Forestry is an ideal tool to help farmers grow long-term wealth. With a small investment of land & labor, trees grow into a family's most valuable asset, returning life-changing income from a series of harvests. For the first time, these families can invest in education, start a business, improve their house, and work towards a prosperous, sustainable future.
Kilifi is consistently ranked among Kenya's poorest and least-developed counties. We have conducted a rigorous baseline socio-economic survey of our farmers against which we will measure the impact of our tree farming program. We found over 56% of farmers live in extreme poverty, with most of the rest hovering just above the rural poverty line -- these families live extremely challenging lives. Nearly one-third of children are severely malnourished, permanently stunting their physical, cognitive and immune development. And despite facing such harsh conditions, everyone is working hard to build a brighter future.
While forestry takes time, patience really pays. From a single planting, farmers receive initial income from early thinnings in 3-6 years; significant income from mature harvests takes 8-15 years, depending on species and growth rates. A family with a half-hectare of eucalyptus and one hectare of melia can earn 40% more income in the first decade, followed by 250% more income in the second decade. This harvest income will be truly transformative, especially since a farmer's "baseline income" is mostly not cash, but the value of subsistence crops they consume to survive.
Agroforestry is a tried-and-true land management system that incorporates trees with other crops to establish more diverse, productive and environmentally sustainable farms. With deep roots, trees are much more resilient to erratic rainfall than seasonal crops, helping farmers adapt to climate change. By combining several tree and food crops on a single farm, a farmer benefits from both short- and long-term income generated from the same land, and enjoys significant risk mitigation from market fluctuations, pests and diseases, and climate change.
Importantly, microforestry also presents very low opportunity costs to farmers. Woodlots require very little land, and some species can be intercropped with agriculture for zero opportunity cost. After preparing land, planting seedlings, and occasional early weeding, trees continue to grow without needing further work, making forestry an ideal "set it and forget it" investment, so farmers can continue other productive endeavors as their trees mature.