Roeland Lelieveld (Dutch) and Daniel Muvali (Kenyan) started Africa Wood Grow (AWG) in 2010 after 5 years of study and research. They first met each other in the autumn of 2005. Roeland was immediately impressed by Kenya and the opportunities the country has to offer.
Together with Daniel he shared the desire to start a forestry project. They were guided by the desire to support the region where few resources are in place. It's their higher purpose to develop economic activities in the region as a whole. After five years of research and raising funds the day has finally come, the shared vision was rapidly put into practice.
Corporate Social Responsibility
AWG is working closely with the local communities through resource management and development programmes whereby the communities are trained on how they can manage and utilize their resources sustainably.
We empower the communities through training them on the right agroforestry components and systems that will lead to improved food, non-wood and wood products as well as diversifying their production systems and income sources thus increasing environmental sustainability and resilience.
Joint tree planting programmes in schools, hospitals, and towns help in uniting the communities together and increasing tree cover, while ameliorating microclimates in those areas.
In 2014 we have a plan to start fish farming in the region. Fish has become very expensive and many people have no access to cheap animal protein. Farmers can develop small fish ponds at their homesteads as a way of increasing their protein ration especially during the dry and drought period when they rare have no protein components in their meals. Communities grow vegetables along river banks that are eaten with maize rations provided by the government as relief. It is cheaper and easier to practice fish farming than keeping goats and cattle that die in every dry season due to diseases and lack of pasture. It also takes a small area to keep fish that livestock.
AWG works with environmental volunteers who have adopted trees on farms and to increase forest cover in the region. These volunteers possess the trees and are maintained for them. We are in a process of establishing a volunteer tourism where those who adopted the trees will visit the farms and the surrounding communities to train them on environmental conservation and natural resource management. We invite the communities around us to embrace the idea so that in collaboration with schools, universities other stakeholders and partners can provide trainings to farmers on conservation, alternative production technologies and biodiversity enrichment and conservation.
Tree Production Technologies
Most of tree species of importance need advanced technologies for production. For example, it can take years for the Mukau (Melia volkensii) seeds to germinate if not extracted from the nuts. Other species such as Terminalia brownii require special attention or treatments for them to germinate. We are in the process of collaborating with research institutions to see how the technology can be improved and disseminated to farmers. These tree species can grow in wide climatic zones of Kenya and thus can help mitigate impacts of droughts and poverty. Research is also needed for carbon sequestration purposes and to know which tree species is the best for this activity. We are at the moment trying the available technologies through field trials, data collection and documentation (water demands, seasons of production and ripening, growth rates and habits etc.), market survey, consumer surveys, baseline surveys and income proxy surveys in order to assist our in future project implementation.
AWG has few bulls that are used for minimum tillage on the farm. The trees are young and we are in the process of abandoning crop farming on this plot of land and introduce livestock. This will run till the trees are removed from the farm. The plan is to buy steers and fatten them with a year or so then sell them back.
Farm waste products, crop residues and animal wastes will be used to produce fertilizer through conventional compositing and industrial production. Saw dust will add value to the bulk of fertilizer needed at local level. Chemical fertilizer has become too expensive to a common farmer and is also a problem to soils in the dry area where rainfall is minimal hence farming without fertilizer application has led to soil degradation since crop residues are used for feeding animals. Fertilizer from organic materials will be made so that farmers can get is cheaply.
AWG is aiming at producing high quality timber (African mahogany) from Melia volkensii, Melia azadirachta and Azadirachta indica. Trials are on near Kitui and we intend to fill the 20 acres with these three species with a rotational age of 10 years. For environmental conservation, other species are grown as hedgerow and stream buffers while the trees for timber production are on alley systems.
Trees species in the ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid) areas of Kenya are becoming extinct due to over utilization for timber, wood fuel, artisanal value (carving), and overgrazing. Seeds of some species are becoming rare to find and this is why we are planning to establish seed orchards for these endangered species. Such species considered for our seed orchard include Melia volkensii, Dalbargia melanoxylon, Terminalia brownii, Terminalia brunoides,Vitex payos, Kigelia africana, Berchemia discholor, Sclerocarya birrea (marula), and Erythrina abyssinica.