Category Archives: kenya forests

Rockefeller helps Farmers cope with Climate Change

The Rockefeller Foundation involvement in Africa goes as far back as 1914 and one of their goals is to strengthen food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

Climate change is affecting food security and the current floods in Pakistan attest and African farmers are seeing wild swings in weather, coping with higher temperatures, less dependable rainfall, and experiencing longer droughts. In Kenya, the Rockefeller Foundation estimates that maize production could decline by 30% in the next 20 years.

Africa countries need to recognize their vulnerability to climate change as ½ billion people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, yet some governments are instead selling off buying tracts of productive land to other countries who are themselves investing to enhance their own food security through geographic diversification

The Foundation has thus made agricultural investments improve their productivity of farmers by reducing the risks they face through key innovations including

– Developing new affordable insurance products for small farmers & pastoralists that are indexed to weather; this encourages farmers to increase land & agricultural investment with the knowledge that they may be compensated if weather conditions adverse affect their harvest

pastoralists & their cattle camp in Nairobi’s kileleshwa suburb during 2009 drought

– Funded the World Food Program to develop a software platform to predict most destructive elements; Known as RiskView, it can be customized or every district in every country in Africa and allows governments and aid agencies to when and where a drought will occur.
– Funded Kencall to implement a national helpline for farmers, staffed by a team of experts to answer farmer question on climate change, seeds, fertilizer, agro-dealer location etc – this will help overcome a challenge many famers don’t try new techniques or seeds because they don’t have enough information to take a risk. The information collected will become a research resource even outside Kenya.
– Partnered with Kenya-based Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), in a $50 million loan program through Equity Bank’s ‘kilimo biashara’ program in which the Foundation undertook some risk guarantee enabling the Bank lend to small farmers at below market risks who take up other products like fertilizer weather insurance, and use the help line.

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Trees: a great investment

Kenya has a forest cover estimated at 1.7% and shrinking. Yet, tree planting is actually a great investment opportunity that has remained under-appreciated in many parts of the country.

Depending on how you space the tree seedlings at planting and when you harvest the trees, there is a market for them. After 3 -4 years, you can harvest and sell the trees at 1 – – 4,000 shillings each for firewood or from 5 – 8 years, you can sell them off at 6,000 shillings per tree for poles. This can translate to profits of between 1 million and 6 million shillings per acre ($13,000 – $80,000 per acre) all from an initial crop of tree seedlings that can be bought for about 10 shillings each. One also has to factor in the opportunity cost of not growing maize or other cash/food crops over the years on the land, but these tend to have high annual production costs. Also, one advantage of trees is that they can be planted on undesirable or uncultivated land.

Major buyers of trees include tea factories (who use firewood to process tea leaves), Kenya Power & Lighting Company, East African Cables, Telkom (for poles), and numerous saw millers and local wood vendors.

Two main ones are fire and pests/disease which can wipe out a mature crop of trees. Also one must also protect land from squatters, who may destroy trees for firewood, or to build homes in what they consider to be “unoccupied forest” land, or whose grazing animals may eat young tree seedlings.

Numerous advances have been made in research to speed up tree growth, and new fast-growing hybrids of trees from South Africa and Australia can be easily obtained. Some of the trees being planted around the country by enterprising land owners include Pinus, cypress eucalyptus grandis, and blue gum.

the Future
One farmer told me that he has no worries about funding his kids university education in ten years time and even recommended that parents should plant one acre of trees per child to cater for the cost of their upbringing and education.