A curious fact about Kenya's conservation efforts is that there is no institution, government or any other authority, that can authoritatively give the exact figure of the forest cover.
Over the years, even government ministers have been giving varying indicators on whether the country is losing its forests or gaining cover.
To address this and other issues, the government is doing a comprehensive environmental audit to establish the status of biodiversity and land health in the country.
Environment CS Keriako Tobiko says the audit will identify gaps in what exists, what the country is doing and the time-frames to facilitate the implementation processes.
Mandates of key stakeholders need to be spelt out in the management plan towards restoring Kenya’s biodiversity to mitigate the impact of climate change.
The CS says the audit will support the harmonisation and coordination and encourage the active participation of stakeholders in their respective mandates in the environmental sector.
“The audit report will identify the leadership and mandates of key stakeholders for purposes of implementing various instruments and strategies that seek to sustainably manage the environment by embracing tactics to restore the rangelands, land health and hence the biodiversity.”
Chief conservator of forests Julius Kamau says the last audit was done in 2018.
"Any effort we have taken between 2018 and today may not be reflected until we do an assessment," he said, adding that the assessment will detail the progress the country has made so far.
Kenya loses about 29,000 acres of forest each year through deforestation. About 12 per cent of the land area originally covered by closed-canopy forests has been reduced to about 1.7 per cent of its original size.
Causes include demand for fuelwood and charcoal, population pressure for settlements, infrastructure, demand for wood products and conversion to agriculture.
In 2016, two reports on the status of forests as of 2015 showed how complex answering the question of coverage has become, not only for Kenya but other countries in the world.
The Global Forest Watch, an online platform that provides data and tools for monitoring forests, presented varying sets of data on the status of Kenya's forests.
FAO said while Kenya has lost a large portion of its forest cover over the years, it gained a substantive portion in the 10 years to 2015.
According to the 2015 report, Kenya had 10.9 million acres of forestland that year, about 900,000 acres more than in 2005.
This is, however, about 700,00 acres less than the country had in 1990, when the total forestland mass stood at 11.6 million acres.
It was a downward trend for Kenya between 1990, when forest cover was 8.3 per cent of the total landmass, and 2000, when it dropped to 6.25 per cent.
FAO said Kenya's forest cover rose from 6.25 per cent in 2000 to 7.6 per cent in 2015.
On the other hand, GFW said in 2010, Kenya had 2.7 million ha of tree cover, more than 4.6 per cent of the country's land area.
But it added that between 2001 and 2016, Kenya lost 711,000 acres of tree cover, which it says was equal to 8.7 per cent of the area's tree cover extent in 2000.
GFW said in 2016, Kenya lost 46,000 acres of forest, with 10 counties representing 53 per cent of all tree cover.
Kamau said the service is engaging with the government to get high-resolution satellite imageries to access even a single tree in people's farms.