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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