Assessment of the Impact of the Woodcarving Industry on the Environment: A Study of Wamunyu Location, Mwala District, Kenya
The wood carving industry in Kenya is highly dependent on indigenous tree species. These hardwood species have other competing uses too: they are preferred for ornate and construction. In construction, they are used as timber for furniture, flooring, and civil works. Over the years, there has been selective harvesting of these preferred tree species, leading to a decline and, locally, to a collapse of the tree population and contribution to the degradation of forests and woodlands. These species take between 100-150 years to mature. The study was on woodcarving handicraft among the Kamba community in Wamunyu location of Mwala District in Kenya. It examined the extent to which the practice has impacted on the raw materials used in the production of the craft. A total of 100 woodcarvers participated in the survey. These were purposively sampled for the reason that in each location, the target respondents were organised into a major association. In Wamunyu the major association is Wamunyu Cooperative Society. Other study respondents included cooperative officials and, programme managers of local non-governmental organisations. Questionnaires, in-depth interview guides, focus group discussions, observation and photography were used in collecting data which revealed certain significant aspects of the handicraft. Wood carving is a major informal industry in Wamunyu. It is a source of livelihood for many families. However, it has been practiced to the detriment of the environment. Witnessed is a complete disappearance of some indigenous trees originally used in the industry due to inactive foresight in replenishing the resource base. Most carvers are blind to environmental concern but monetary gain. Revealed as well, resident NGOs have very little to do with the handicraft industries despite the significance of the crafts as major income earners. Admittedly, the findings suggest a need for woodcarvers to carryout their trade in a sustainable way. Required are afforestation and reforestation programmes and, as relates to leftovers from the craft, adaptation of good waste management practices. For example, use of cut-offs in carving smaller items and making of compost manure rather than setting ablaze the resultant leftovers. The cooperative societies should be in the forefront of ensuring that sustainable wood carving is done. There is need for urgent extensive mobilisation of all stakeholders to start nurseries and plantations with the sole purpose to grow raw materials for use by the craft. Hence conservation education would come in handy in promoting sustainable woodcarving. Suggested as well is a need for resident non-governmental organisations to expand their activities and train and empower the woodcarvers in aspects such as resource conservation, water harvesting techniques and, diversification of income generating activities.