Tree By Tree: Part II
GSA Intern Ava interviews Sam Mutua, an everyday sustainability hero who runs the Konza Greens Nursery project in Kenya - a program that plants trees and educates youth in partnership with 8 Billion trees.
In Part II of this blog series, Sam Mutua shares his thoughts on the challenges of climate change and environmental destruction, as well as some ways to address them.
“The #greenschoolsinitiative movement was put in place to educate the youth on the value of trees and give them an opportunity to appreciate how trees are interconnected with a sustainable environment for the future; a future that largely belongs to them.” - Sam Mutua
In Part I, Sam shared his upbringing and the inspiration behind his work educating school children in Kenya through tree-planting. In Part II, we learn of the impacts of climate change already being felt in Kenya, and hear Sam’s thoughts on how to tackle the problem.
Ava: Do you feel there is a lack of education about the link between climate change and droughts in nearby rural communities? If so, do you have recommendations for us to fix this? What would you like our readers to know?
Sam: Climate change has become a major concern in Kenya. Rural communities are struggling to cope with the changing temperatures and rainfall patterns and increased flood and drought risks. These changes pose a serious threat to food security.
At the same time, efforts to both adapt to and mitigate climate change can bring substantial development benefits for such communities. Indeed today, there is a big disconnect on the understanding of the changing climate and droughts. I see that especially among the rural communities living close to our tree nursery. This is partly attributable to lack of awareness on how their own human activities, especially in the cutting down of trees without planting more,have impacted the deterioration of their own environment. This has contributed to the long and recurring droughts in our area, which has seriously affected the livelihoods of many families.
To fix this problem, I would strongly recommend awareness/education about the critical inter-linkages between climate change and the recurring droughts that have continued to ravage our communities for years. This needs to be explained in simple language that the rural folks can understand and identify themselves with. Once this is understood, these communities could then be assisted to implement interventions that can contribute to reversing the prevailing situation. This could include: planting of trees, adoption of climate-smart livelihoods, introduction and promotion of energy saving cooking stoves (this will significantly reduce cutting down of trees – a key source of energy for cooking in most rural communities), and deliberate involvement of youth. Youth involvement in this process will ensure long-term continuity of the community climate adaptation efforts and interventions particularly, the planting of trees.
Ava: Why do communities cut down trees?
Sam: Poor families in most communities including in our area cut down trees to get wood, which is mainly used for cooking in most rural homes or prepare charcoal for sale. Charcoal trade is a source of income for many families who then use the money to meet their daily family needs, such as food and taking their children to school. This means that there is a tricky balance between survival of community livelihoods and conservation of the environment.
Unfortunately, this far, vulnerable poor communities do not have sufficient capacity to cope with, or adapt to, the adverse effects of extreme weather conditions, especially drought. Drought leads to low crop productivity, limited pasture for livestock and water shortages. This results in chronic food insecurity among rural poor households practicing subsistence farming in my community, and negatively affecting the sustainability of their livelihoods. This calls for deliberate intervention strategies to help these rural folks strike a sustainable balance between community livelihood survival practices and environmental conservation. Indeed, this could contribute in minimizing the impact of climate change in these communities in the long run.
Ava: How can this be fixed?
Sammy: The following are some interventions that could fix the problem of cutting trees in my community: -
∙ Promotion and supporting the planting of trees in community schools: Continue the education and creating awareness on the value and importance of planting trees – working with school pupils/students as change agents to their communities.
∙ Support schools to access sufficient planting tree seedlings – This will ensure that every student can plant and take care of at least 2 tree seedlings per year in their school compound. The expected impact- for example – if a school has 300 students, this will translate to 600 trees every year.
∙ Rain Water harvesting in schools: Support community schools to procure water storage tanks to enable them harvest rainwater from the roofs of their school buildings. This will provide drinking water for the students and watering of the young planted tree seedlings.
∙ Child support in education: Support school fees for children from extreme poor families to enable them to access education. Beneficiary communities of sponsored children could be encouraged to plant and take care of trees at their own family homes- looks insignificant but, collectively - it will make a big difference in addressing the impact of climate change in future.
∙ Support establishment of Climate Smart Villages in rural communities: Promote household water harvesting where each household owns a hand dung water holding structure (pond) for harvesting surface water run-off when it rains –The family will use this water to grow high value crops like vegetables etc under irrigation as a Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) drought adaptive farming strategy. These farmers could be supported with working tools, planting seeds and training on adaptive farming methods.
∙ Energy cooking stoves: provide households with energy cooking stoves to minimize the cutting down of trees for cooking energy.
∙ Support in marketing of women crafts from rural communities: Around our tree nursery we have 2 communities, the Maasai and Kamba. These women use different crafting methods as a source of income. For example the Maasai women craft and make handmade jewelry while the Kamba women weave baskets and mats. Money realized from these initiatives will go to economic empowerment of these women and planting trees in their community.
Join us for Part III of this series, in which we learn about the 8 Billion Trees project, and the impact of Sam Matua’s work with students in Kenya.
Follow Sam's work on instagram: @konzagreens
Learn more about his work with 8 Billion Trees.