Forest Day: Benefiting from the knowledge of neighbours

Group of people in front of a hut

Exchange programme between Kenyan and Ethiopian smallholders promotes forest and landscape conservation

An International Climate Initiative (IKI) project is facilitating the exchange of ideas and experiences between Kenyan and Ethiopian smallholders relating to agriculture and forestry practices. This enables them to find out about different ways of protecting against soil degradation and deforestation.

Portrait picture of a man

'I am very pleased that I learned more about the medicinal properties of the eucalyptus tree from the Ethiopians,' explains Kenyan smallholder Ndirangu Macharia. 'Like the Ethiopians, we can also benefit from these medicines,' he added. Macharia is 70 years old and has always lived in the green highlands of the Aberdare mountain range in Kenya. However, things have changed in the region since his childhood. The steadily increasing population has caused deforestation and land degradation to become a problem. Macharia is no longer willing to accept this and is therefore heavily promoting nature conservation in his community. He has now left his homeland for the first time in his life and travelled to Ethiopia in order to participate in an exchange of ideas and experiences among smallholders from Kenya and Ethiopia.

In addition to discovering the beneficial properties of the eucalyptus tree, he also learned how his Ethiopian neighbours make clean cooking stoves. 'I was very impressed by this. If our communities also built such cooking stoves in their houses, this would reduce air pollution and also lessen the destruction of forests for firewood.'

The Kenyan and Ethiopian environment ministries are project partners

The Catalyzing Forest and Landscape Rehabilitation for Climate Resilience and Biodiversity Conservation in East Africa project facilitated and organised the meeting. The project partners are the Kenyan and Ethiopian environment ministries. The Clinton Foundation and Green Belt Movement programmes are being implemented on the ground. The aim is to restore forest ecosystems and natural landscapes in Kenya and Ethiopia, which are an important carbon store and a key component in the livelihood of the local population.

Group of people on an acre

Up to now, the project has planted 467,800 trees to restore natural resources in Ethiopia. A hectare of degraded water channels were planted with aloe vera. The plant is used by the communities for soap products to generate additional income. Twenty-two community tree nurseries were founded in Kenya, which are managed by more than 300 community members. So far 100,000 local seedlings have been planted in demonstration areas and 18,600 in agricultural areas. The project also supports the mapping of 130 smallholder farms and land-use plans based on these maps.

Regular use of organic fertilisers

Portrait picture of a man

In the community where Ethiopian smallholder Enamo Fitamo lives, families are highly dependent on livestock. They use their milk products and meat either for themselves or for sale. However, chronic water shortages dominate the area. Fitamo learned new techniques for agriculture and keeping water clean through his participation in the Kenyan-Ethiopian exchange programme. He visited nurseries and areas under reforestation in Kenya and learned the advantages of organic fertiliser (compost): 'We don't use compost as regularly as they do in Kenya. I knew that it is used and I heard that it is good for the farm, but I wasn't motivated enough to do it myself,' admits Fitamo. His attitude changed, however, when he saw how the communities in Kenya benefit from it. 'This was a wake-up call for me to use it myself on my own farm and in my own community,' he explained.

Smallholders with new ideas

Group of people next to chairs in a tent

The Ethiopian smallholder Abreshe Edena Gale was very impressed by the intensive involvement of Kenyan women in protecting natural resources and by their active role as group leaders. She would like to introduce the idea of kitchen gardens to her own community, as an area where women can plant vegetables and fruits as additional food sources for their families. 'In addition, I learned various methods for protecting trees. For example, trees can be integrated into the growing of vegetables, and animals can also be involved - it is possible to work in the forest and with the forest,' she explains.

Text/photos: Dori McAuliffe (Clinton Foundation), editing: Elena Metz (IKI)