Dear Donors, Supporters, and Friends,
Thank you all for your ongoing support and interest in this project. We've had a very exciting quarter, with an expansion in the size and range of our activities, and many interns, students, and academic visitors from the US and elsewhere.
This field report contains a quarterly progress report (section 1) written by Executive Director Nicholas Syano, and a second piece written by one of our visiting interns, Maarten Rozendale, who joins us from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Maarten has been working on Monitoring and Evaluation for DNRC's forests and farmer plots, using GIS mapping and field surveys. He discusses his experience at the DNRC so far, and compares his internship here with a previous internship in Israel, where he helped an Israeli fruit farm secure export markets. Maarten has done some excellent work for us so far, and we're looking forward to seeing his final GIS map in a few months. Thank you Maarten!
Maarten is one of many interns and student visitors we've hosted at the DNRC, and we're always happy to consider hosting more. So if you know people who might be interested, please let us know!
In addition, please spread the word about our work and consider donating to help us continue our expansion!
Director of Planning
1. DNRC Progress Report Q2 2013
1a. Tree nursery
We will propagate 45,000 saplings this year, issuing 40,000 seedlings to our 400 farmers by the end of the year. The farmers will pay in installments at a subsidized rate of Kshs 3 per seedling. This program should generate around $1,500 in accrued revenue. The remaining 5,000 seedlings will be sold to non-members at a market rate of Ksh 11/sapling, generating around USD $750-850 of supplemental revenue for the DNRC. So far 30,000 pots have been filled with soil and planted. The remaining 15,000 will be completed with help from 16 students from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who will be visiting for 5 days during their PDC course in Nyumbani Village.
1b. Recruitment, Training and follow ups
DRNC aims to deliver to each community group at least one formal training per month on an ongoing basis. The following groups were trained on establishing a food forest: Maiuni, kyooni, iviani, kalimani, usalala, kivani, ivumbu,kimandi and kitandini. 70 new members have already been recruited this year, with the aim of recruiting 100 new farmers in total by the end of July this year. This will put us on track to have signed up 400 farmers before the end of the year.
This week Dr. Mai Phillips visited the DNRC to advice Nicholas Syano on his PhD research on the project and to explore the possibility of the DNRC hosting future student interns from the University of Wisconsin.
1d. Water harvesting
So far we have 28 cisterns of 10,000 liters installed. The water benefits farmers, as well as their extended family and neighbors, which strengthens the social ties of the community.
DNRC is working with the farmers to make and export baskets for income generation. Over 100 baskets have already been taken to the US for sale. Students from UWSP are expected to take more baskets to the US when they go back. This project is aimed to eventually include other traditional items like beads and carving, goods which preserve and employ indigenous knowledge.
2. Internship Reflections and Thoughts On Exporting, by Maarten Rozendale
My name is Maarten Rozendale, I study Agro-System Management (also called - Fair Trade Management) in the Netherlands and I interning in Kenya at the DNRC for my internship to get practical experiences for my future job.
I applied to intern at the DNRC because of Kenya as country and DNRC’s main activity; developing communities through agroforestry. I chose Kenya because it is close to Europe, compared to South East Asia and South America, the majority of the people speak English, and the infrastructure is good compared to other African countries. I like agroforestry because it improves the climate, the soil and the landscape. Many trees here cannot grow elsewhere in the world and those trees yield valuable products. Many people in the world want to have those products and so organizing exporting could be a great idea for DNRC in the future. In the next paragraph I will tell about my export experience from a country with very poor resources and let’s compare those with the resources from DNRC.
Last year I was in the south of Israel at the border with Egypt for my internship. Here in Mbumbuni there is 500-750 mm of rainfall per year. In Israel 95 mm/year. The water is in the North and is pumped to the desert through pipes. Here in Kenya you can buy an acre of fertile land for 50,000 KSh (~USD $800); however in Israel, it would cost more like a million KSg. It's easier to find farm workers in Kenya than in Israel as well. Despite this, if you go to the supermarket in Holland you'll find passionfruits from Kenya, but the lemons, oranges dates, mangoes, avocadoes, persimmons etc. come from Israel.
