Trees in the Wild
In a world of increasing complexity, it is apparent that issues such as deforestation can have a lasting impact on the environment. In Kenya, this is a very serious issue: in 1963, Kenya had a forest cover of approximately 10% (aligning with the global average) but by 2012, this had dropped to 6%. It has been estimated that Kenya is losing 12,000 hectares of forest annually, despite the Kenyan government’s efforts to alleviate the problem. 12,000 hectares is the equivalent of 120km2, approximately the same size as the area of Newcastle. Considering this, there is huge scope for the development of a project that focuses on planting trees, alongside other benefits.
What is Trees in the Wild?
Last year in January, a team of 4 from Nicholsons went out to Kenya to investigate setting up a project in the Mara region. We were inspired by the prospect of developing a tree nursery and, instead of just scoping out the area, we ended up building the entire nursery in a week, including putting up the fencing and preparing the seedling beds! Nicholsons has a strong ethical and environmental agenda, focusing mostly on education and sustainable development, so this is a project that ties in closely with our own horticultural and forestry interests.
The Trees in the Wild tree nursery has the capacity for 50,000 to 60,000 seedlings. Through this project we aim to:
- Support the local community
- Preserve biodiversity
- Protect water resources
This year Nicholsons has started to develop a relationship with the International Tree Foundation (ITF).
Initially formed in Kenya, the ITF is an environmental charity that works with communities in Africa and the UK to carry out sustainable community forestry projects, conserving biodiversity and enhancing both human and environmental well-being. At the moment they are focussing on a Centenary Campaign, something that Trees in the Wild will contribute to over time. The Centenary Campaign aims to see 20 million trees planted in Kenya by 2020; supporting environmental restoration and economic development in the targeted areas.
This project is not only targeted at combatting deforestation but also looks to support the local community by developing a sustainable model of training that will benefit long-term social stability. The Mara Training Centre (MTC) will be working with the project to develop this model and finalise a program for continuous training.
The Mara Training Centre is located in close proximity to the tree nursery. The overall purpose of the MTC is to enhance the capacity of participants and their wider communities to create and manage the future they desire. It focuses on aspects including inclusive social participation, governance and decision-making.
Why this project?
The forestry sector in Kenya is key to the social and economic well-being of the country as a large proportion of the country’s economic sectors rely on environmentally based resources for their sustenance. This suggests that the forestry sector must be protected, preserved and built upon for the future of Kenya to be stable.
This area, the Mara, is facing many challenges; population is increasing, and this is both affecting, and being affected by, the local environment. Pollution in the Mara River is increasing, deforestation continues to occur at a very high rate and water availability is becoming more problematic, with water-borne diseases becoming more prevalent. We had made a link to the local area and found that we could help prevent these issues from worsening by adding our support in the Enonkishu Conservancy area.
What are our objectives?
As mentioned previously, our three key aims in this project are to support the local community, preserve the levels of biodiversity and increase where possible, and protect the natural water resource – the Mara River. We will be working in collaboration with the Lower Mara Water Resource Users Association (WRUA) to identify sites along the Mara River that will benefit the water course in terms of tree planting.
There are seven key ways in which we plan to achieve these goals, but these are likely to increase and develop over time as we learn more about the area and the project. We hope that the project will:
- Improve biodiversity levels by planting a number of different tree species: We are working with an ecologist who will liaise with local community members to determine the most relevant tree species, and what the local community want to achieve in terms of forest restoration, water protection and agroforestry. The survey produced will also provide guidance for regeneration in the future.
- Increase horticultural knowledge in the community. We will be working with 50 members initially and this training will expand beyond pure horticultural knowledge and verge into the practical aspects of tree nursery establishment and the benefits of agroforestry.
- Inspire community groups to participate in the nursery and take responsibility. The ITF tend to work with Community Based Organisations as they have found that this provides a strong backbone to support the project over time. Therefore, we hope that community members interested in the project will form a Community Based Organisation in order to take the project forward.
- Identify key areas for restoration and afforestation in the Mara region: from the nursery we aim to plant seedlings in the conservancy along the Mara River. We hope that community members will plant on their farms for agroforestry purposes. Finally, we aim to plant seedlings in schools as part of the ITF initiative – ‘My trees and me growing up together’
- Implement pilot projects in the identified areas to test the different schemes. In addition to this, the nursery will be used as a demonstration site for continuous capacity building.
- Identify priorities for tree planting for agroforestry on farms and in schools. The benefit of sharing agroforestry in schools is that the knowledge will spread and children will take new ideas and concepts back to their families, enabling a knowledge pathway.
- Finally, support and encourage local community members to plant trees on their own land, increasing biodiversity and income, and enabling them to grow nutritious produce. Useful produce from the trees includes fuelwood, fruits, poles, timber and fodder. Additionally, planting trees will improve soil fertility, levels of organic matter, wind protection and shade – therefore increasing the overall efficiency of the land.
What is the future of the project?
Our main aim is that the nursery will produce approximately 1 million seedlings over the next 10 years. Over this time, we also hope to increase tourist engagement and look at upstream restoration. The tree nursery will continue to develop, and training will be ongoing.
Sustainable development is vital in today’s world and this is what we hope to achieve through Trees in the Wild.
Trees in the Wild Launch
This concept was officially launched on the 6th of August, 2019, at the Fishes pub in Oxford. We were overwhelmed by the support we received and could hardly fit in the Tipi! We received numerous inspiring and challenging questions which led to many thought-provoking discussions. One of the most rewarding moments was when Grace, a native Kenyan, stood up and presented her tremendous support of the project and highlighted the benefits she thought it would bring. The response from guests was incredible and by the time we went to bed that evening, we had already received a very generous donation. We are thrilled that Trees in the Wild has made such a huge impact so far and we are excited to watch the project develop further in the future.