Does Isiolo County have the largest forest cover in Kenya?

“Isiolo has the largest forest cover with more than half of the County covered by trees,” reads a tweet (archived) shared on February 20, 2024. This statement claims that; Isiolo County has an extensive forest cover compared to other counties in Kenya. It has a diverse landscape of arid and semi-arid regions and areas with significant vegetation cover.


The World Bank defines forest area as “land under natural or planted stands of trees of at least 5 meters in situ and excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems (for example, in fruit plantations and agroforestry systems) and trees in urban parks and gardens.

The Kenya Forest Service on the other hand defines a forest as, “land area of more than 0.5Ha, at least canopy cover of at least 15%, trees of minimum 2m height in situ, which is not primarily under agricultural or other specific non-forest land use.” It further describes forest cover as the amount of land area a forest covers.

Section 9 (2)(r) of the Environmental Management Co-ordination and  Act(EMCA) requires the National Environment Management Authority(NEMA) to work in partnership with other leading agencies to issue guidelines and prescribe measures to achieve and maintain a tree cover of at least 10% of the land area of Kenya.

The Kenya Forest Service now commits to growing 300 million trees every year. The service considers this an effort to reach the national target of growing 15 billion trees by 2032.

The National Forest Resources Assessment Report of 2021 shows that 37 of Kenya’s 47 counties had a tree cover percentage higher than the constitutionally set target of 10% tree cover. The findings further reveal that by 2021, “Kenya had 5.23 Ha of the national forest cover representing 8.83% of the total area.”


While the country’s forest cover is not evenly distributed, the National Forest Resources Report of 2021 says that the Central region, parts of the Western and the Coastal region are the most forested. On the other hand, wooded and open grasslands are concentrated in the country’s drier parts, especially in the Northern region. The overall status of tree cover per County shows that by 2021, Nyeri led with 45.17%  tree cover while Marsabit County had the least tree cover at 2.06%.

Source: (National Resources Assessment Report 2021).


Isiolo County’s overall tree cover was slightly above 5%, while, its individual contribution to the net national tree cover was slightly above 2%.

Source: (National Resources Assessment Report 2021).



The claim that Isiolo County is leading in forest cover is FALSE. The latest data by the Kenya Forest Service shows that Nyeri County has the highest overall tree cover and not Isiolo County as alleged.

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