So how did they do it and how can we learn from it here in Kenya? The owner of the Israeli company where I worked was not even a farmer, but got professional farm training from the most experienced pomegranate farmers: He used seedlings of the best variety. The trees got water though irrigation. The fruits were not harvested until the fourth year for religious reasons. In the spring he applied artificial nitrogen in the water tank for fast vegetative growth. In May, they stopped with nitrogen and almost killed the trees by giving them extremely low amounts of water. The trees started to develop hormones to develop many flowers. The owner added potassium minerals though the irrigation, because trees and plants require this for flowering. In September the fruits became giant and each tree had many fruits, it looked even not realistic. I was asked to help with the farm's first harvest: The fruits needed to be harvested on a special way: No discoloring was allowed, no fruits below 300 grams were allowed, no insects were allowed, no foreign smell, no scratches on the fruits by accident. The fruits needed to be clipped carefully and in the box they were not allowed to squeeze each other.
My farm's export operation was very successful, but the neighbor who also exported his pomegranates to Holland didn’t fulfill the package requirements from the buyer. In Holland they needed to do it over and because of this he had to pay more than he got. This is the danger of exporting.
Here in Maiuni, I’m very thankful for the many good people I've met. Before I went to Kenya I expected to face problems with drinking water, food, and malaria, but my stomach is very happy here, and I don’t hear mosquitos around me. The people are faithful (as am I). The farmers are very open and friendly. My work here is to get GPS coordinates for mapping DNRC plots and I’m also taking many pictures. I’m learning a lot from the farmers by seeing their farms. I've helped to introduce new complement crops for their intercropping, such as pigeon peas and nitrogen-fixative trees. Daniel gives farm training and I hear many things about pruning, but the worst thing I see here is bark damage. The water and nutrients go to the leaves from inside the trees and the sugars go down to the branches, stem, fruits, and/or roots through the bark, so if the bark is damaged, the sugars cannot pass anymore and timber will be of low quality.
I've bought some Moringa seeds from the farmers. I hope to make oil after my study and try to get enough turnover to pay the farmers a good price. The farmers are happy, because right now the farmers leave the seeds on the tree or on the ground. As I wrote in the first paragraphs, the resources here are not the constraint on delivering exports - rather, the bridge between Kenya and Holland will be probably hard to cross, because of skeptcism and distruct on the part of investors and buyers. I believe that farm extension for Moringa trees can double the yield and also DNRC can motivate farmers to plant more Moringa as soon as the plan is fixed. However, even then, Moringa yields will be very low and collection points for more seeds in other areas of Kenya must be created.
The new seed varieties I introduced to the DNRC are:
- Albizia lebbeck; the best organic matter producer for arid areas and very good for firewood.
- Ceratonia siliqua (carob tree), roots can go up to 40 meters under the ground, the fruits taste like sugar and chocolate.
- Hylocereus undatus sent by an in Israeli professor. A special variety of custard apple.
- Punica granatum (pomegranate).
- And also four species of herbs; oregano, sage, lemon balm, and rosemary. Unfortunately germination rates were low, but some are successfully growing now and will probably be growing in the gardens of Nicholas’ family members, with the hope to get great crops which will only be available in Maiuni.
In July 14th I will fly back to Holland, but the internship will not be over. I spent two months before I went to Kenya drawing a map in GIS . Here I have collected more data and in August I can process it into the attribute tables of the farmers which are mentioned in the map by that time. The photos I took of each plot will then be linked to each farmer. I took photos of the woodlot owner and at least 3 photos of each woodlot. I expect the map to be finished at the end of September.
In sum, I think there are many market opportunities for the DNRC's farmers: Besides seed oil, the farmers are able to produce timber, mangoes, custard apple (Makueni is the best area for it), macadamias, passion fruit, Moringa powder, and much more for commercial purposes. But there must be financial support and a healthy bridge between Kenya and the rich countries who don’t have the climate to grow all those crops. I encourage you all to help build that bridge, and I thank the directors of the DNRC for hosting me.
Zach Engelking Conducts Three-Week Field Assessment
The DNRC's Director of Forestry and Community Resource Development, Zach Engelking, has just returned from three weeks on the ground in Mbumbuni, where he evaluated the health of the organization and the community across many parameters.
His overall findings were encouraging. The DNRC is operating well and our staff are performing heroics with the limited resources available to them. The health and growth of the trees planted over the last five years is very strong, and Zach was able to provide our members with the first trainings they have ever received in how to prune and manage their new tree assets. Members are beginning to see real economic benefits from harvesting their trees.
