Kenya: Dust to Dust! Planting trees to Stop the Desert Encroaching on the Cradle of Humanity!

Majestic Acacia Tree

We just returned a few days ago from our amazing immersion experience in the Great Rift Valley village of Enkutoto Nalala in Kaijiado County in Kenya Africa with the great warriors, the Maasai people.  All of us learned about each other and how to work together!  We begin a new story and all of us feel so dedicated to to regenerating the soils and trees of Kenya,  the cradle of humanity. We have no time to waste, The desert is fast encroaching and we must ACCT now before all of the giraffes and elephants and yes, humans go extinct.  After what I witnessed in Kenya, the clear drying of soils and disappearance of species and struggle of humans to live with very little water, I have even more faith  in the path we are being called to walk, building foundations with Dalmas Tiampati and the Maasai community. Together, with our sponsors, we can make a positive difference one tree at a time.

Planting trees feels great!
This elephant communicated with us!! More trees please!!

Deep listening and communication to build a solid foundation is KEY to ACHIEVE OUR GOALS for wide scale growth of our fair pay reforestation model. Understanding the local culture with the respect we feel for the Maasai people drives us to be more patient and witness and adjust to the process as it unfolds. Starting a new project in a new country has required all of us to focus and adapt while practicing deep intuitive listening, Everyone demonstrated patience and responsiveness and together, using the basis of the Community Carbon Trees model, we successfully responded to the cultural differences from Latin America and we developed a workable and easily managed action structure we can all follow through on long term.

Mind mapping our Reforestation model!

The Africa replication is special because Dalmas Tiampati is working through the Massai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism simultaneously to encourage better holistic pastoral grazing for the recovery of dead soils and improved grass regeneration which is so important for the survival of local Maasai livestaock and lifestyles. So we incorporated new elements to achieve better results for holistic grazing along with the tree planting work. Our longterm plan includes building large expanses of moveable fences paid for labor and materials to allow pastures to rest while the trees are getting established. Protecting the trees from the livestock for a few seasons is necessary in combination with resting soils from grazing, we can accomplish multi level benefits and stop the desert from expanding. Later when the trees are established, the farmer can move the fences in order to isolate other pastures from livestock so they can rest and re-grow healthy grasses. This is an innovation that will make a difference for the Maasai people and can be replicated widespread throughout the developing world.

Trees for Education!!!

At Community Carbon Trees, we always focus on human rights which means fair pay for tree planters. We look at the whole society as much as possible and try to respond to what the community actually needs! In the case of the Maasai clans,  we also grew a new branch of our ACCT model to provide for educational scholarships for YOUTH.  Both men and women and older teenagers working in our community programs will be given a stipend for education for every quarter to offset expenses for 2 children of every worker. Teenagers are directly supported with their own school funds for working in the project during breaks from school.  This way kids can go to school, which is quite expensive in Kenya while rewarding the local farmers and workers for trying something new with reforestation and holistic pastoral grazing practices. Economic incentives really do work long term and change consciousness as do circular economies based on long term tree care and growth. We aim to be as successful as ever as we continue to replicate across the globe to different cultures around the Equator struggling with water, climate change and empowerment. Educational opportunities for youth are always key to a better future.

After really getting to know each other and planning it all out including budgets for wide scale replication per family farm, administration and accountability, and fair pay and participation with peer oriented, horizontal supervision, freedom and management,  we actually implemented our work in Kenya with ACTION…. That’s right!!  We planted 100 trees already and enjoyed a great day of capacitating workers together in the field.  We are sending more money today December 20 to the villagers who are planting more trees, another 100-200 native species to complete a watershed planting project in the village. This is what  what we do… pay people to plant trees and eventually when we have sufficient funding we will build a nursery and pay people to seed collect, make compost and produce rare native trees in their own village. We spent all of our time observing and learning about the local trees and vegetation growth, figuring out what the area needs in terms of agro-forestry systems and regeneration, how to help conserve water in the zone and grow fertile soil and  food sovereignty.  

