The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has in the last one year recovered over 500,000 acres of forest land that had been grabbed by individuals and institutions.
Of the recovered land, 13,000 acres are from the endangered Mau forest which has borne the brunt of illegal loggers, charcoal burners and encroachers.
The development coming as the Kenya Forest Service adopted new tactics that have seen communities leave forest land voluntary due to public engagement.
KFS has entered into a joint venture with Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) to train their staff on humane eviction under a programme sponsored by UNDP.
According to the Chief Conservator of Forests Julius Kamau, the government had not lost any forest land since 2005 with the current recoveries dating back to 30 years ago.
Kamau saying the government has recovered 500,000 acres in Boni forest, 30,000 acres in Samburu and another 13,000 acres in Mau Maasai where replanting of trees had kicked off.
“In all cases, members of the public agreed to voluntarily move out of the forest and we are keen to reclaim other grabbed forest land,” he said.
Under the joint programme with KNCHR, the Chief Conservator noted that they had infused the issue of human rights approach in the forest operations and conservation efforts.
“We have in the past differed with Kenya National Commission on Human Rights but we are now working as one team as we conserve our forests and engage the community,” he said.
Ministry of Environment under-secretary Cornel Sangura praised the role KFS was playing in recovering grabbed forest land.
“We have made tours across the country and we have seen communities voluntarily moving out of Mt Elgon, the Aberdares and Mau forests and this is commendable,” he said.
On his part, KNCHR head of public affairs and communication Dominic Kabiru said the human rights body was working closely with KFS on the issue of human rights in forest activities.
“Before, we had issues on how evictions were carried out but we are now working together by involving the community to make sure forests are conserved and human rights are observed,” he said.