By Daphne de Bruijn, SCAPE magazine

Today I am online guest of Morris Manzolo. In the background I can see his house. Manzolo is sitting in the shade of his trees. He explains that he has been a farmer with the Africa Wood Grow foundation for three years now. He remembers how Rose Martha, Stella Kavindu and Daina Ngambi – all of them working for the CBO with Africa Wood Grow – passed by and shared their knowledge. That it would be better to plant trees. Since then Manzolo has been working on the project, planting  trees, caring for them and eventually selling the timber.

He proudly explains about his Melia trees, that they are also called Chinaberry or Bead tree, because of the light violet flowers that turn into small round light yellow beads. The Melia tree is well suited to grow on the high plains in Kenya, it prefers a warm, sunny spot and tolerates drought well. The tree is 6 to 12 metres high with large leaves. Manzolo: ‘Melia is very wind resistant and that is necessary with the strong winds that blow here on the plateau. The trees act as a windbreak, so there is little or no wind erosion.’ Apart from their function as a windbreak and for the commercial sale of the wood, the trees bring much more. ‘They bring rain, they help improving the soil and to store water. And we get shade from it,’ says Morris. Every day he enjoys the growing population of birds and other small animals that became part of his environment.

Every year the farmers are invited together to the plantation to learn from each other, during the trainings and exchange programmes. They compare the state of the land, see a lot of change and see the forming of the forests. Like Kavindu, Manzolo says he wants to learn a lot more, especially about soil erosion and storage of water. How can the plantation function as a factory? He works on the farm with his wife and casual laborers. He prunes the trees, someone else helps with the watering of the young ones and the weeding. Manzolo also teaches other people how to plant trees and how to take care of them.

Morris: ‘I expect to get money from the trees I planted when we harvest them. And with the timber we can make chairs, tables and buildings.’ He talks with so much passion about the change in his environment that you wish you could sit next to him and join his view: the trees in front of him that become a forest.

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