Everyone was paid and learned a lot through the process oriented tree planting hands on capacity building led by Tree Jenny. As the Maasai community plants more trees  in the coming weeks, they will be applying what they learned and continue with local community leadership with Dalmas Tiampati. These initial pilot plantings are important as we prepare and look forward to following their progress and learning where we need to adapt further both in effective delegation and community empowerment and management as well as highest survival rate possible for the trees. Forward! 

We give our most heartfelt thanks to our amazing Green Dream Tree Team composed of an international cast of intriguing and intelligent , heart filled and dedicated characters. Dalmas Tiampati, the founder of the Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism is a visionary who has made great progress in spreading the word about the need for holistic grazing practices with surrounding Maasai clans as well as governmental officials in Kenya. Dalmas effectively advocates and implements holistic grazing rotation of  goats, sheep and cows so critical to the Maasai culture and survival. He travels to nearby communities and more widely meets with government officials and forestry representatives to champion reforestation as part of a regenerative pastoral system. After all, better fodder for livestock also reduces the carbon footprint as part of the full waster cycle.  Attracting and supporting the fast dwindling species of the Kenya wildlife like giraffes and elephants by planting some fo their favorite food trees is also important to Dalmas as he seeks to create an example of a healthy ecosystem supporting all creatures great and small.

Dalmas Tiampati Founder and Director of Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism

Elena  Vargas is a calm and patient, resilient community educator from Costa Rica who brought all of her skills to play during the three week working adventure in Kenya. As an independent consultant with our organization, Elena is a Biologist who specializes in community relations in conservation and environmental education. As a biologist, Elena offered information that was useful at every turn. From reminding us what environmental amnesia is, to being the one who discovered that Ipomeae plant could be used in our women’s fertile soil bokosha compost, Elena was an asset in every way. She even turned all the kids on the bird watching and nature hikes!

Elena is a great systems thinker and was instrumental in getting our plan across!

Elena Vargas taught the whole community about birdwatching !!

And what a discovery Elena made! To be sure, Ipomeae is  an invasive species toxic to the animals and harmful in large quantity for regeneration of grasses and  soils. But Elena discovered that this invasive plant has potential to be used as a green manure. Stacking functions is a tenet of permaculture and we love that we can slowly remove this toxic plant while putting it to good use in our fertile soil compost  project with the Maasai women of the village.

Digging out the Ipomea with the women will serve multiple purposes!!

How perfect, the women will be paid to dig out the Ipomeae by the roots, while chopping up its leaves for use in our nitrogen rich balanced bokosha soil. The plan is perfect since we do not want to remove this plant  in large swaths due to increased drying of uncovered soils in the Equatorial sun which only leads to more desertification. So, we must remove it in patches and gently aloow areas to recover little by little.  Additional research is necessary, like whether the plant leaves are suitable for compost for human gardens. We will continue our investigation into these and other questions as part of  our social tree planting replication and establishment of baseline studies and documentation of results.

Collecting dry leaves with the Maasai women for making Bokosha compost!

Making balanced soil for the future tree nursery and for organic home gardens with nutritious food!

We could not have achieved this first African replication with the Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism without the generous support of Franck St. Loubert. Not only has he donated generous financial support to our cause, he has also played an important and active role in working with us and the Maasai communities while in Kenya. The group intelligence was strong with Franck’s presence and participation throughout the Mission.

Franck St. Loubert saved the day w th the POLYTER product to reduce water dependence for growing trees!

Indeed, Franck helped us deal with one of the most difficult aspects of achieving tree growth success which is the lack of rain and drought conditions Lots of people have asked me what we plan to do about the desert conditions, the drought, the lack of ground water and rain. As the universe showed up to support US at more than one turn, Franck had a solution. Or maybe we should say Franck’s friend Phillipe had a solution! Franck orchestrated and hauled down a product called POLYTER donated by his friend Phillipe. This amazing world famous non toxic gelatin type forming pellets help the trees to resist drought and grow stronger roots for better chances of survival, with 60% less WATER! Amazing for desert reforestation projects like this one in Kenya.  We activated this miraculous Polyter product with most of the trees we planted, of course, leaving a few trees untreated to test its effectiveness.