We face serious financial challenges however. We have now expanded our reach to almost 400 farmers, and are reaching the limit how many people we are able to serve without a main office and more staff. We are working to secure larger grants from the Rotary Club and others to supplement our GlobalGiving campaign, but if any of you are able to contribute further to the organization, it would be much appreciated.
So please, promote this project to your friends and family and encourage them to support us!
Zach's expertise is in forestry and resources management. And perhaps some of you are interested in the more technical side of what we teach our members and how we track their progress. As such, in this report I'd like to highlight in detail some of the excellent work Zach has done over the last few weeks in improving the scientific sophistication and effectiveness of our forestry program. He has has set in place Research, Measurement and Evaluation (RME) procedures to track tree survival and growth, and introduced new training sessions for members on how to properly prune and manage more mature trees. The initial round of trees we planted five years ago are now reaching the size and maturity that members can begin responsibly pruning them for firewood and charcoal, and Zach has been teaching them how.
Research, Measurement, and Evaluation
Research plots give us the ability to track the growth rate of different woodlots while monitoring a variety of important environmental factors. The DNRC will be revisiting and collecting data from each research plot every year or two. This will allow for better insight into how the members are managing their forest resource. In turn, it will give us the information necessary to quantify our achievements and continually improve our management strategy.
We will be introducing research plots referred to as "fixed area plots". Zach developed this model over the 5 years he spent managing similar plots for the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest Research Station in Forest Inventory and Analysis with the US Forest Service. A similar approach is used by the world’s largest forest inventory.
We get permission from our members to establish a permanent plot center with a piece of rebar a meter long that is pounded into the ground. We instruct the property owner not to touch and then still mark it with a GPS unit. On a plot card we record the GPS coordinates, elevation, the aspect of the plot in degrees (direction in degrees of where the slope faces ), the % slope, the history of the land uses, the management goals of our member, time of the year the data is collected, the cover type (is it agriculture land cover in corn and beans or a riparian area or a buffer zone, etc), and we draw a map of what the members property/shamba looks like. This is all vital information in looking at how the landscape has changed over time. This, coupled with questionnaire evaluating the social-economic status of our members, will be vitally important in showing where they were and where they stand after developing a resource based woodlot.
Training in Tree Pruning
In Zach's own words:
"Over my three weeks in Kenya I met with the 7 different groups: Maiuni, Ivumbu, Kimandi, Kyooni, Kalimani, Kivani, and Nduuni. I held lectures and hands-on demonstrations on proper pruning techniques. My objective was to be sure the members were performing proper pruning techniques that improve the quality, productive value, and overall health of the tree. I purchased hand pruners, pruning saws, pool pruners, and pool saws for the members to have. They need more saws, but I provided enough saws for each group to have a couple to share amongst each other. The main things I focused on, so as not to overwhelm the members, was dealing with just proper structural pruning, making clean cuts, and fruit tree pruning. With proper structural pruning I discouraged them from topping and coppicing their fuel wood and timber species. I encouraged them to do pollarding instead to manage their fuel wood species.
For small saplings of timber species I focused mainly on the removal of the weaker co-dominant leads until their timber species reach 1 inch or greater in diameter. At all stages of maturity it is good to only have one dominate leader for timber species. I observed that some were pruning too much and too early for timber production. This was in turn reducing the rate of growth, creating poor trunk tapper, and making the trees weak and top heavy. I made it known that when the trees reach 1 inch or greater at breast height they should only be pruning ¼ of the lower branches per year. I found it better to let the trees get established first before you start reducing the crown.This is not to say you shouldn’t prune for form (straightness) and shape (vertical vs horizontal growth) early on because the earlier the better it is for a tree to correct itself. For instance in the case of fruit trees you will want to start training them early for best results. I have observed the problem of over pruning in other organizations who have invested heavily in growing timber. The trees were left with less than 20% crown cover when it should have been more like 50%.
Instead of improving the growth of the trees (which it can if done properly), overpruning stunts tree growth, which ends up taking away from the productive value. Trees need good taper for a structural reasons and branching can help with this. If we remove the lower branches too early or we take out too much we will find our trees will not get good diameter growth and they may start to bow or sweep from being too top heavy. This is not to say we shouldn’t prune for timber because removing the lower branches is necessary. It is needed in order for us to get good veneer quality logs without knots affiliated with heavy branching. When trees reach saw log size the pith in the center takes up most of the area where we would be worried about knots forming. So that is why I said we should wait until the trees are between 1-4 inches in diameter before we start pruning for quality timber.
