More than 1 billion people live in ecological hotspots, where communities are closely linked to conservation of biodiversity. In rural areas, livelihoods depend on, and often put pressure on natural resources. This can lead to unsustainable exploitation – which has consequences for ecosystem and community health and wellbeing. CHASE Africa recognises that communities in the remote, rural areas where we work often suffer from ill health because of limited access to health services (including family planning) as well as poor nutrition, access to clean water and sanitation.
We seek to create healthier communities and ecosystems by bringing quality basic health services and family planning to remote, fragile environments, and supporting communities to sustainably manage their natural resources. The synergies of human and ecosystem health consequently improve livelihoods, food security and nutrition whilst at the same time conserving biodiversity.
How we work
We work through local partners in Kenya to work with communities on two types of project – forest restoration in degraded forest areas, and commercial woodlots in schools that bring a significant return on investment from the sale of timber.
We work with a local partner and the Kenya Forest Service to restore the degraded forests on the slopes of Mount Kenya which supports a vast array of flora and fauna. Large sections of the forest have been destroyed by illegal logging, settlement, and uncontrolled commercial tree planting. This reduces the ecological resilience of the entire ecosystem. Mount Kenya is a major water catchment, being the source of many rivers. As the forest cover has reduced so has water flow in the rivers and some now dry up in the dry season.
We use the Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme (PELIS) for forest restoration work. Community groups living close to the forest cultivate food crops during the first three to four years of the plantation establishment, until tree canopy closes. PELIS helps improve economic gains of participating farmers while ensuring the success of planted trees. Fuel-efficient wood stoves are awarded as prizes for careful and effective weeding, protection and management of the seedlings. Women’s groups grow and sell seedlings which provides them with an income.
The benefits of forest restoration on Mount Kenya are:
- Forest area increased and ecological biodiversity strengthened.
- Water catchment improved leading to more regular water flow.
- Members of community groups near the forest benefit from cropping while tree canopy is developing.
- Women’s groups grow and sell seedlings.
- Women’s groups get access to the forest to collect fallen branches for firewood, and harvest honey.
Each school will plant up to 400 trees on one acre of land. After just a year the trees stand almost six feet tall and schools can start using the trimmed branches as firewood. The trees are harvested when they are around 10 to 12 years old and often sell for up to 1.5 Million Kenyan Shillings, approximately £11,000.
The schools provide land for the woodlot, fence posts for the stock-proof fencing where it is needed and are responsible for planting and caring for the trees – something teachers, children and parents all get involved in.
Each tree planting project brings a number of benefits to each school:
- Cuttings from branches provide a vital source of free firewood for cooking school meals – often the only nutritious meal a child gets each day.
- Brings money into the school from the sale of timber – this money can be used to buy books and build classrooms, and also reduces the pressure on parents, who are already dealing with poverty, to subsidise school activities.
- Inter-cropping between the trees during the first 18 months provides food that the school and local community can either use or sell.
- Shows children how to grow trees, gives teachers the opportunity for practical environmental education and introduces parents to environmental issues via their children.
- Contributes to the sequestration of carbon dioxide, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change that disproportionately affect the poorest people.
- Offers shade and a pleasant environment for the children during the school day.
- Since 2006 we have planted over 130,000 trees in 220 schools
- Sales of timber to date have raised over £60,000 for school projects
- 66,000 indigenous trees restored on Mount Kenya forest