It’s 2am and I have just heard a loud scream outside my room. I try to convince myself it’s one of the baboons I saw earlier and attempt to go back to sleep. The next thing I know I am being woken up with a knock on my door. The day begins under a stunning Kenyan sunrise. After a hearty ‘full-Kenyan’ we head back to the project.
We begin the day at the nurseries where there are several large greenhouses with rows and rows of tree seedlings. Willie, the manager shows us around. There are over 30 people working here. The first we go into is growing indigenous hardwood trees which will be replanted by the local community for an incentive. It’s these that are the best at capturing carbon when they photosynthesise.
There is a big problem in Kenya (and across much of Africa) with land degradation. Land is typically converted into cropland, first using the trees to produce charcoal (an estimated 90% of the entire continents population uses wood-based fuel for cooking!) to be traded illegally, followed by subsistence agriculture. The problem is the farming is unsustainable as the soil isn’t being managed for long-term use. This means farmers are always moving onto new plots and clearing forest as they go. The organic greenhouses grow varieties such as Acacia and Moringa, which the farmers are paid to plant and grow. They can then use these for medicinal, nutritional purposes and for a sustainable source of fuel. There has been reforestation of over 20,000 trees already! It also grows citrus trees (which we see being ‘grafted’ and ‘budded’ into hybrids like apple mango, using indigenous shoots to make them stronger). These are then sold on to locals and wholesaler for a profit. We also see Africa’s largest Jojoba plantation which spreads across 50 hectares. Luckily, elephants who like to eat typical crops like maize, aren’t so keen on jojoba! (I ask what is done to keep them away from other crops and I’m told chilli is a winner.)
Before we leave this part of the project we visit a tomato greenhouse, which is managed by a local women’s group. Incredibly, it yields 50 to 60 kg of tomatoes a day, which the women sell keeping two thirds of the profit. The other third goes back in to fund the greenhouse.
It strikes me that the Kasigau Corridor project is a fantastic commercial operation, which is essentially what is making it sustainable. The great thing is that it’s educating the local community to protect their land for the future, whilst also getting the most out of it in the present.
Over lunch Rebecca talks to me about how carbon offsetting works. We talk about the impacts from climate change and it really hits home how this will affect our lives and us as a business. Dramatic changes in weather patterns will really limit where we can travel to and if we’ll be able to travel at all! A 3.5C rise in temperature, hotter summers, less snow, more storms and less water means we’ll face shorter holiday seasons and fewer holiday destinations to travel to (infinity pools could very well become a thing of the past…then we’ll have trouble on our hands!). She’s also written a blog to explain this in simple terms.
Another typical Kenyan lunch with stew, kale, salad, chapattis and a hot chilli sauce, and we’re on our way again. This afternoon we’re meeting Eric, one of the 100 unarmed rangers, who takes us around the reserve. The land, which spreads across over 200,000 hectares, forms a corridor between Tsavo East and Tsavo West national park, so it allows animals to migrate between the two. Essentially this forest land is what is offsetting a lot of carbon. The rangers are there to keep poachers off the land and protect the wildlife. We are reminded what a problem poaching is – earlier in the year two rangers were shot by poachers, so I’m bit apprehensive as we drive in! We visit an eco lodge with an education centre (yet another facet to the project). We are lucky enough to see elephants – one of the five endangered species the park is protecting – as well as ostriches, antelope, plus the usual mixture of exotic birds.
We finish well after dark and end the day with a BBQ. Hopefully tonight I won’t be woken by any dodgy noises outside my cabin. I’m told tomorrow is up at 5am, which means a ‘full Kenyan’ at 5:30! And it’s a Sunday!