Tree Jenny Cannot resit swinging the pick to plant with the Maasai People!

During our time actually planting trees with the herders, we saw the local people connect deeply with the POLYTER product, probably because they have already been personally ravaged by the effects of a 3 year drought which only ended about 1 year ago. We did not have to convince anyone about the importance of using this product. Everyone wanted it!! We look to achieve outstanding growth rates through good follow up care and the help of this miraculous POLYTER product donated by Phillipe and Franck.

Luckily Elena had already worked with this Polyter product before in Australia which was a blessing! When it came time to mix it up and demonstrate how to use it, Elena was  already one step ahead and ready to implement the use of the POLYTER effectively. Like I said, we had good synchronicities the whole time we were there.  . It even rained just enough the two weeks before we planted and the ground was fairly soft and moist. The soils were dark and fairly cool and we anticipate good results for our first ACCT-Maasai trees in 2018.

The best part of our Mission, of course,  were the human relationships we formed and will continue the coming years. The village welcomed us with such open arms, thanks to Dalmas Tiampati and his family and neighbors, we will never forget these times. There are no other steps quite like the first steps on a new journey. We stepped into the great unknown and were received with so much love. All the questions and doubts and even fears have been investigated and so many obstacles surmounted. We are ready to go forward and work together, face the challenges and make the trees we plant together count for future generations.

We will be documenting every step we take. Notably, we have already begun a baseline study, complete with drone footage thanks to Franck and his expert piloting skills, which by the way, really “wowed” the Maasai people who were lucky enough to be around when the drone was flying above the village.  It’s good to have footage to show the area, its current condition at Year 1. We also focused on the deforested water drainage zone riddled with erosion and excess water evaporation. We can show where we have already begun planting trees this year and the gradual positive effects over time. Creating proof positive of the benefits of silvo pastoral systems is critical to large scale replication and scaling up and out this fair pay model for afforestation in the most needy zones around the Equator. 

The reality of the situation in Kenya hit us hard! What stood out most for me personally was the complete absence of trees in so many areas, or trees so hacked by needy people for branches to build fences or make charcoal or firewood. Many trees are so hacked away that it is obvious they are dying and  only have a few years left to live. We saw humans and animals and soils in dire need and subject to ongoing encroachment of the desert. Have you heard? The great iconic animals are in trouble. The giraffes are going extinct. We just posted this news on our facebook page so go check it out!  Its pretty depressing. I could almost feel the pleading from the elephants who looked me in the eye with this sad face of surrender. I felt this while as I there and vowed to never give up! We only saw 3 giraffes the entire time. Of course, Giraffes eat Acacia trees. And if there are no trees, there are no giraffes.

Poor giraffes! No more trees means no more giraffes!! They are endangered NOW!!

It was incredibly intense to witness climate change in all of its destruction, the negative effects of drought and poverty and the clear dwindling of species, especially some of the most iconic animals still roaming free our planet. What’s that about “dust to dust” ? Are we all really just dust in the wind? Maybe so. There is no doubt that the earth is going to do what she is going to do. But us Humans? Do we stand a chance? Do we really even care?

Together, our leadership team is  more committed than ever to be a force for change and regeneration with social empowerment included in our model meaning FAIR PAY for tree planters and long term follow up management and process based education to stop further deforestation. Planting trees is not enough. We have to create sustainable livelihoods through entrepreneurship and creation of circular home based owned resource and job creation economies to achieve real awareness and lasting change.

The green dream Team! Franck, Elena, Dalmas and Jenny

As always, our work model is based on principles of Sociocracy including horizontal power with peer management  and participation of neighbors together to achieve widespread land regeneration through planting biodiverse trees for human food sovereignty and wildlife and water conservation. We are looking to the future to replicate more throughout Kenya and then beyond. 

We are so grateful to everyone who supports this replication in Kenya. Thank you for being part of our Green Dream Tree Team with the Maasai people! Every tree makes a difference. We can stop desertification one tree at a time. We are digging deep and we need your help! Please donate generously to planting projects scheduled for the next long rains in April  2019. 

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