By Julius Odeke
Experts from the East African Community partner states are meeting to prepare an elaborate action plan to improve Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade in the region.
The preparation of the action plan at a three-day workshop taking place at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, comes in the wake of indications that the East African Community is losing substantial amounts in revenue due to illegal trade in forest products.
According to a new study commissioned by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission and launched at opening of the workshop by the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Judy Wakhungu, non-compliance with Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) is a major cause of revenue losses.
The study titled “A Socio-economic Valuation of Losses from Non-Compliance with Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade in East African Community Partner States” identifies some of the causes of revenue losses as inadequate institutional capacity; weak law enforcement capabilities and arrangements; corruption and bribery; adhoc rules and regulations; poor pricing; as well as inconsistent rates in revenue collection.
During the workshop, Wakhungu noted that owing to importance of sustainable forest management, the EAC partner states undertook legislative and policy development initiatives to entrench the principles of sustainable natural resources management through the establishment of the Protocol for Sustainable Development of Lake Victoria Basin and the Protocol on Environment and Natural Resource Management.
Wakhungu hailed the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) for initiating and moving forward the FLEGT process for the benefit of the EAC.
The LVBC Executive Secretary, Dr. Canisius Kanangire, said that the ongoing workshop was the apex of East Africa’s FLEGT initiatives, adding that the outcome from the Regional Experts’ workshop would soon be presented to the Council of Ministers for Lake Victoria Basin for adoption and subsequent implementation. Dr. Kanangire hailed the support of the Governments of Finland and Sweden for their support to this process.
Participants to the workshop included the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Mr. Hyslop Ipu; the Director, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Dr. Ben Chikamai and experts from the East African Community Partner States; international, regional and nation non-governmental organisations, as well as representatives of the Embassies of Finland and Sweden in Kenya.