Lives have been changed and a vast area is being regreened thanks to the dedication of the group of women.
By Marion Aluoch
It is often said that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks but members of Chongoo Cheptengis Okilegei nursery group in Elgeyo Marakwet County are challenging this.
Julia Siloi, 48, has been taught new tricks for growing trees and is flourishing. A member of the group, she finds joy in being part of the nursery, tending to the seedlings diligently. From the proceeds from the sale of the tree seedlings, she has been able to transform her life and mindset.
This behavioural change did not come easy. Julia’s main source of income came from making local brew. When she was approached to join the group, she reluctantly agreed to it.
‘I thought it was too much work and I did not see the need and the importance of trees,’ revealed Julia.
The Chongoo Cheptengis Okilegei nursery group, which was established in 2016, embarked on a journey to improve and conserve the environment around them. Armed with limited information on nursery establishment, the group used local knowledge to establish their nursery. With time they found themselves incurring losses as they hired people to support and do grafting for them.
To ensure a successful nursery operation, in 2019 the Regreening Africa project, through World Vision Kenya, organized training for the group on better tree-nursery management, vegetative propagation and marketing and business development to inspire income generation and self-reliance.
As a result of the capacity building, the group improved their own nursery production and extended the skills and knowledge to 47 other nursery groups in the county through peer-to-peer learning on tree nurseries as a business. The group also gets support from the County Government of Elgeyo Marakwet, Kenya Forest Service and the private sector through the sale of seedlings.
‘This business helps in environmental conservation and we encourage more people to plant more trees,’ stated Agnes Cheptoo, the group’s chairperson.
The group boasts a variety of tree species in the nursery, like grevillea (Grevillea robusta), cypress (Cupressus spp) and fruit trees like avocado and tree tomatoes. The indigenous species include Olea Africana, Prunus africana, ‘podo’ (Podocarpus latifolius), cedar, rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) and giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus giganteus).
Julia has found her calling and passionately engages in taking care of the nursery.
‘This initiative has changed my life completely,’ she declared. ‘I am now able to take my children to school without struggling, there is peace in my home, and I have also built a permanent house, something which was way out of my reach before.’
Armed with knowledge and determination, the group’s vision is to increase tree cover in the County.
‘As residents of Elgeyo Marakwet County, our aim is to plant 2 million trees by 2030 and increase the county’s forest cover by at least 10%,’ said Agnes.
To ensure sustainability of their establishment, the group offers training within the county and mobilizes tree planting activities in neighbouring counties. They also encourage youth to join their establishment.
World Vision through the Regreening Africa program has built on successes of existing restoration programs in different counties, including Homabay, Migori, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Isiolo, Laikipia, Nakuru and Samburu. The program seeks to reach 50, 000 households and have 150,000 hectares under restoration by 2022.
This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Regreening Africa and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.