Kenya: Planting trees to earn income, protect crops, and prevent erosion (Ensia, AllAfrica)

| September 1, 2017

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Mary Gichuki is a farmer in Kiambu County, a few minutes’ drive from Nairobi, Kenya. She began planting fodder trees on her small plot in 2006. Since then, she has been selling tree seeds and seedlings, and educating other farmers on how to use them.

Ms. Gichuki says, “Farmers listen to me more because people have seen how the trees have lifted me from some level of poverty to where I am today.” Ms. Gichuki earns 6,000 Kenyan shillings (US $60) for each two-kilogram packet of seeds. She serves between 60 and 90 customers a month during the rainy season. 

Fodder trees are fast-growing trees that provide food for dairy cows and goats. The World Agroforestry Centre, or ICRAF, estimates that nearly a quarter-million farmers have planted fodder trees in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. 

Steve Franzel is an agricultural economist at ICRAF. He says: “[These trees] are important for helping farmers adapt to climate change because, being deep-rooted, they are resistant to drought and maintain high-protein green fodder during the dry season, when the protein level of grasses decline[s].”  

Mr. Franzel adds, “The trees are generally planted as hedges and often along field contours, helping prevent soil erosion.”

Small-scale farmers in western Kenya’s Siwot village have also turned to planting trees as part of their plan to increase revenues and improve living standards. Most farmers in the area grow maize, beans, and vegetables for subsistence, and coffee and sugar cane as cash crops.

In 2008, 46 men and women from the village got together to form the Toben Gaa Self Help Group. Their goal was to achieve prosperity for themselves and their community.

With help from ICRAF, the group planted trees and changed some farming practices. Trees now cover 10% of their village. The trees provide food, income, and firewood for the community. They also offer shade and shelter, and prevent soil erosion from heavy rain.

David Sang is a member of the group. He now has fruit trees and 200 grevillea trees that provide shade and act as a windbreak to protect his 1,500 coffee trees. His farm now generates income from fruits, vegetables, coffee, and milk. Mr. Sang says, “Our environment has changed, thanks to the trees we have grown on our farms.”

Rusi Cheruiyot now has a tree nursery on her farm, where she and her husband raise coffee, papaya, mango, passion fruit, and grevillea seedlings for sale. They have planted 400 trees themselves.

Ms. Cheruiyot says: “As a mother, I feel good and have no worries. My son was the first from this village to go to university. He is now a role model in our community…. I have achieved a lot with the resources I have. My living standards have improved and I have even built a house with proceeds from my produce.”


This story is adapted from two articles. The first, originally published by Ensia, is titled “How some African farmers are responding to climate change–and what we can learn from them” and can be found here: The second article was originally published by AllAfrica, and titled “Kenya: Smallholder Farmers in Kenya in the Race Against Climate Change.” To read the full article, go to:

Photo: David Sang and his wife. Credit: World Agroforestry Centre