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Forestry - Geography Form 2

Background knowledge
In the previous lesson, you learnt about vegetation. There are many types of vegetation among them are forests.The term forest refers to an area characterized by dense and continuous tree cover and other woody vegetation growing close together. In Kenya, forests cover about 2% of the land area.

They comprise natural and planted forests grown for industrial purposes. However, these forests have been grouped into four according to the physical and climatic characteristics of the area in which they occur. These forests are:
Forests and forest products are important resources. For this reason, forests should not be destroyed so that they could be used many years into the future. The importance will be discussed under the following headings.

By the end of the session you should be able to; a) define:

  1. Forestry
  2. Forest

b)   describe the distribution and types of natural forests.
c)   discuss the significance of forests and forest products to Kenya.
d)  identify and explain problems facing forestry in Kenya.


In the previous session, you learnt about vegetation. There are many types of vegetation among them are forests.In this session we are going to look at forestry which is a human activity.

Definition of Forest

A forest is a continious growth of trees and undergrowths covering large tracts of land. while forestry is the practice or the science of cultivating and developing forests and forest products.

The distribution of forests vary according to some conditions such as climate, soils, altitude, slope and human actities. In the past, forests covered large areas of the earth's surface. However, most forests are now been cleared and reduced in size due to human activities. Today, the average forest cover in the world is 20%. Forests can be natural or planted. Natural forests are composed of trees which grow naturally in an area. Planted forests are made of trees which have been planted. They are also called cultivated forests. Trees found in the forests can be hardwoods or soft woods.

Distribution of natural forests.

Factors influencing distribution and types of forests

Altitude and slope

Altitude leads to zonation of vegetation on mountains. Temperatures drop as altitude increases. Trees will only grow below 3500 metres in tropical areas. Altitude also enables a variety of species to grow in highland areas.Steep slopes with thin eroded soils can support very few trees.



Slopes that are warm and wet have more luxuriant vegetation than the cooler slopes. This is very distinct in the mid latitudes in the northern and southern hemispheres.




Human Activities

Human beings have contributed in clearing large tracks of forests in the world by encroaching for settlement and agriculture and wood fuel.

On the other hand, man has created new forests and conserved the original forests. Many governments have also created forest reserves and protected them from wanton destruction.

Tropical zone

It contains three types of forests namely:

  • Tropical rain forests
  • Tropical monsoon forests
  • Mangrove forests

Mid latitude zone (Md)

This zone lies between latitudes 30 and 45 North and South of the Equator.
It contains three types of forests.

Mediterrenean forests (mf)

Temperate evergreen forests (Te)

Temperate deciduous forests (Td)

Temperate zone (Tp)

This zone lies between latitude 45 and 75 N. It consists of two types of forests

    Mixed forests (Mf)

      Coniferous forests (Cf)


Types of forests

Tropical hardwood forests

These are forests growing naturally in parts of the tropical regions across the world. The main species in west and central Africa where the forests are extensive include Ebony, Ironwood,Mahogany, Sapele,Okuome,Sapele, Iroko and Rose wood.In Kenya, species indigenous to the region include Meru Oak, Elgon Olive, Elgon teak, Camphor and Mangroves. The main tree characteristics of this class of forests are:

Some trees are evergreen

Very tall trees with straight trunks

Some trees have huge trunks with buttressed roots

The trees are very heavy

The trees take along time to mature

They have broad leaves

The Temperate hardwood forests

Coniferous Forests

These forests are also known as temperate softwoods.They lie between 50

to 700
North and south of the equator.They are most extensive in Eurasia and America with smaller patches to the South.Coniferous forests have the following characteristics:

Cone shaped seeds (coniferous)

The trees are evergreen

They have narrow, needle-like leaves

Trees are light, softwoods

Trees is little or no undergrowth

Trees can grow very tall (100 metres) with huge trunks. The trunks are also straight.

The trees crowns at the top (cone shaped)

Trees have thick barks

The roots are shallow and fibrous

The trees mature after a long period of time (50-70 years)

Some of the species in these forests include a variety of pines, firs, spruce, larch and hemlock.

Montane Forests

Planted forests

Indigenous forests

These are forests comprising of trees that are unique or native to a given area or country.

Natural forests

the learner should be able to discuss the significance of forests and forest products to Kenya.

Importance of forests and forest products

Forests and forest products are important resources. For this reason, forests should not be destroyed so that they could be used many years into the future. The importance will be discussed under the following headings.

Economic importance of forests and forest products

Economics relate to the production, distribution and use of resources like forests for income or wealth.Forests produce primary products such as timber, poles, and resins. Other wood products are gum resins, tannin and dyes.

All these products contribute significantly to the economy of Kenya. This is by direct sale or using the products as raw materials for industries.

The social importance of forests and forest products.

Did you know that forests and forest products are important to you and others? think about it!!

Years ago food was a major challenge. Humans as hunters and gatherers collected seeds, nuts, edible roots, fruits and honey. However some communities are still hunters and gatherers. With the agricultural revolution and improvement in transport system, obtaining food has been made relatively easy as walking into a supermarket.

