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.
It's been three months since our last report, when the rainy season in Makueni District was just beginning. The most important news is that the rains this season have been very generous, which is wonderful for our project and for all families in the surrounding area.
While the rains have been falling, we've continued to strengthen bonds between the DNRC, participating farmers and the surrounding community, while improving our education programs and expanding our capacity to grow in 2012. We're set to double our client base this year, and hope to raise an additional $3,000 to build our first office.
In December, we held a Christmas Party for DNRC farmers and community members. About 170 people came, enjoying two goats, chapati and sodas. Afterwards, Nicholas led a training meeting and people toured the woodlot of Lucas Munyao. The party was a huge success in terms of bringing people closer together and demonstrating the growth of the project to all involved. Everyone's already looking forward to our next party in June. Please see the pictures from the party below.
We also hired our third fulltime paid employee, Triza Mbinya Mutua, who is studying for a degree in Community Development at Daystar University in Nairobi. She will be responsible for administration and accounting, supporting project coordinator Daniel Mwenda, Nursery Manager Lucas Munyao and CEO Nicholas Syano as they plant saplings, train farmers and build relationships with the surrounding community.
In January, Nicholas Syano took 3 weeks leave from his other job to focus on training our new employees, meeting new client farmers, and improving our education curriculum. He also established a site, design and budget for the DNRC's first office, which would provide us with storage for equipment, seeds and files, as well as a central hub for interaction with the community.
We now have in place the team and the plan we need to expand in 2012. We aim to add an additional 100-150 farmers this year, bringing our total client base to 250-300 farmers by year end. We already have five separate geographic farmer groups, who Daniel Mwenda trains separately once a month. We plan to deepen our reach, rather than expand it, recruiting as many additional farmers as possible from within these five geographies before moving on to new villages. This will help keep costs down, and has many spillover microclimate benefits.
We also aim to raise $2,500 in additional funds to build our first office. We're looking to you, our many supporters, to assist us in this effort. Of course, any donations would be much appreciated. But in addition to that, we want your ideas and your energy! Please spread the word about the project to friends, family and other potential donors. If you have fundraising ideas, suggestions for grants we should apply for, or would like to host a fundraising drive in your community, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.
It's been three months since we successfully completed the GlobalGiving Challenge and earned a permanent place on the GlobalGiving network. We've now raised over $9,100 from 87 donors--from friends, family and colleagues, as well as academics, development practitioners and corporate donors. All of us at the DNRC are humbled to receive such a strong outpouring of support. On behalf of the entire team and the 150 farmers we serve: thank you.
So what have we been doing apart from raising funds? Well, it's been a busy 90 days in the field for Nicholas and his team. The Makueni district of Kenya, where we operate, is a semi-arid equatorial zone that has two rainy seasons - the drizzly and unpredictable "long rains", which usually begin in March and run through May, and the "short rains", a steady downpour that begins in late-October and runs until December. These two seasons provide over 90% of all precipitation that farmers receive all year; if our tree saplings were to have a good chance of becoming fully-fledged trees, they needed to be planted immediately once the rains began.
The first rains fell on the evening of Friday October 14th. After five months of training farmers and carefully nurturing saplings through the dry summer, it was time to get some trees planted! The next day Nicholas, our Nursery Manager Lucas Munyao and our Outreach Coordinator Daniel Mwenda began distributing 10,000 saplings to 150 households. (See pictures above and below of the Tree Nursery and excited farmers coming to collect their saplings!)
Farmers had designed their plots and dug the necessary holes beforehand, so it was simply a matter of getting the right saplings to the right people. We had 17 tree species for farmers to select based on their existing crop mix, farmer needs, and the species' different agro-ecological benefits. Our farmers are divided into 5 different groups of approximately 30 households, based on geography: Maiuni, Kyooni, Kalimani, Kivani and Ivumbu. Tackling the groups one-by-one (each of these areas is about 30 minutes walk apart), our team worked through the groups and successfully had all saplings in the ground by October 25.
We will continue working with these farmers over the next few months to make sure they are cultivating their saplings properly and doing everything they can to help them prosper. We'll continue training sessions in agroforestry and natural resource management, while recruiting more farmers and building up our accounting, IT, and monitoring and evaluation systems. We'll be hiring an additional staff member in January, who will be responsible for inventory, accounting, and project management. We are still working towards our eventual fundraising target of $25,000. Our next and most immediate goal is to raise an additional $2,000 over the next three months so we can establish an office for our growing team. Please help us take DNRC to the next level by telling your friends, family and colleagues about our work - we have only five months until the next rainy season, and we aim to be serving twice as many farmers by then!
Again, thank you all for your continued interest and support. If you have questions, suggestions or thoughts, please don't hesitate to contact us anytime.
Chas, Daniel and Nicholas
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