I emphasized pruning during the dry season and removing sprouts, dead/damaged/diseased branches, crossing branches, and inward growth toward the trunk. I recommended cutting back competing branches from other trees in favor of trees that are timber species. I focused on pruning for light and air penetration, especially on their fruit trees. I instructed them how to establish about 6 inch spacing between branches for better fruit production. I stressed the importance of removing vertical branching on their fruit trees in order to encourage more horizontal growth. While on their timber species they are to prune to encourage straight vertical growth. I showed them the steps involved in the 3 point cutting method needed to remove heavy branches to avoid peeling the bark and damaging the trunk. I instructed them on where the branch collar is and how to not cut into it.
These tree care techniques are extremely important for our members to perform from the beginning. This will reduce the maintenance needed on the trees as they get older while improving the structure, health of the trees, and increasing the productive value of their resource. Mwenda was very much able to grasp onto these concepts in such a way that I feel he will be able to follow up with these trainings.I hope upon my next visit that I will see my trainings have come into practice with all of our members.
Our members told me that they have never been instructed on how to properly prune their trees. I am sure this has a lot to do with the age of their woodlots, resources available, and their access to saws. If members continue to use pongas or machetes on the more mature trees they are sure to not make proper cuts damaging the trees and making them more susceptible to disease and structural issues. This is why it is vitally important for our members to always have access to good pruning equipment."
Tree sapling planting and distribution
The much awaited rains started to fall at the beginning of November 2012. DNRC was ready with a total of 32,200 tree seedlings (of 22 species) to plant. Immediately after the rains started, our over 300 farmers started coming for the seedlings at our tree nursery, so they could plant them in time to catch the first rains. Within the first week of the rains, we had issued 30,000 seedlings to our ever energized and engaged farmers. Each of the 300 farmers got an average of 100 seedlings. The seedlings cost Kshs each, on average. The farmers were able to pay Kshs 20,000 (US$ 240) immediately. The remaining Kshs 10,000 will be paid in installments over time.
DNRC also donated 100 tree seedlings to Maiuni primary school and 100 to Muthwani secondary school. The schoolchildren come from the same community as our farmers. After learning how to plant and raise trees in school, they will be more motivated to help their parents tend the trees they’ve planted at home. These donations also raise awareness and interest from families who haven’t worked with us yet. So it’s good for the school, good for the DNRC, and good for the families whose children attend the school.
Training and follow-ups
During the quarter, the farmers were trained in a range of forestry and farming techniques, with a focus on how to dig holes for saplings, add manure/ash and get ready for planting. Before the farmers were issued with the tree saplings, their holes were inspected and counted to match the number of seedlings to be issued. This is to make sure that farmers are committed to cultivating the trees (digging holes takes work and only pays off if the trees grow), that the trees have high survival rates, and that the seedlings are issued according to one’s ability to take care of them.
Three cisterns were funded during the quarter. The beneficiaries were Maiuni Primary School, which is building a food forest that will feed many children and need steady watering, and Mukita Nyolo and Tabitha kanywoki, in recognition for their outstanding woodlots.
DNRC priorities for the next few months
Last month the DNRC hosted 14 students and 2 staff from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point's Natural Resource Management program, from which I graduated a few years ago, as well as 20 Kenyan students and practitioners. Their four-day field visit was part of the permaculture course that I teach at Nyumbani Village (http://www.nyumbani.org/), a holistic care and teaching community for orphans who lost their parents to HIV.
Our guests were housed by community members, and participated in a range of activities over the four days they were here. Here's a quick overview of their stay, with accompanying pictures:
Day 1, June 8th: The group arrived at the local Primary School at around 3pm, where they were warmly welcomed by school administrators, teachers, community members, pupils and the DNRC staff before touring community members' woodlots.
Day 2, June 9th: Our guests toured more woodlots, led by the DNRC staff, then helped to install two cisterns for capturing rainwater. They donated one of these cisterns themselves; the other was funded by church-based non-profit based near the University of Wisconsin. Not afraid of getting their hands dirty, the group carried sand, gravel, water and prepared the cistern base, which involves digging and leveling the base for the cisterns. The day was crowned with a party full of dancing and singing that was organized by community members.
