Schools engaged in tree planting
In 2013, KenGen Foundation and Better Globe Foresty started a forest planting project to combat desertification in Kenya’s dry and semi-arid lands, especially in the Seven Forks area. The project was designed to encourage and enable schools to participate in environmental activities by exploiting small forests and tree plantations, which brings several benefits to their surroundings.
In the dry and dusty surroundings of Kituis, Machakos and Embus, which are known for their hard and dry climate, primary and secondary school pupils plant resilient trees to improve their environment while reducing the effects of climate change.
The project called “Green Initiative Challange” (GIC) is aimed at the schools around Seven Fork’s power plant, run by KenGen (Kenya’s largest power producer). The aim is to increase environmental awareness and to foster schools’ and students’ engagement in improving their environment, by actively participating in the process and having their voices heard.
The schools that are participating in the project plant trees, such as the universal Senna siamea (muveshi), Melia volkensii (mukau) and Terminalia brownii (muuku), in school yards of 0.5 acres. Senna siamea is a growing tree with almost immediate benefits, since you can cut off the shoots (a traditional forestry technique that makes use of many tree species’ ability to shoot shoots from the stump or roots when they are cut down) that gives firewood, while Melia volkenstii provides commercially valuable timber.
The pilot project, which started four years ago, began with 81 schools. These already have their small forests and tree plantations that slowly transform the schools’ surroundings. The children who participated are proud of their small “Eden” farms that they created in their schools.
With Bamburi Cement Ltd. as a partner in Phase II, the GIC expanded its reach and turned into a ten-year project with the first 120 schools from the three areas.
The main goal of GIC’s expansion project is to make a total of 460 acres greener with 324,300 tree plants, on land of 0.5 hectares each, with both wood-fuel cultivation and commercial forestry, and enlist 1,000 schools throughout Seven Forks and its surrounding areas.
The final goal of the project is to increase the awareness and participation of the students in environmental protection and possibly increase the country’s forest cover from the current 7% to 10% as recommended by the UN Environment Program (UN Environment).
At present, the project has reached Phase IV, where 100 additional schools from areas Kitui, Machakos and Embu will get started. This means that over 400 now participate in the project. In this fourth phase, another 100 teachers and principals have also been trained in how to handle and manage these smaller farms in the school areas.
Additional annual capacity building sessions are held for all participating schools, which also includes exercises concerning monitoring and development.
The project is designed as a challenge for the participating schools, mainly due to the dry climate in the areas. Those who have the highest survival rates among the tree plants, and those who use innovative techniques to ensure the trees survive, are rewarded with prizes.
The top-performing schools receive scholarships and support towards infrastructure development in form of cash prizes, water tanks, rainwater systems, and harvesting systems.
With the latest enduring development goals in mind, GIC wants to raise awareness and participation of the school children, in terms of environmental protection with permanent care of the forest plantation; providing renewable sources of wood fuel, thus reducing the toll on surrounding forest resources; income sources diversification for the schools that are participating in the sale of timber and non-wood products, and fruit; contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases through carbon sequencing; and to control the soil erosion by increasing infiltration in the soil and thus reducing runoff.
Republished with permission from the magazine Miti # 40, Oct-Dec 2018. Original author: Apex Porter Novelli. The pictures comes from Better Globe’s customers who visited Kaewa Secondary School in the summer of 2018. Updated with new figures from Better Globe Forestry.