Kenyan Forestry Sector

Introducing innovative technologies and models to transform Kenya’s commercial forestry sector, protect the environment, and benefit millions of Kenyan citizens.

Kenyan Forestry Sector
Kenyan Forestry Sector
Kenyan Forestry Sector
Kenyan Forestry Sector
Kenyan Forestry Sector
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With the money I get from selling my trees, I hope to send my children to secondary school and then university.
Josephine Masha, Farmer supported by Komaza in Kilifi County, Kenya

The Need and Opportunity

Demand for wood is accelerating rapidly in Kenya but domestic supply is not keeping pace – with serious consequences. Alarmingly, even with wood imports rising dramatically, the country lost 10% of its tree cover between 2001 and 2018.

Population and economic growth will ratchet the pressure further – projections show the current supply gap will double in the next decade without action. This threatens further increases in costs for wood fuel that have already significantly hit Kenyan households and industries.

Transforming the commercial forestry sector thus holds huge potential to help protect natural forests and spur significant job and wealth creation.


In 2016, Gatsby established the Kenya Commercial Forestry Programme to analyse the opportunities within the sector, test innovative models, bring in international learning and support stakeholders to kickstart growth.

Our analysis and work to date shows Kenya has clear opportunities to unlock land for planting while introducing game-changing technologies and radically upgrading models for sourcing timber, including through farm-forestry.

Crucially, these innovative technologies and models could be deployed so that the sector expands in an inclusive way, with smallholder growers developing win-win relationships with pioneering processors. The impact on Kenya’s environment and economy would be striking.

potential impact

Detailed analysis of the sector’s potential across different Kenyan regions has shown that by 2035, the country could see:

  • More than 1 million households generating a collective annual income of US$50 million from tree-growing.
  • 11,000 new formal skilled jobs created in wood value chains.
  • Processing adding US$261 million of value to finished products per year.
  • Nearly 200,000 hectares of additional commercial forestry coverage.
  • Long-term carbon sequestration of 28.7 M tCO2 equivalent.


Click here to learn more about the programme, including the journey so far and highlights from 2020.

In our initial discussions with gatsby, your team had expressed wanting to substantially shorten the learning curve for actors aiming to increase forestry impact for smallholder farmers. I can definitively say that you have done just that. Looking forward to our continued work together!
Patrick Bell PhD, Senior Director - Research and Development, One Acre Fund Kenya


KCFP builds on Gatsby’s programme in the Tanzanian forestry sector – itself part of Gatsby’s 20+ 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.