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The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) together with Environment for Development (EfD)-Kenya carried out county validation workshops for the study on co-management of Aberdare, Kakamega and Arabuko Sokoke forests. The workshops took place in stations near each of forests from 15th to 18th December, 2015. The study was funded by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
The Forest Policy 2007 and Forests Act 2005 came up with new ways of managing forests in Kenya. The Act provided for the involvement of neighbouring communities in forest conservation and management through Community Forest Associations (CFAs). It also provided for the establishment of Kenya Forest Service (KFS). The Act has specific provisions related to access rights and benefits sharing arrangement, which provide a role for communities in the utilization of forest resources and protection of forests. The participation of the community in decision making is meant to ensure sustainable forest conservation.  
The purpose of the study, therefore, was to review the effects of the co-management and assess the extent to which the new management system is working to enhance forest conservation. The study used household surveys, focus group discussions and key informants to collect data. Various aspects were analyzed to determine the level of each community’s dependence on forest resources as well as their involvement in the management. These included  the demographics of the community members interviewed; their membership to CFAs, Community Based Organizations or other organizations; the benefits they derived from the forest; whether or not they paid fees to access the benefits and if so, how much; whether or not the CFA contributed to forest management and the hindrances to accessing forest benefits.
The workshops were meant to validate the findings of the study as well as gather additional comments and corrections. Most of the workshop attendees were CFA members. Others were KFS and KWS officials as well as local leaders.
Among the key benefits of forest co-management include: Firewood, grazing, rafters, farmland, prevention of soil erosion and maintenance of biodiversity.  According to the findings, most of those interviewed felt that CFAs played an important role in the conservation of forests.

GEITA CFA (ABERDARE)
The workshop was facilitated by Mr John Nyangena from KIPPRA and Dr Wilfred Nyangena from EfD-Kenya. The findings showed that the Geita CFA had made progress in various legislations to ensure smooth co-management of the Aberdare forest. The association had drafted a Participatory Forest Management (PFM) and a Plantation Forest Management and Plan (PFMP). The CFA was also in the process of developing a Green Management Plan. 
According to the findings, the main hindrances to the community’s access to forest resources include long distances, inaccessibility of the forest, forest degradation, stringent regulations by KFS and KWS, and human-wildlife conflict.
One of the key issues that came up during the discussion that followed the main presentation was the fact that the community felt disadvantaged due to their limited financial and technical capacity, which hindered them from participating in activities such as saw-milling. They felt that the private firms licensed to harvest trees were engaging in wanton destruction of the forest. It was agreed that there was need to come up with laws that empower the CFA as well as KFS to go beyond giving licenses to controlling the activities of the commercial saw millers.
The CFA members also said there was need to review the management agreements to enable the community benefit more from forest resources.
It was also reported that the CFA lacked technical expertise to manage programmes. There was also limited understanding of the ecological importance of the forest among community members hence poor management.  
It was found out that the CFA had received various trainings including fire management, tree nursery management and soil conservation.  The trainings were conducted by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), CBOs, KFS and various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).  There is, however, need for lobbying among stakeholders to build capacity, increase awareness, widen the cost-benefit window and improve livelihoods. The session ended with a group photo of the participants and the facilitators.

KAKAMEGA FOREST (MUILESHI CFA )
The workshop took place in the Kakamega East Sub-County headquarters, Kakamega County. Apart from the CFA members, other attendees included the Deputy County Commissioner, Nature Kenya officials, local leaders and officials from local NGOs. After introductory remarks by Mr Joshua Laichana of KIPPRA, Dr Paul Maina made a detailed presentation of the findings, asking the participants to note any areas that may require clarification.
It was found that Muileshi CFA, which hass other sub-organizations such as the Kakamega Community Forest Associates (KACOFA), had signed various agreements with KFS.
The main benefits the CFA derived from the forest included firewood, grazing, farmland and herbs. The CFA is a licensed saw miller and has also constructed an ecological site within the forest to generate income.  It was found that the 2,000 members paid an annual subscription fee of Ksh 500, some of which was distributed to other community organizations that the members belonged to.
Although the study reported a high number of tertiary and university attendance among Cherang’any community members, a Nature Kenya official at the Kakamega meeting questioned the finding, noting that a previous research they had done in the area had shown low education levels. It was, however, agreed that it was possible the two research teams had interviewed respondents from different areas of Cherang’any, explaining the varying education levels. The Nature Kenya team, however, agreed with most of the study findings.
Among the issues the CFA members raised during the discussions included the need to be consulted before KFS makes decisions, such as those on the amount of fees to be charged for various services. There were also concerns that the CFA membership of 2,000 was negligible compared to the total population of the constituency, which is 185,000. It was agreed that there was need for more sensitization efforts to encourage more community members to join the CFA.
The CFA members proposed that concession of the forest management to the community would enable full ownership and proper management by the community members. They gave the example of Meru Forest where the local community had full ownership and management of the forest.
Just like the Geita CFA, Muileshi CFA members felt that commercial millers were destroying the forest and there was very little they could do.
According to the Deputy County Commissioner, criminal and illegal activities such as rape and promiscuity that were associated with the forest had gone down.
The session ended with a group photo and video interviews of three local and community leaders and three CFA members who are also farmers.  

CHERANG’ANY FOREST CFA
The workshop, which registered the highest attendance of 27, took place at the Community Development Fund (CDF) offices in Kapsowar. Although its start was delayed by the difficult journey to the venue, a lack of electricity and the ensuing search for a generator, it finally kicked off with welcome and introductory remarks from Mr Laichena and later a presentation of the findings by Dr Maina. However, even as the workshop begun, the facilitators noted the absence of women among the participants. However, by the end of the session, four women had joined in.
It was found that the community derived the same benefits from the forest as the other communities neighbouring Kakamega and Aberdare forests. It was noted that although various fees were levied, the community members did not see the need to pay to access resources in ‘their forest’. The community members argued that some locals initially colluded with forest officers, who come from the area, to destroy the forest. This was solved by transferring the said officers and replacing them with those of different tribes.
Some community members also said local politicians politicized the management of the forest; that they were not forthright with the contents of the Forest Act, choosing instead to play politics to win votes.
Just like the Muileshi CFA members, the Cherangany members said they should be allowed to own the forest to ensure proper management. They argued that the forest was better conserved before the establishment of KFS because the community had its ways of ensuring no one felled trees haphazardly, especially the indigenous ones.
The study noted that the forest demarcation was not clear; that the one by KFS deferred from what was initially done by the colonial government. It was also noted that there was a lack of compliance to the riparian reserve requirements in the demarcation, resulting in the blockage of some water sources.
Community members said although they conserved the forest, they did not enjoy benefits such as water from Chebara Dam. They said the water was instead pumped to Uasin Gishu County.
It was reported that although the CFA had a management plan, they did not have a management agreement mainly because they lacked the capacity and resources to draft one. As for the forest’s potential to act as a carbon ‘sink’, the CFA members reported that some researchers had toured the forest but the community members were yet to get the findings.
It was also noted that there were conflicts between the local leaders such as chiefs and the CFA leaders, which has significantly slowed down the sensitization process and participation of the community in the CFA. The leaders present, however, said there were addressing the problem and promised to begin a massive sensitization programme in 2016.  It was noted that unity between the CFA, KWS and KFS was important to ensure full participation of community members in forest conservation.
Some community members suggested that environmental conservation needed to be entrenched in all levels of education.
The session ended with video interviews of a few leaders and CFA members.

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