A small village in Nyakach constituency is rewriting the history of the area, one seedling at a time.They are not only greening the environment, they are also earning an income in the process.
Propelled by the desire to empower the community through tree planting, 10 youth and women groups that were initially doing different economic activities came together to drive the project.
The sub-groups — Bomosa, Ragen Agriculture, Kolik, Kameso, Bie jagedo, Jitahidi, Era Mogen, Kochieng Odongo and Oloo Women Group were previously engaged in table banking before they merged to champion for tree planting.
A dam constructed by one of their members and their little financial contributions made it possible for them to start the project in 2011 in Kabodho location. They later registered the group as Rural Organisation for Just Environmental (Roje) Community Based Organisation (CBO).
“We thought it was wise to come together and find ways to exploit the potentials available locally and this led us to start a tree nursery,” says Jared Akuku, the CBO patron. Akuku says the idea was great, but their major challenge remained water shortage since parts of Nyakach are periodically dry.
He states that most of the seedlings could dry up at the initial stages of the project’s implementation during the dry season, making them incur huge losses. This forced them to shop for an alternative way of sourcing and storing water, especially during the dry spells when even the dam almost ran out of water.
They turned the challenge into an opportunity by writing a proposal to Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (Lvemp II) requesting for funding.
Things took a new twist in 2013 when the group received Sh3.5 million as first funding from Lvemp. The funds released in instalments went into scaling up and sustaining the tree nursery production.
Akuku says some of the funds were used to purchase three tanks of 1,000 litres each for storing water used in watering the seedlings. He says they started with a few seedlings, but were later encouraged to expand by an increase in demand of trees. “Our production was boosted with the funding we got.
Today, we boast of three different tree nurseries,” says Akuku. Roje earns good income from the sale of seedlings, each going for between Sh10 and Sh50, depending on the variety of the tree. Currently, from the three tree nurseries the group is able to produce an average of three million seedlings annually.
“We produce throughout the year because the problem of water shortage is now solved,” says the patron. Akuku says through the project, residents have started planting trees since they are able to access the trees.
“The locals are happy with the idea of setting up a tree nursery here. The majority have bought trees from us and planted around their farms because they now have the seedlings within a close range as opposed to when they used to travel about 25 kilometres to Ahero to get them,” he explains.
Apart from the residents, local schools and county governments are some of the institutions who frequently come to buy tree seedlings at Roje. Akuku says the project has economically empowered the group members, citing a savings and credit programme as a product of the project.
“Due to viability of the project, we are now able to take care of our families and pay school fees,” he says. Last year the group shared out about Sh600,000, with each share worth about Sh200.
Currently, the group has about 240 members actively involved in the tree nursery work to earn a living. From the proceeds of the sales and additional support from Lvemp, they also started a greenhouse horticultural production. Besides the tree nursery, the group also ventured into dairy goat and poultry keeping.
From these enterprises, a total of 14 goats and 200 birds were shared among the members. The patron says 10 per cent of the income generated from the sales of the seedlings goes to the group’s account for maintenance and other projects.
“The group members receive collective training but our policy is that each must participate in the actual work,” says Akuku. From the proceeds, he says they have also established catering service and bought tents and chairs for hiring to boost their kitty.
As part its environmental conservation interventions Roje has built eco-toilets in four local schools to improve sanitation.