How Can a Tree Transform a Community?

Because we work with people around the globe, it is a rare treat to get to host grantee partners at our home base in San Rafael. Recently, we had the pleasure of welcoming David Lemiso and Tia McNelly from The Kilgoris Project at our board meeting. David and Tia presented TKP’s latest project proposal, which the board unanimously approved.

 From left to right: Yun Zheng, Tia McNelly, Aliyya Shelley Mattos, David Lemiso, Vic Rice, Joseph Hoffman, Hugo Galletta

From left to right: Yun Zheng, Tia McNelly, Aliyya Shelley Mattos, David Lemiso, Vic Rice, Joseph Hoffman, Hugo Galletta

The Kilgoris Project works with the Maasai people, a once nomadic tribe with a rich history, to bring education, health, and opportunity to the region. Due to lack of government representation, the Maasai are marginalized, often living in poverty without adequate access to basic services like sanitation, health care, and education. Today, the Maasai primarily make their living as subsistence farmers though, since they were historically nomadic cattle herders, this is a relatively new practice for them.

 Kilgoris students hard at work

Kilgoris students hard at work

Timber is a major commodity in the area, as it is used for fuel, building projects, and rural electrification initiatives. Due to this high demand, deforestation has become a major challenge, which has only been exacerbated by drought/flood cycles. The Kilgoris Project has a big plan to address both deforestation and the need for an in-country revenue stream to support their projects by expanding their 7.5-acre tree farm to 20 acres over the next several years.

By planting Eucalyptus, a hardy, drought-resistant, and fast-growing tree, The Kilgoris Project is addressing both deforestation and their organization’s need for in-country revenue. The tree farm will reduce local demand for imported wood from other parts of Africa, create positive environmental changes in the area through reforestation, and provide steady funding for TKP’s primary schools.

 Anton, The Kilgoris Project's farmer, among the established eucalyptus trees

Anton, The Kilgoris Project's farmer, among the established eucalyptus trees

Another exciting benefit is the offer The Kilgoris Project is making to strengthen their community at large:   

“A new program, piloted in 2016, encourages parents to invest in their own economic sustainability in an innovative way. At preschool enrollment, parents are offered the opportunity to invest in a small tree farm of their own, by purchasing a set of low-cost seedlings from TKP’s nursery. Ongoing environmental and agricultural training will allow them to care for their investment through their child’s primary school career.
When the child is graduating from eighth grade, TKP will assist the parents in advantageously selling their timber. This small investment will more than pay for the child’s high school and university costs (Kenya does not provide free high school education. All high schools are boarding schools and are normally out of financial reach for most children in this area.) This program enables parents to provide for their children’s future, not depending on charity or high-interest loans for further education.”
 Seedlings growing in The Kilgoris Project's nursery

Seedlings growing in The Kilgoris Project's nursery

The Tree Farm is a new kind of project and we are enthusiastic about the promise of long-term sustainability that it offers not only for the organization, but the community and the families it serves. Education and economic means can transform regions, and empower people in remarkable ways.