.  The annual deficit of 12 million m3 is met by formal and informal imports plus unsustainable extraction from natural forests.  This will only get worse: population growth, industrialisation and urbanisation are predicted to increase demand to 66 million m3 by 2030, while sustainable supply is projected to stay almost static.  This would see the annual deficit nearly treble to 34.4 million m3. 

The consequences for Kenya’s environment and economy in such a scenario would be severe.  Private commercial forestry can play a key role in closing the wood supply gap by offering fast-growing and renewable alternatives to natural forest felling.  It can also create opportunites for growers of all sizes to generate wealth.  However, key constraints and structural challenges to competitiveness need to be overcome, including:

  • Poor access to improved germplasm and quality planting material
  • Limited skills and knowledge within silviculture, plantation management and harvesting
  • Relatively weak business skills, market knowledge and coordination of tree growers

Helping stakeholders tackle these challenges and catalysing the growth of the Kenyan commercial forestry sector could have significant impact – relieving the pressure on natural forests, lowering charcoal prices for millions of Kenyans, and creating jobs and increased incomes for hundreds of thousands of people.


Gatsby Africa established the Kenya Commercial Forestry Programme (KCFP) in 2016 to support this growth.  It will make a variety of interventions along the value chain and in supportive markets, partnering with different public and private players to:

  • Improve returns for commercial growers of all sizes;
  • Enhance profitability and employment in wood processing; and
  • Secure the sustainable supply of collaborative research and critical commercial support services, such as access to higher quality genetic material and forest finance, and improved tree nursery and grower advice services. 

This will require a range of work, including:

  • collaboratively developing improved planting material for commercial species;
  • facilitating the development of distribution channels for planting material;
  • transferring technology and commercial forestry best practices through technical assistance and market linkages;
  • developing inclusive producer-processor supply chain and value addition
  • conducting sector research and disseminating insight.

From its head office in Nairobi, the Programme will work closely with national and local governments, as well as government forestry agencies.  It will also partner with service providers, suppliers and stakeholders to design, develop and implement commercially viable producer-processor arrangements.  KCFP is national in focus.  It aims to cater to the needs of growers of all sizes, but will be particularly responsive to the needs of smaller growers.

Crucially, KCFP will look to build the capacity and commercial sustainability of key institutions that can provide important services to the sector.  This will ensure the Programme is facilitating the development of a truly resilient, inclusive and competitive commercial forestry sector in Kenya, capable of thriving in the long-term without external support.  


KCFP builds on Gatsby’s programme in the Tanzanian forestry sector – in itself part of Gatsby’s 15+ years’ experience in East African forestry, which began when Gatsby and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) facilitated a public-private partnership in Kenya in 1996.

In this partnership, the private player Mondi donated fast-growing eucalyptus clones which were used to establish a central tree nursery on government-owned land at Karura, near Nairobi.  Mondi trained the Karura nurserymen to establish the necessary expertise in tissue culture and clonal technology, while the Kenya Forestry Research Institute trained extension staff and private nursery operators in order to stimulate demand for the technology and clones at grassroots level.  

Due to the successful transfer of the technology, Gatsby went on to support similar initiatives in Uganda and Tanzania, where Mondi and ISAAA worked with the National Research Organisation and the Tanzania Forestry Research Institute respectively.

Trials in all three countries were established in different agro-ecological zones and the results have been used by governments and the private sector to inform species selection for afforestation efforts. The programmes have also successfully propagated the clones for sale to smallholders, private nurseries and, increasingly, to privately-owned plantation companies.

In Kenya, the project has evolved into an independent public-private trust, the Tree Biotechnology Programme Trust, and produces an estimated 3.5 million clonal seedlings annually. In Uganda the project has recently registered as a commercial company, Uganda Tree Resources Ltd.