Kenya carves its place in forests’ history | WWF

Kenya carves its place in forests’ history

Posted on 29 March 2005
Woodcarvings made from neem rather than over-harvested hardwoods, such as ebony, can now carry the FSC logo.
© Good Woods Project / David Maingi
Nairobi, Kenya – An innovative WWF project promoting sustainable Kenyan woodcarvings from ‘good woods’ has achieved Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification — a first for Kenya.

The project encourages the use of farm-grown trees instead of threatened hardwoods for carving, thereby securing carvers’ livelihoods and providing a new income source for farmers. 
Woodcarvings made from neem rather than over-harvested hardwoods, such as ebony, can now carry the FSC logo, giving consumers peace of mind that the carvings have not contributed to the destruction of the forests of  eastern African. 

The certification is also unusual in that it certifies wood from small farms for the production of carvings by Kenyan craftsmen, instead of the most common  FSC certifications of  large-scale, commercial  timber production to supply the timber trade and well-known do-it-youself stores. 

“Achievement of FSC certification for the small rural-based wood producers and processors is confirmation that certification is not just a practical forest management tool for large forest blocks,” said David Maingi, Kenya Forest Conservation Programme Manager with WWF’s East Africa Regional Programme Office. 
“The FSC certification will contribute to conservation of threatened East African forests and help to improve livelihoods for poor farmers in Kenya,” he added.  
In Kenya the woodcarving industry supports up to 60,000 carvers, generating an income of over US$10 million per year. Yet, the economic success of the industry has undermined the resource on which it has been based – threatened hardwoods.

The WWF project helped to introduce a new income source to around 1,000 farmers supplying neem wood for carving, which has secured the livelihood of 3,000 carvers on the coast of Kenya. As a result, one of the threats to Eastern African Coastal Forest (EACF), which are of global conservation priority due to their richness in unique plant and animal species such as the African violet and the Sokoke scops owl, has been diminished. 

“It is a huge achievement that ‘good woods’ have now been FSC certified," said Dr Susanne Schmitt, International Plants Conservation Officer for WWF-UK.

“Although it gives consumers an ethical choice when choosing a Kenyan carving, the challenge is now to develop a large enough market for certified carvings to generate sufficient returns for the farmers and carvers to continue producing wood and carvings in compliance with FSC standards,” she added.

The project’s success is largely due to an innovative partnership of WWF with Oxfam, Kenya Gatsby Trust, Kwetu and the National Museums of Kenya. The partnership has brought together the necessary skills in conservation, business development, marketing, quality assurance and capacity building. 

• Through awareness campaigns by the WWF East Africa Regional Programme, over 70 per cent of wood carvers use alternative farm grown tree species like neem, jacarada, mango and grevillea, which has translated into conservation of indigenous forests.

• The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), supported by WWF, is an independent, non-profit NGO based in Bonn, Germany. The Council provides standard setting, trademark assurance, and accreditation services to companies and organizations interested in responsible forestry. Founded in 1993, FSC’s mission is to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.

• The FSC accredited certifier Soil Association, Woodmark, carried out the certification assessment in Kenya. 

• There are 34 forest management FSC certificates in Africa: South Africa (24); Zimbabwe (4); Namibia (2); Uganda (2); Zambia (1); and Swaziland (1). All of these (except Uganda) are in southern Africa and are exclusively either eucalyptus or pine plantations or charcoal production.
• There are 123 Chain of Custody FSC certificates in Africa (out of a global total of 3,709 across 70 countries): South Africa (112); Swaziland (3); Zambia (2); Zimbabwe (5); and Morocco (1).

For further information:
Samuel Mikenga, Communications Manager  
WWF East African Programme Office
Tel: +254 20 577 355   

Kellie Rollings, Assistant Media Officer
Tel: +44 1483 412383
Woodcarvings made from neem rather than over-harvested hardwoods, such as ebony, can now carry the FSC logo.
© Good Woods Project / David Maingi Enlarge
A farmer standing in front of a young neem tree.
© Good Woods Project / David Maingi Enlarge