Illegal and irregular encroachments and settlements are the most pressing threats to forest conservation. Not only do they lead to total destruction of the forest cover, but they also mean a de facto change of the status of the land. If not checked in time while still covering small areas, encroachments and settlements could become more difficult to address as they expand. When too many squatters have settled, evictions are less likely to be carried out. The de facto change of the status of the land is then often regularized through official forest excisions.
Containing and reversing illegal encroachments or settlements are however practicable when they cover small areas and concern few squatters. The early detection of encroachments or settlements into forest is paramount to addressing them smoothly and successfully. It requires regular monitoring of forests, in particular forest boundaries.
Aerial surveys and reconnaissance flights carried out over the last decade have proven to be time- and cost-effective methods to assess the state of forests and to identify threats to their conservation. These methods provided scientifically collected evidence of forest destruction and helped the Government in taking remedial measures to address destruction in some key catchments.
Highly concerned by the continuous loss of forest cover and recognizing the advantages of airborne monitoring methods, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), with support from the UNEP, decided to join hands in monitoring forest and set up a joint forest boundary aerial monitoring programme. The programme currently funded by UNEP covers 155 hours of flight time. It is expected to be continued and to become a permanent forest aerial monitoring programme.