PlantVillage's Tree Seedling Distribution Program Achieves Phenomenal Success, Surpassing 1.5 Million Target

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With the adverse effects of climate change taking a toll, it is clear that food insecurity occasioned by inconsistent and unpredictable weather patterns is a major scare that calls for immediate interventions by all and sundry to mitigate a further devastating outcome.

In Kenya, PlantVillage, through its Dream Team unit, has been engaging with local farmers and primary school learners in a tree planting initiative meant to restore green coverage and attract adequate rainfall to boost food production.

The agroforestry initiative under the banner 'green belt' is scaling up rapidly. Fred Ochola, a Dream Team agroforestry officer, notes that over 1.5 million trees have been distributed since the project's inception in July 2021, with this year alone recording a total of 275,700 tree seedlings distributed to farmers.

"We have exceeded our 1.5 seedling tree distribution goal that we had set for ourselves by mid this year; it has only been 5 months, and our total number of tree distributions has surpassed the 1.5 million target," Ochola said.

PlantVillage's Tree Seedling Distribution Program Achieves Phenomenal Success, Surpassing 1.5 Million Target

Casual workers load tree seedlings into a pick-up truck to be delivered to farmers for planting

The project is now in place in Busia, Bungoma, Kilifi, Uasin Gishu, Narok, and Samburu counties with plans to expand it to other countries.

"This year alone, we have been able to distribute 154,350 tree seedlings in Busia, 81,350 in Bungoma, 4,000 in Narok, 10,000 in Uasin Gishu, and 26,000 in Kilifi counties," added Ocholla.

For instance, in Uasin Gishu County of the Rift Valley region, 10,000 trees have been planted in Kesses Sub-county with every farmer receiving 100 tree seedlings. PlantVillage's field officer, Metrin Jepkemboi, talks of the trees showing a 90% survival rate.

Casual workers sorting tree seedlings to separate the weaker ones that need more care from those that are ready to plant

In Narok County, the team has distributed 4,000 seedlings to farmers in Narok North, with 3,000 seedlings planted by two women groups, with each member getting 50 seedlings, and 1,000 seedlings planted by one women groups, with each member getting 20 seedlings. The team in Narok has also been practicing bottle drip irrigation on seedlings in dry areas to improve their survival rates.

“We also had bottle drip irrigation trials with three farmers in Narok North, each getting 50 seedlings. Progress on drip irrigation is amazing; the survival rate is an average of 90 percent for the three farmers," said Serah Lanoi, agroforestry research officer in Narok County.

Schools in Narok County, such as Moi and Kisiriri primary schools, have also benefited from the tree distribution program with the team educating pupils on combating climate change through environmental conservation.

In Kilifi County, the team is currently registering new farmers in preparation for phase two of the tree distribution project, according to Binti Ibrahim, the county's agroforestry lead.

The tree planting program is in line with the organization's vision and objectives, which are to increase food production by helping smallholder farmers mitigate climate change.

These are pupils from Liganwa primary school in Alego Usonga sub-county of Siaya County who formed a climate change club dubbed "Matumaini climate change club."

As the program steers forward, the PlantVillage agroforestry team is mobilizing local farmers and young people in schools as front-line soldiers in raising awareness on the importance of the initiative.

"In addition to farmers, we are engaging learners as our grassroots ambassadors to share information and sensitize villages about the importance of agroforestry. Over 5,000 students have been enrolled in this program, and with various agroforestry clubs formed, the students have been educated about climate change and now have information about environmental conservation,'' he said.

The organization obtains its tree seedlings from 47 tree nurseries owned privately and with lead farmers.

“We support tree nurseries owned by lead farmers by purchasing potting tubes, training on nursery management, and then purchasing seedlings from the lead farmers and distributing to their following farmers, thereby reducing carbon (IV) oxide emissions because no transportation is required and improving farmer living standards through earnings from the sale of seedlings.

A section of DT members and casual laborers doing potting at a tree nursery in Maralal, Samburu county, in preparation for seedling planting

Through the project, PlantVillage has created employment for 20 Dream Team members and 275 youths in local communities, who work around the clock to ensure our tree seedlings are in good condition," Ocholla explained.

Other than free tree seedling distribution, PlantVillage has also established a training program on how to nurture trees.

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