Participatory forest management and disaster risk reduction: the case of Arabuko-sakoke forest in Kenya
Forests in Kenya have experienced various forms of environmental degradation due to the rising potentials of environmental hazards as a result of anthropogenic activities, this informed the emergence of participatory forest management approach between the Kenyan government, civil society organization and the local community formally initiated after ‗the consultation phase in year 2000‘ and subsequently the establishment of the Forest Act of 2005; influencing the joint efforts of Community Forest Associations and the forest management agencies of the Government of Kenya –also in partnership with NGOs and fund agencies to manage the forest in delineated zones as Protected Areas and Community Forest Management areas and Co-management areas in order to ensure mitigations ranging from deforestation, forest fires, environmental degradation, desertification, biodiversity loss, environmental pollution, climate change, ozone depletion and rise of sea level. This effort was further reinforced when Kenya joined the Forest Carbon Partnership Fund in 2010 aimed at the Reduction of Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation along with conserving and enhancing forest carbon stock, and sustaining forest management in developing countries. This project investigates the linkage between disaster risk reduction practices and participatory Forest Management (PFM) in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest (ASF), the study focuses on the PFM practices have impacted hazards and vulnerability reduction, and capacity empowerment mechanisms in the management of ASF areas. And further identify the challenges ranging from policy, institutional and technical issues which have the potential to undermine the mitigative and preventive efforts of catastrophic environmental events. The study was carried out within ASF areas, and adopted a descriptive study design. The unit of analysis was the forest adjacent community and the unit of observation was the individuals. A field study was conducted covering 60 respondents and selected key informants who were purposeful selected. The findings revealed measures like weak early systems; slightly adequate personnel and resources to respond in an immediate response to disasters. Further implications established that the ASF adjacent community is at risk to deforestation, forest fires, flood, drought, and resource based conflicts which are mostly influenced by anthropogenic activities like legal logging or illegal logging, poaching, agricultural malpractices and other forest malpractices. The PFM approach employed in ASF, have to an average extent incorporated long-term disaster risk reduction measures to reduce vulnerability and hazards of the forest adjacent community, these efforts includes anti-logging policy and practices; adherence to forest zoning of forest resource utilization; community empowerment through educational, financial, and developmental projects; and awareness programs on forest sustainability. It is on this note that this study recommends the need to increase disaster risk reduction incorporated approaches to forest policies and practices through improving early warning systems; conduction and regular review of hazards assessments; and enhancing institutional capacity to reduce forest exploitation, reduce poverty and dependency through expansion of livelihood sources, and community trainings on disaster preparedness – drills/ exercises/ warning system.