Atewa Forest

A government ban on logging in Kenyan forests to protect the natural resources and environment has made timber scarcer in the East African nation, with carpenters, builders and farmers among the worst hit by the crisis.

The ban, placed in 2018, has seen the price of timber rise three-fold as the country relies majorly on imports from Congo and Tanzania.

While carpenters have no choice but to buy expensive timber, farmers have adapted to the situation by building metal cowsheds, which initially were shunned because they were expensive.

The steel cowsheds now dot most small and large-scale dairy farms across the east African nation, with the shift turning out as a big win for Kenyan forests as the government launches various campaigns to boost cover.

Osiligi Farm in Kajiado, south of Kenyan capital Nairobi, is one of the dairy outfits in Kenya which have turned to metal cowsheds, reinforced with concrete on the walls and the floor.

On the farm during a recent visit, their over 30 cows chewed the cud in cubicles made of steel bars and concrete on the walls. The floors were also made of concrete and a neat cow mat was spread down one each, enabling the cows to stay in a clean environment.

“We turned to metal cowsheds because they are not only durable but also neater and do not easily harbor diseases. Besides, metal cowsheds are environment-friendly because they save the cutting of trees,” said Paul Sosoika, the farm manager.

He noted that they replaced their timber cowsheds with metal ones a few months before the government announced a plan to ban logging in forests. “We seemingly had the foresight of the ban and when it was announced, we were on the right side,” he added.

Away from the farm in Utawala, farmer Julius Kimathi also replaced his timber cowshed with metal ones after finding the later cheaper in the long-term. “I shifted to metal at the height of the ban after trying to build a shade for my new two cows using wood and could not find timber. The thick poles I needed to support the structure were unavailable and I was asked to make an order and wait for two weeks. The builder suggested metal and we took that route,” he said.

Though metal sheds are a little bit expensive than those made from timber, then turn out cheaper in the long-term, said Patrick Mutiso, who welds metal sheds for farmers.

He observed that the scarcity of wood has made many farmers make the shift handing him job as others seek to avoid high costs of repairs and diseases since some wood harbor pests.

“Most farmers never treated the wood they used to make cowsheds, therefore, it was susceptible to termite attack, hosted woodlice and fungi which pose threat to animals,” said Mutiso, who charges at least 350,000 shillings (3,500 U.S. dollars) to design and construct the sheds.

Paul Odour, animal health specialist from Egerton University, observed that steel sheds are highly recommended because they cannot harbor pests that in turn affect animals. “Steel sheds are also easier to clean and are not prone to rotting, unlike timber, above all they are environment-friendly,” he said.

Kenya in 2018 launched an ambitious 1.8 billion tree campaign in a bid to boost the country’s forest cover to 10 percent. The program lasts five years. Enditem

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