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Arguably the earliest form of agriculture, agroforestry in many different forms has been practiced by humans across the world for thousands of years.
As part of our 20 Million Trees campaign in Kenya, our partner Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC) is working with farmers on Mount Kenya to plant useful trees and increase agroforestry knowledge. Since the campaign began, MKEC have helped farmers plant over 36,000 agroforestry trees on their land.
Trees on farms have a whole variety of benefits, which can vary according to species, site, placement, and how the trees are intentionally used. They regulate moisture, prevent soil erosion and protect crops from strong sun and wind, while nitrogen-fixing species are valued for soil improvement which helps increase yields.
Paulino, chairman of MKEC, reported: “Within a short time, fruit trees will start generating income to farmers through sale of produce and improve soil condition for farming.”
Moses, a local farmer, offers his own example: “Last year i got 5 tree tomato seedlings from the nursery group, and I have planted them together with food crops. I am grateful that the seedling has grown and it’s now producing fruits. Right now, the price for one kilogram of fruits goes up to 100 Kenyan Shillings and I can manage to sell at least few kilograms, increasing my source of income.”
Besides soil improvement and market produce, the farmers we work with on Mount Kenya most often speak about physical products – food, fuel, animal fodder and building materials – as their primary reasons for planting trees. Householders regularly visit the forest for these resources. 75% of farms surveyed in Embu District at the beginning of the Campaign relied on the forest for fuel wood.
By helping farmers plant trees on their land, we are reducing their reliance on the natural forest, protecting it from overexploitation. Combined with the advantages of agroforestry, this is a positive step for both people and ecosystems.
Nancy Karimi, another farmer, said: “I have set a small portion on my farm to act as a forest garden. The trees will be providing me with firewood, and minimize my travel to the forest.”
This article from Monga Bay provides a good introduction to agroforestry, and includes an interview with our Vice-Chair Roger Leakey.