The end of the year is always a busy period. On Mt Kenya, this is particularly true, as communities make the most of the rainy season to plant trees on the four sites being restored through our 20 Million Trees campaign.
This is the moment when the hundreds of thousands of seedlings that have been carefully nurtured in tree nurseries across the lower slopes of the mountain are transported to degraded areas of forest, vast expanses of open land and small farms to take root in their new environments.
The cycle of tree planting brings the community together in Kenya. Tree nurseries are tended by groups (often women’s groups) who nurture the trees and socialise at the same time. Many of these group members also take part in tree planting in the forest, as well as on their own farms.
Towards self-sufficiency in fuel and nutrition
Virginia is a member of one of these groups, and has been involved since the beginning of activities in Embu County, where our partner Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC) kicked off activities in 2016.
Virginia planted trees on her small farm in Iriari village, and is now starting to sell some of the tree tomatoes, also known as tamarillos, that she planted in 2016. Not all the trees she’s planted will mature this quickly (in fact, tamarillos are more a shrub than a tree), but Virginia is investing in the future. She has also planted Grevillea robusta and Acrocarpus which will provide firewood and timber in years to come.
This means that Virginia will spend less time foraging for wood in the forest. She can use the branches she prunes from the trees rather than cutting them down.
In the last season, 18,960 trees were planted by people like Virginia in Embu County.
Uplifting livelihoods and restoring the forest
Tree planting on farms through agroforestry is just one aspect of ITF’s 20 Million Trees campaign. Over the last year, 349,638 trees were planted on four different sites across the mountain: Magaca, Imenti, Karuri and Kangaita.
Our most recent restoration site is Imenti, to the east of Mount Kenya (pictured top of this article). Here we are working with local partner Mount Kenya Trust to support small-scale farmers to earn an income whilst planting trees. You may have read our article about how cropping potatoes is bringing back the forest in Karuri, to the North of Mt Kenya. The same scheme is being used at Imenti, where 100,000 trees have been intercropped with vegetables on small plots by farmers making a living off the land while the seedlings take root.
Mount Kenya Trust estimate that a farmer can earn up to $1000 a year by benefitting from a plot of land which can be cropped twice a year. This uplifts livelihoods and gives local people the funds to invest in healthcare, education or farm equipment.
Building capacity and resilience
20 Million Trees for Kenya’s forests brings together forest restoration and improvements in livelihoods through building the capacity of local organisations and communities.
Alongside tree planting on degraded land and on farms, tree nursery groups are also provided with training and awareness raising sessions. In the last quarter of 2017, four groups in Embu received training in tree nursery establishment and management, agroforestry and sustainable farming (including techniques such as crop rotations, green/composting manure, integrating nitrogen fixing trees).
They also benefitted from an introduction to savings schemes with the ‘Joyful Women Organisation’. Savings schemes can be life-changing, as they allow groups to pool the income gained through selling tree seedlings and offer small loans to group members. These loans can help pay for healthcare, education for children or farm improvements which members might not be able to access through traditional banking.
2017 has seen the 20 Million Trees Campaign accelerate and expand to new sites and communities. Thank you for supporting these inspiring communities!