We are thrilled to announce the support of renowned writer and performer, Benjamin Zephaniah, for our 20 Million Trees campaign.
Zephaniah, one of Britain’s best-known poets, is a long-standing advocate for environment, human and animal rights, and an outspoken vegan. He has spoken publicly and online about his love of trees and is a supporter of the Tree Charter.
On Sunday 10 June Zephaniah will present the Radio 4 Charity Appeal on behalf of ITF, focusing on Anastacia, a smallholder and passionate tree planter who lives on Mount Kenya. Anastacia is one of hundreds of farmers who have received support through ITF’s 20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests project.
Listen to Benjamin Zephaniah on why he supports International Tree Foundation:
Anastacia is a 45-year-old farmer and mother from Kambevo village, on Mount Kenya. Along with her four daughters and two grandchildren, she lives on a small piece of land where she produces tea, keeps a cow and goats, and grows food crops and vegetables. Since her husband died five years ago Anastacia has been responsible for earning the money to support her family.
Like most small-scale farmers Anastacia’s life is hard work. The tea that she grows is her main source of income. She wakes early in the morning to cook and prepare her children to go to school. Once she has milked her animals and taken the milk to be sold, she may work for five hours picking tea and carry what she harvests to a buying centre for sale.
In the past, Anastacia often needed to go to the forest in the evening, to gather fodder for her animals and firewood for cooking. The forest is 2km up a mountain track and Anastacia had to carry what she found back home on foot. Unfortunately, most subsistence farmers in Anastacia’s region are dependent on the forest for materials in this way.
Back in 2002, Anastacia joined a local self-help group, Wamiti Women, which means “Women of the Trees”. When her husband died and she found herself struggling to pay for her children’s education, it was Wamiti Women who helped her to overcome her difficulties.
Wamiti Women run a community tree nursery, where they raise seedlings for sale, for reforestation, and for planting on farms. Each rainy season, supported by ITF’s partner Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC), the group join hundreds of other volunteers to plant thousands of seedlings to restore Mount Kenya Forest. These volunteers are taking responsibility for protecting the forest that gives them firewood, fodder, medicine and food, and regulates the local climate and freshwater resources.
By coming together with other women facing similar challenges, Anastacia has been able to find common strength and support. She gains an income from selling seedlings, and has acquired shares in the group’s savings scheme allowing her to take out small loans for items like school books and uniforms. One such loan will enable her daughter Silvia to go to university to study to be a teacher.
Just as importantly, with seedlings from the nursery Anastacia has been able to plant lots of agroforestry trees on her farm. Fruit trees such as macadamia nuts, tree tomatoes and grafted avocadoes produce reliable harvests of fruit which fetch a good price at market, helping feed her family. And with other species providing firewood and branches for animal fodder, Anastacia no longer has to travel to the forest every day.
Read an inspiring recent interview with Anastacia by our supporter TreeSisters.
Anastacia’s favourite trees:
Grevillea robusta, or ‘silky oak’, is a good source of firewood and timber. Anastacia has planted many Grevillea trees on her farm to reduce her trips to the forest. “I love [this tree] so much,” she says, “especially the leaves which fall down from the Grevillea improves the soil of my farm.”
Calliandra calothyrsus is a nitrogen-fixing species which improves the soil. Anastacia uses this tree as a fodder supply for her cow and goats – she is even able to sell an excess to community members.