One of the environmental initiatives Northern Energy is supporting through its carbon offsetting programme is a reforestation project in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. This well-established project has continued its mission to plant hundreds of thousands of trees, despite the issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Kikuyu escarpment forest is part of the world-renowned Aberdare National Park in Kenya. Its thick forests and vegetation are home to large herds of elephant, buffalo, monkeys, game and are rich in bird biodiversity. Over the years, trees in this area have been destroyed through charcoal burning, logging and over grazing and in some areas of the forest, the vegetation has completely disappeared. This has resulted in the drying of rivers, erosion of soil and loss of wildlife. As resources have become sparse, local communities have clashed, many people have been injured and families have been displaced. This tragic loss to the environment and threat to local communities also has a financial impact, with local income from tourism lost as a result.
The Kenya reforestation project aims to plant hundreds of thousands of indigenous trees in the worst degraded areas of the Kikuyu escarpment forest. As well as the clear environmental benefits of planting the trees, the associated social and sustainability benefits are plentiful too:
- Reducing poverty through the creation of jobs
- Conserving water sources
- Conserving wildlife habitats
- Providing healthy, sustainable food sources from some of the fruit trees planted, such as avocados
- Reinstating ecotourism
- Creating pastures for animals belonging to the farming communities
The results so far
Carbon Footprint, Northern Energy’s carbon offsetting partner, has been working with this project for many years. Wendy Buckley from Carbon Footprint said: “We have been working with the team in Kenya over ten years and have planted well over 200,000 trees. It is fantastic to be supporting a project with such excellent opportunities to provide wildlife habitats and enrich the lives of those in the surrounding communities. The team will be delighted with Northern Energy’s ongoing contributions.”
The Project leader, Mburu Waiganjo, tells stories from the local community which once was dependent on selling collected firewood for survival. These people are now sustainably employed as forest defenders and cattle owners and are selling fruits grown on the new trees and honey produced by the bees attracted to the area in flowering season. The trees are surviving well and other community-based organisations now visit the initiative as a benchmarking project for others across the country. The landscape is flourishing once again with an abundance of bird species, chameleons, butterflies and antelopes.
Planting trees during a global pandemic
2020 started well for the tree planting project, with plenty of rain enabling continued growth of the trees and usual seasonal maintenance taking place, such as spot weeding and removal of vines that can choke the trees. In March, Covid-19 hit Kenya and the project was put on hold in order to adhere to government’s ‘stay at home’ orders. 10,000 trees were ready for planting at this time with the ground prepared. During the lull, many of the holes became waterlogged so preparation needed to take place again but in May, the team was allowed to return to the forest, abiding by strict protocols. The 10,000 trees were eventually planted and another 10,000 prepared. The community involved has also credited the tree planting project with giving them the financial resilience to manage the pandemic. Tending to the farm animals and working on the reforestation project, when allowed, provided an income and having the natural resources such as the fruit from the trees to eat gave the community the necessary infrastructure to manage the pandemic. Long may the tree planting continue.