Phase one of the campaign is being spearheaded by MKEC (Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation), working in cooperation with the Kenya Forest Service, which has set aside suitable degraded land for planting on the slopes of Mount Kenya Forest. They will receive expert technical advice from Botanical Gardens Conservation International and Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI).
The first part of this project involves working with local groups of smallholders in 7 different sub locations in Embu district. The community groups are organised in 10 “beats”, each of which consists of at least two groups. Each of the beats has established, and now manages a nursery. Nearly 250, 000 seedlings are being raised in the nurseries including Podocarpus, Prunus, and Croton. In addition to seeds received from KEFRI, the beats are also collecting seeds and wildlings from the forest. They have also received tree planting equipment and an agroforestry manual.
MKEC has also conducted a household survey to find out what motivates people to plant trees on their land. In order to ensure the sustainability of the program, the groups have been encouraged to invite young people in the community to join the initiative. The aim of the survey was to give them an idea of how the agroforestry component might be implemented.
Households are, of course, very varied but, based on the results of the survey, the average household looks something like this:
- Household size: 6 people
- Farm size 1.6 acres
- Food crops: maize, bananas and beans
- Livestock: 1 cow, 1 sheep/goat, 7 chickens
- Cash crops: 0.71 acres tea, 0.72 acres coffee, plus 20 macadamia and 11 avocado trees
- Sources of income: tea, coffee and milk sales
- On farm trees/ agroforestry: 111 trees, 33 of which were planted last year
- Agroforestry plans: 49 trees to be planted next year
87% of the farmers surveyed planted trees on their land last year and 100% plan to plant some this year. The most important priorities cited for having trees on the farm are fuel, fodder and timber.
All of the survey respondents go to the forest with 83% going at least once a week. The most common reason for going to the forest was to collect fodder and coming in a close second was collecting firewood. All of the respondents cited firewood as an important source of fuel, and 75% of the households get some of their firewood from the forest. However, people also recognise the value of the forest beyond providing fodder and firewood; the two most commonly cited benefits were rainfall and water.