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Oct 19, 2015 6 Min Read

Don’t Throw Away that Seed!

Mom, don’t throw that away,” I heard Daniel shouting after I had tossed a mango pit into the compost bin.

“But I am not throwing it away,” I objected. “I put it into the compost like I’m supposed to.” I was trying to explain that I had done the correct, environmentally-friendly, thing.

“No, I want to keep it. I want you to keep all the seeds from this house,” he declared, showing me a specific bowl in the kitchen. “You can put them here.” “Okay,” I agreed, mostly to stop him from bothering me. But the next day I still threw a mango pit into the compost bin.

This time, after scolding me rigorously, he went through the compost — retrieving every form of pit or seed. “Why are you doing this?” I asked Daniel.

“I want to plant them,” he said, very agitated, as if to say, “Daaa — don’t you know why I want them?”

“Okay,” I agreed again.

The next morning I was cutting a papaya. Of course, I put the seeds into the compost bin.

“Mom, I TOLD YOU!!” Daniel was not amused.

“Surely not these,” I argued. “You don’t want to plant these, do you?!” He insisted that he did.

At that point I decided that as a responsible mother, I needed to give my 20-something-year-old son a good lecture. “You know, you can’t just take a seed and then — ‘voila’ — it becomes a tree. It is not that easy. I mean, I know you want to do a good thing, but that will need a lot of work. You have to get it ready, then plant it, then wait, and even then it will probably never sprout.” I thought I was protecting my naive son from future disappointment. He had nothing to say.

So it continued. I tried to get into the habit of keeping the seeds in the bowl. I complained when they started to get smelly, but Daniel would always collect them anyway and take them outside to the area where he had started a nursery. Soon after, we had a similar “go round” about used containers. Daniel wanted me to keep containers of every kind: old milk cartons, yoghurt cups, bread bags, honey jars — anything and everything. I grudgingly obliged.

The tree nursery in Karen, Nairobi after a few months. The seeds were taken from Daniel's home and from trees in the vicinity.
The tree nursery in Karen, Nairobi after a few months. The seeds were taken from Daniel's home and from trees in the vicinity.

About three months later, Daniel beckoned me. “Mom, come see!” To be honest, I had not ventured out to the nursery, and it was hidden behind some bushes, not easily noticeable. I could not believe my eyes: about 200 seedlings in assorted containers (yes, old milk cartons, yoghurt cups. . . . not a single one had been wasted)! Others were wrapped in stapled bags made from the used plastic that had been removed from our greenhouse due to wind damage.

The pick-up truck carries seedlings as a donation to Trees For Indigenous Health and Culture
The pick-up truck carries seedlings as a donation to Trees For Indigenous Health and Culture

“These are avacado,” he explained. Those were the most impressive, standing almost 2 feet high. “These are mangoes, and these are papaya,” he continued. There were also jacaranda, cypress and other varieties or exotic and indigenous trees planted from seeds he had taken from trees around our home. He had spent almost nothing, except his spare time, to nurture this impressive nursery.

Kijani donated hundreds of seedlings to IDEAS For Kenya for a rehabilitation intiative along the Nairobi river
Kijani donated hundreds of seedlings to IDEAS For Kenya for a rehabilitation intiative along the Nairobi river

This is just a taste of the inspiration, vision, determination and entrepreneurship behind Kijani Forests For Change. To date, Daniel’s little home-grown nursery has donated nearly 1000 seedlings to organizations and orphanages in Kenya, including Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG), Trees for Indigenous Health and Culture (TICAH), Children’s Garden and IDEAS for Kenya. Kijani has well over 2000 seedlings at their Marmanet project site growing from these seeds (mostly indigenous), which will be enough to cover 50 acres. Planting continues.

I definitely stand corrected — a big “well done!” to Kijani. (And you can be sure that now I save every single seed!)

This was first posted on July 10, 2015 on the Springs of Africa blog. Springs of Africa is an NGO promoting education, empowerment and environmental restoration in East Africa.

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