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Dec 24, 2015 9 Min Read

To Know How Far You Traveled, Look Back

At Kijani, we are closing this year with a lot of gratitude and we are looking forward to having a lot of impact on the ground in 2016. It is easy to lose track of what you have achieved in the busyness of everyday operations. So we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the achievements of this year. As they say in Kenya: the best way to know how far you have traveled is by looking back.

At the beginning of the year, we had our first intern from Kenyatta University and held several fun days for volunteers and friends of Kijani. We also finally got legally registered as a tax-exempt NGO in both Kenya and Germany and strengthened the independence and focus of our operations in Kenya. The work on the ground is developed by David (our community manager) and Erick (our forestation manager), who work for Kijani full and half time respectively and advance our impact with great dedication.

The core of Kijani: David and Erick tending to our tree nursery in North Marmanet
The core of Kijani: David and Erick tending to our tree nursery in North Marmanet

We are very proud that Kijani participated in two major international forestry conferences this year. In May, David traveled to Germany to present Kenya at the Plant for the Planet Youth Climate Forum. There he connected with young people from around the world that are passionate about forestation to share experiences and develope a climate action manifesto. After the conference, David had an opportunity to travel to Berlin to meet German Kijani supporters and partake in delivering the manifesto to all the embassies in Berlin in preparation for COP21 in Paris. Being a youth organization is something unusual in Africa, but it is very important for us to empower young people to take the future into their own hands and take up responsibilities which allow them to grow. The fact that this focus has opened a lot of doors for us, confirms the importance of enabling young people to step up in Africa.

David with kids from Plant for the Planet, while handing over the youth climate action manifesto at the German Chancelor's office in Berlin
David with kids from Plant for the Planet, while handing over the youth climate action manifesto at the German Chancelor's office in Berlin

The other major event was Erick’s participation in the FAO’s XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban, Sout Africa this September. Kijani was invited as a representative of the African youth efforts in forestation and we gave a presentation in front of the whole panel on the Africa Special Day and shared our experiences during the youth workshops to motivate young people to get involved in forestry conservation as a way of livelihood creation.

One outcome of our participation in the conference was connecting with the World Resource Institute which showed great interest in Kijani’s work towards restoring degraded African landscape. This opened the door for us to become a founding member of the AFR100 initiative that was just started on the 6th December at the Global Landscape Forum 2015 during COP21 in Paris. The initative aims to bring under way the restoration of 100 million hectares of forest in Africa by 2030 to contribute to the just-signed historic commitment of the 195 nations which are dedicated to keep the temperature rise below 2°C. We are humbled to be in the presence of some of the most important stakeholders in forestry in Africa today in the AFR100 initative which brings together technical partners, impact investors, and governments.

Erick at the podium during his presentation at the FAO World Forestry Congress 2015 in Durban, South Africa
Erick at the podium during his presentation at the FAO World Forestry Congress 2015 in Durban, South Africa

Since our beginning, we at Kijani have seen forest restoration as an opportunity for livelihood establishment and empowerment of sustainable lifestyles and we have always focused on developing a sustainable model which goes beyond just planting trees and gets to the heart of the causes of deforestation. The AFR100 initative has been founded in the same spirit and it comes at an ideal time for us. We are ready to roll out the first phase of our restoration model in North Marment in the beginning of next year.

Our agroforestry pilot project is designed to restore forest and empower farmers in a simple and cost effective manner that could be transferred to other regions. We are carefully selecting 30 farmers who will each get an acre of land in the degraded forest area and receive training in conservational agriculture and on how to intercrop indigenous trees for better yields. After 3 years the piece of land is restored, we continue to plant more trees on it, and the farmer moves on to the next acre. We are also developing an effective system to monitor key impact parameters like soil health, growth rates, and income improvements. You can learn more in our comprehensive project plan. We are also developing a profit sharing scheme to ensure the financial sustainability of the model and are planning our second pilot project in which we will empower farmers to produce forest honey — this also has the side effect of protecting the reforestation area from elephants which fear bees.

A photo of the North Marmanet forest where Kijani will start rolling out the agroforestry pilot project in 2016
A photo of the North Marmanet forest where Kijani will start rolling out the agroforestry pilot project in 2016

As we are left at the end of this year to ponder the historic agreement of the COP21 in Paris aimed at unleashing actions and investments towards a sustainable green future; we at Kijani are convinced that everyone is called to take action and can make a difference. We encourage you to take a moment to reflect how you can change your lifestyle to conserve our beautiful planet and ensure that the global temperature rise remains below 2°C. Christmas should remind us to appreciate the amazing gift that this planet is to us and the importance of conserving it for our families.

You can also encourage the dedication of David and Erick in Kenya by giving us a little gift. We have received some initial funding to get started with the implementation of our pilot project next year, but we are still in need of some grant opportunities. Contact us if you have any leads or if you would be interested to intern or volunteer with us in Kenya. You can also support us by donating or buying a fine art print of a photo from Africa via out partner Photocircle, or by spreading the word about Kijani. Thank you so much, have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful start into the next year.

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