Communities in Embu County, Mount Kenya have been busy planting trees and improving their skills as part of the ITF (International Tree Foundation) 20 Million Trees Campaign, an appeal we are proud to support.

Between April and June 2018, 42,000 trees were planted in degraded areas of the Mount Kenya Forest Reserve, bringing back the native forest. This tree planting is undertaken by communities who live adjacent to the forest.

Organised into ‘self-help groups’, a small community social enterprise, local farmers gain an additional income from raising and selling seedlings to support the 20 Million Trees Campaign.

These self-help group members are first and foremost farmers, growing vegetables, tea and rearing animals. And as part of the project, they are also planting more trees on their land.

Dionisio Muthoni is one of the farmers who has benefitted from planting trees on her land. Dionisio is 67-years old and farms an acre and a half in Kathangariri village, home to one of Embu County’s many tea factories.

Dionisio has been involved in the project since 2016. Since then, she has been able to plant many trees on her land, obtained through her participation in a tree nursery self-help group. Dionisio also attended training with ITF’s local partner Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation. She gained an understanding of agroforestry, the useful integration of trees into farming systems.

Since then, Dionisio has planted passionfruit, tree tomatoes and grafted avocados on her small farm. She has already started selling tree tomatoes and passion fruits, which mature quickly. The avocado trees will take a little longer to reach maturity. But through acquiring grafted fruit trees, it will take just 2-3 years to get a crop compared to 5-7 for a non-grafted tree, and the yield will be higher.

In fact, grafted fruit trees are in high demand and can be expensive. Not only is Dionisio planting the trees on her land, she is also learning how to produce them herself as part of her activities with the self-help group. These grafted seedlings will then be sold to other farmers, making a profit which is reinvested into the group. The groups’ income is then offered to members as small loans to those farmers looking to invest in new tools or materials, set up a new business or send their children to university.

Fruits are not the only species that Dionisio planted. She owns cows and was eager to take advantage of the knowledge gained through training sessions. She planted Calliandra and Sesbania trees, which provide edible leaves she can feed to her cows. This means that Dionisio is less reliant on grass cut from the forest, which is where she used to walk regularly to collect it.

Wessanen UK has been a corporate partner to ITF’s 20M Trees for Kenya’s Forest Campaign since 2016.

ITF is helping hundreds of farmers like Dionisio to learn about useful tree species and how to grow them on their farms. This can transform small plots of land into abundant and diversified farms, supporting rural families and reducing pressure on natural resources in this densely populated area of Kenya. 16,335 trees have been planted on farms since April.