Forestry Training & Finance for 600 Farms in Kenya

by Drylands Natural Resources Centre
May 28, 2013

Q2 2013 Update and Internship Reflections

Cistern number 28 is installed
Cistern number 28 is installed

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!


Daniel Pike,

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.

1c. Research

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. 

1e. Baskets

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.

Asante, Maarten

Making baskets from tree and bus fibers
Making baskets from tree and bus fibers
Maarten Rozendale, our current intern from Holland
Maarten Rozendale, our current intern from Holland
Maarten getting his hands dirty!
Maarten getting his hands dirty!

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Organization Information

Drylands Natural Resources Centre

Location: Nairobi - Kenya
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Nicholas Syano
Nairobi, Kenya
$39,344 raised of $60,000 goal
441 donations
$20,656 to go
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