Growing Trees Network on Kenya

You can help establish Agroforestry forests with self-help groups in Kenya.

Price per tree: DKK 16 (2.15€)

In Kenya, we work with the Danish organization Seniors Without Borders (SuG), who since 2008 has been working to build self-help groups among poor farmers in the area around Mt. Kenya in the Shamba Farming and Ecotourism (SFE) project.

The self-help groups work with agroforestry, also known as the shamba method, where afforestation is carried out by combining agricultural crops with tree planting. This ensures that the soil is covered with vegetation all year round and prevents leaching of nutrients and erosion.

This means that small farmers can produce food for the household and feed for animal husbandry, while surplus production can be sold on the local market, and the trees in the long run provide income opportunities in the form of fruit, feed, and timber. In addition, it allows farmers to keep bees that need flowering trees and shrubs.

In the shamba system, traditional agricultural crops are grown and locally adapted tree species and fodder plants are planted, which are produced in a local nursery.

In the current planting project, it is with Rosemary Wanjiru, who for some years has built a nursery with trees and plants for many different purposes (picture 1 below). Rosemary is the initiator of a self-help group that engages young school students in the operation of the nursery and at the same time gives them the opportunity to earn money for their school stay. Trees are sold for the current planting project for DKK 16 per tree via the Growing Trees Network Foundation which also ensures 3 years of help and monitoring for the local farmers.

Watch video showing Rosemary's nursery here

SuG and Growing Trees Network offer a project that:

  • In the short term: creates employment that has great socio-economic significance for the local population.
  • In the long term: creates economically and climate-sustainable afforestation solutions.
  • Prevents climate / erosion damage and provides more fruit and feed for the locals.
  • Absorbs CO2 from the air and binds it in the wood in the form of building materials.
  • Via the network of self-help groups has a great spreading effect.
  • Contributes to meeting the UN's 17 World Goals.

The project is carried out locally by SuG with no unnecessary money or CO2 spent on flights to Kenya. This can only be done because SuG has a local representative in the area.

  • Companies can donate an entire forest or trees as part of an agroforestry system.
  • Through the webshop, private individuals can donate a number of trees which are planted together with other customers' donated trees in an agroforestry system.

Rosemary has water from a nearby river, and she has invested in a pump to get the water up to the nursery, where a "demonstration shamba" has been set up with the aim of spreading knowledge about agroforestry and organic farming in general. She has already received orders for trees from several self-help groups in the area for planting in a shamba system in 2021. Some farmers are also interested in planting a corner of their land with trees exclusively for timber and firewood. Therefore, they would like e.g. cypress, grevillea, eucalyptus and casuarina, which grow reasonably fast in their area. In addition, SuG recommends that farmers plant nitrogen-fixing fodder trees to help prevent erosions, provide proteinaceous leaves for animal feed, and branches for firewood. These forage trees are typically planted as hedges that can be cut down and grow continuously when done right.

See the Shamba system: agricultural crops / fodder plants and trees here

There are usually 2 planting seasons (March / April and September/October). In practice the planting takes place in such a way that Rosemary first goes out and shows the farmers where and how to dig the plant holes and fertilize with compost and maybe a little phosphorus fertilizer, so it is ready for planting when the rain starts. Then she and her young helpers come with the trees and help with the planting.

Subsequently, plant survival and care are followed up by the farmer, who has signed a contract for the care of the trees.

See the area on Google Maps here

The area, the population and the SFE tree planting project

SFE members live predominantly in an area west of Mt. Kenya classified as semi-arid. That means rain is erratic and does not always come when one expects it. Also food crops are unsafe as people cannot afford irrigation. The farmers' farms are very small. Approx. 80% of Kenya's population lives on such small plots of land. They produce food for the whole country but are grossly exploited by middlemen who come and buy the crops cheaply, and families often go to bed hungry if the drought time has hit particularly hard.

Reducing the plots by dividing between children has also meant that virtually all trees have been felled to make room for more food crops. There is a lack of wood for house building, and the farmers are very interested in fruit trees, which can supplement both the family diet and provide some side income, as well as trees with medicinal values.

The area is very hilly and soil erosion can move a lot of soil when it rains a lot. By planting trees along the contours of the hills, you will be able to avoid a lot of erosion as the trees grow. It has been proven in many areas of Kenya that by planting many trees one can attract and retain water without the current erosion damage. Farmers in the area are very interested in planting trees for all these reasons, but can not always afford to buy even small trees for planting. They also do not always know exactly how to best make trees grow, so there is a need for guidance regarding tree species selection / care and follow-up with good advice.

Tree planting will also support and enrich the local fauna and increase biodiversity, as well as create opportunities for more income-generating activities that can sustain some of the young people in the area. In addition, many of the farmers are interested in keeping bees, which need flowering trees and shrubs.

In the SFE project, SuG - from the original 12 to now 28 self-help groups - has worked with many different activities; but we have not yet met farmers who were not interested in planting trees. However, many do not have much space on their small plot of land, so they will typically prefer to plant a few individual fruit trees, which should be possible in the current agroforestry project.

Initially, we will focus mostly on timber trees and fodder trees (which can hold on to the ground and fix nitrogen) as well as the fruit trees that are easy to propagate. The more complicated fruit trees will come second.

More self-help groups can expand as donations to the new agroforestry forests increases. Questions can be asked to:

Frans Theilby, Senions Without Borders:
Mobile: +45 61 50 04 25 - seniorerudengraenser.dk

Lars Heiselberg Vang Jensen, Chairman, Growing Trees Network:
Mobile: +45 40 15 35 94 – lars@growingtrees.dk