Day 3, June 10th: Our guests worked in the DNRC tree nursery to clean up and pot planting bags. (Potting involves filling propagation bags with soil). They were able to pot over 3,500 pots in one day, which was a great achievement and help.
Day 4, June 11th : Our guests finished their trip where they arrived - at the local Maiuni primary school. Here they established a food forest by planting fruit trees (passion fruit, papaya, mangoes and citrus) and complementary tree species (acacias, moringa, leucena, and others). They then returned to Nyumbani Village, but not before enjoying a feast provided by the best cooks from the community.
We're very grateful to our guests for all of the help they provided over these four days. They helped moved our project forward, provided clean water for two families, and made many friends in the process.
Thank you for your continued interest and support in our work. I'll be sharing a more detailed report on our progress over the summer in October.
DRYLAND NATURAL RESOURCES CENTRE (DNRC) JANUARY-MARCH 2012 QUARTERLY REPORT
Activities Conducted During The Quarter
During January-March 2012, the DNRC planned and executed the following activities:
The 2012 annual work plan is to propagate 35,000-40,000 tree saplings of at least 15 different species. This quarter, we aimed to propagate at least 10,000 saplings, but water shortages during the Feb-March dry spell constrained us. We were still able to propagate 6,865 tree saplings, and are confident we can cover the deficit by planning 13,000 saplings in Q2 2012. To take advantage of the late-March to May rainy season, which has provided above-average rainfall, we expanded the nursery, purchased a donkey to carry water, and increased the number of part-time laborers we have working the nursery.
So far, DNRC is working with 5 groups in 5 areas (Maiuni, Kyooni, Ivumbu, Kalimani, and Kivani). According to the work plan, each group is scheduled to receive one formal training session per month. During the quarter, 15 trainings were conducted by the Project Coordinator, Daniel Mwenda, with assistance from Executive Director Nicholas Syano. Nicholas explained how and why planting trees is a foundation for poverty eradication, and Mwenda discussed the details of pruning, establishing proper tree planting holes, live mulching and using nitrogen-fixing plants to improve soil fertility. In total, 234 farmers received this training. Our 27 new recruits also received an additional training welcoming them to the DNRC program.
Woodlot Establishment and Follow-Up
There were no trees planted in this quarter, because it was a dry spell. (Trees are issued and planted just before or during the April and December rains.) In Q1 we focused on visiting farmers at their properties to monitor progress and provide technical guidance and motivation as they manage trees they have already planted. During the quarter, DNRC staff visited 171 farmers, collecting baseline data to help track tree growth, health, and survival rates.
Our target is to recruit 100 more farmers this year to achieve a total of 307 farmers by the end of this year. We began the quarter with 207 farmers, and recruited 27 more over the quarter, putting us on track to achieve this target. Every indication suggests that as long as we continue to effectively implement the project, we will attract more than enough new recruits.
We received a donation of 3 cisterns which were installed by the whole group working together. This is unplanned activity and happens only when we get a cistern donated. It’s about $1200 for a 10,000 litre cistern, to buy, transport and put the fittings and gutters. It’s an activity that strengthens the community’s social fabric, as everyone comes together to install the cistern and also share the water with those without. The cisterns are given to those with the best woodlots. By the end of this quarter 15 families had benefited (15 cisterns were given out, one to each family). Those who have benefited contribute monthly to a fund that will contribute to purchasing more cisterns for more people. The beneficiaries during this quarter were Beatrice David, Wanza Muoki and Elizabeth Mwende.
The first three months of the year are the driest and most difficult for the families who live in the community we serve. Despite this, we were able to expand and improve our services and attract new recruits, and after April and May rains are back on track to meet our annual targets for seed propagation, training, and recruitment. Thanks to its hard-working staff, the strength and commitment of participant farmers, and the support of its donors, the DNRC is positively changing the lives of the people of Maiuni and demonstrating how to conduct poverty alleviation projects in drylands areas. Examples of practical methods that work in drylands are lacking, and therefore these marginalized habitats continue to suffer from extreme poverty and social exclusion. By experimenting and establishing best practices that work in the drylands of Maiuni, we are building a strong base for sustainable dryland development models that can be duplicated in other drylands regions. We look forward to continued steady growth in the second and third quarters of 2012. On-the-ground operations and recruitment are running well; the biggest risk we face right now is failing to reach our 2012 fundraising goals. This will be our main focus of our US-based staff this summer.
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