The Kenya Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016 protects Kenya’s four million hectares of forests and national parks which are vital bastions of biodiversity, including critically endangered species. Kenya’s protected forest lands provide a wide range of ecosystem services that are critical for environmental stability and for key economic sectors including agriculture. They are the water catchments of all main rivers in Kenya and are an essential part of mitigating the impacts of climate change and maintaining biodiversity.
In an unexpected move in November 2021, Kenya’s Parliament suddenly announced the repeal of a core safeguard in the law. The Amendment proposed to amend the Act by deleting the requirement to lodge petitions to alter public forest boundaries with the Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) before submission to the National Assembly. By taking away the mandate of the KFS, the National Assembly would be vested with broad discretionary powers in public forest boundary delineation. ILP was asked to provide emergency legal support to challenge the proposed amendment.
ILP supported the Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG), a coalition of 35 respected Kenyan conservation organisations led by the East African Wildlife Society, in pushing back against the proposed Forest Conservation and Management (Amendment) Bill, 2021 through a well-coordinated advocacy campaign. ILP’s lawyers supported the coalition in making representations to Parliament, proposing international best practice in forest protection policy, and providing legal support in preparation for legal challenge of the amendment as unconstitutional.
The KFWG was able to mobilise public and political opinion in a short amount of time, ultimately persuading Parliamentarians to drop this repeal during its final reading in Parliament. The resources and training made available to the Coalition strengthened their determination to launch an intensive advocacy campaign to stop the proposed amendment from being passed. Ultimately, the highly successful advocacy campaign averted the passage of the Bill, thereby helping to ensure the preservation of Kenya’s protected areas for present and future generations.