Nicholsons Trip to the Maasai Mara
By Niel Nicholson
As a company, Nicholsons are very keen to support charity and have 3 main focuses. Local educational support of deprived schools to help build forest schools. Supporting staff with individual charitable projects. And lastly to be involved with tree planting in Africa to combat deforestation and help climate change.
18 months ago I went out to visit a private project I was involved with in Kenya, where we were trying to support the Maasai people and engaging them on a new system of pastoralism. The purpose of this was to encourage better grazing and increased herd genetics, to reduce the pressure on the Mara and allow farming and wild animals to coexist, so increasing eco-tourism which is a much-needed income to the people there. See www.enonkishu.org for more information about the fascinating project.
While there, on the northern edge of the Mara, I could see the issues of severe overgrazing and the massive reduction in woodland cover in the neighbouring village and into the Mau forest, where they have lost well over 250,000 acres (over 25%) in the last 17 years! Where we were staying had facilities and an interest in conservation work, and so we discussed the possibility of starting up a tree nursery there.
Rosi Nicholson went out in early 2018 to make a start, find a site, purchase materials and build a fence, dig beds etc. She was assisted by 2 other members of the Nicholsons staff a few weeks later and they made unbelievable progress. The site was chosen, fenced up, water tank sourced and beds built. Since then they have grown a few trial trees for local community projects, as well as using the site for vegetable production.
I went out this January to take the project to the next stage. At least that was the plan. I met with some of the local people, and staff on site, as well as meeting a fascinating lady, Teresa, from the International Tree Foundation, who came up from Nairobi to give advice and will, we hope, help us in achieving the next stages:
- do a survey of which trees do well locally
- identify some demo projects we can do on the local school site and in a woodland situation
- source the seeds and get the project underway.
Once the demonstration sites are underway it will be easier to roll it out further. The village people were very responsive and I think will buy into the project. The scope of work needed is vast but every little counts.
Apart from getting the nursery going remotely, we will hope to set up an annual trip with staff from Nicholsons – this will not only help the staff engage in the project and help in its delivery but, will also give those team members an opportunity to see another country and culture. We hope it will be a long term project and that we will be able to see long lasting progress.