Tree By Tree: Part II

Konza Greens Tree Nursery
Konza Greens has planted over 3000 trees, compensating 562,000 kilograms of CO2!

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.



Posted by Ava Hedeker on Feb 1, 2021 9:30 AM America/Chicago

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