"Kenya has already signaled its intent to build up this natural capital as a vibrant and sustainable engine for growth and prosperity," U.N. Environment Program Executive Director Achim Steiner said at the conclusion of a three-day conference at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi. "There now exists a unique opportunity to translate this pioneering and commendable intention into implementation.
"The outcomes of this meeting provide an agenda for moving beyond an era when forests were seen as unproductive land that could be turned into something more valuable by cutting down the trees," he said.
Deforestation deprived Kenya's economy of $68 million in 2010, a UNEP release said Thursday.
"Trees continued to be felled due to a multiple and complex reasons, including unregulated charcoal production, livestock grazing and human settlements," UNEP said.
Kenya's new constitution calls for an increase in forest cover to 10 percent, which -- coupled with increasing public demand to halt and reverse deforestation -- "has the potential to trigger unprecedented investment in the forest sector," the UNEP release said.