A variety of tree species and other woody plants provide a source of alternative medicine.

The leaves, barks, fruits and roots are used to make herbal medicine. For instance, the Neem tree is used in the treatment of malaria.

Different communities have different ways of worship. They choose grounds that they believe are holy. Forests are often used as religious shrines.

Among the coastal communities such as the Mijikenda, selected places in the natural forests are taken to be kayas.

The forests have species of hard or soft wood. These trees are used to provide timber. The timber is used with other building materials to make either semi-permanent or permanent buildings.

The social importance of forests can be summarized in the following illustration.

Environmental uses of forests.

A forest is a natural ecosystem with diverse life forms that adapt to the temperature, light and nutrients available.

Forests provide a natural habitat for micro-organisms such as earth worms, bacteria and fungi that help decompose litter in the forest into manure recycling soil nutrients.

The forest is also a natural habitat for wild animals and birds. It works as a whole unit where the organisms depend on each other.

Forests create a microclimate when the climate varies over a small area of a few square kilometers, the term microclimate is used. In forested area the temperatures are cooler and there is tendency of receiving higher rainfall.

Further, forests help in the conservation of soil and water resources. The forests intercept rain water, delay run-off and prevent floods. Consequently this prevents soil erosion. They also act as main water catchments areas.

With the rapid growth of industries, a lot of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. This is one of the green house gases that warms the earth's surface. This occurs when outgoing solar radiation is blocked from escaping due to the increase if surface temperature or global warming.

Environmentalists have raised concern about it since the long term effect is melting of ice caps, rising of sea level. As a solution to the issue, forests have been planted to act as carbon sinks by absorbing the carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

Forests have an aesthetic appeal. They make a place look attractive and pleasant for recreation.

By the end of the session you should be able to identify and explain problems facing forestry in Kenya.

Problems facing forestry in Kenya

Forests in Kenya are facing many problems most of which are linked to human activities. Some of these problems include:


The ever increasing population among communities especially those living next to forests has led to people encroaching on forest land for settlement and agricultural activities thus reducing forest covers.

Forest fires

In Kenya, forest fires are very common especially during the dry season. Poachers, charcoal burners and honey harvesters, at times set forests on fire deliberately or by accident. Such fires, if not checked can destroy huge tracts of forests.

Over exploitation of forests

Pests and diseases

Pests and diseases are a major problem affecting forests in Kenya.

Tree diseases and pets like Aphids can lead to extinction of large tracts of forest land with valuable tree species.


In Kenya some forests have been turned into game reserves, others converted into public utilities such as show grounds while some portions have been allocated and converted to private land.

There are also certain parts of the forests which have been converted into government land. All these activities reduce the total of acreage under forests in our country

Poor forest management

In the past, the management of forests in Kenya has not been done as per the; aid down policies. For instance, some corrupt officials and citizens, carry out illegal logging and trade of timber.


In Kenya, debarking forests has threatened the existence of forests.

Trees are debarked for purposes such as medicine, beehives, basketry, weaving and corking materials. It damages the trees making them dry up.

By the end of the lesson, you should be able to discuss ways and means of managing forests

Management of forests

The survival of forests is threatened by deforestation as people clear the trees for a variety of uses such as, cultivation, construction, settlement and fuel.Forest products are a major source of fuel for most households, they provide job opportunities and also help modify the climate.

Kenya's forest cover continues to be lost at an alarming rate which can only be checked through proper Management and Conservation.Forest Management is the effective planning and control of forests.The following measures are used to manage forests; Enactment of Laws on Management of Forests

Encouraging people to use alternative sources of energy or energy saving measures.

The government has established institutions to train personnel to work in the forests e.g Londiani Forestry Training College and Moi University Faculty of Forestry.

Continued research on the requirements of Tree species and control of pests and diseases that affect trees.

Public campaigns on the importance of forests conducted by the government and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as The Green Belt Movement.

Employing Forest Rangers to guard the forests from indiscriminate tree felling.

Creation of forest reserves aimed at protecting indigeneous trees. Forest reserves can be found in Simba Hills, Arabiuko- Sokoke, Mt. Kenya, Mau Forest, Aberdares Forest and Kakamega Forest.

The planting and replanting of forests plantations is done at different times so that trees mature at different times.

by the end of the session you should be able to discuss ways and means of conserving forests.

Forest conservation


This is the planting of trees where none existed before. This has mostly been done in arid and semi arid areas using Exotic trees which grow and quickly.


This is where farmers intercrop various crops with trees. These tree can be used by farmer for both domestic and commercial purposes. This in effect stops misuse of natural forest.


It is the planting of trees where deforestation has taken place.Examples in Kenya are the highland areas of Arbedares.


Laws such as forest bill 2000 have been put in place to help in forest conservation.

Creation of Forest Reserves

The Kenya government has gazette some forest reserves. This is also meant to protect water catchment areas and prevent soil erosion. For example Mau and Aberdares.

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