Meru and Nanyuki - building a sustainable future with carbon finance
Recently I travelled to the foothills of Mount Kenya to visit the Meru and Nanyuki Community Reforestation Project, so I and a client could meet the communities benefitting from carbon finance and project developer TIST and see the project first hand.
My abiding takeaways were of industrious and creative farmers collaborating with a view to effect long term change; of the impressive network of local people who were using technology to empower and manage a very broad scheme; and of vastly different ecosystems all within a few kilometres of each other.
The Meru and Nanyuki project integrates reforestation to sequester carbon with community development activities. It combines hundreds of individual tree planting activities while enabling local communities to improve access to food and create additional sources of income beyond subsistence farming.
Over four days we visited seven different farmers, attended a ‘monthly Cluster meeting’ (for groups of farmers) and participated in a training session for farmers new to the programme.
The farmers we met shared a belief of the need to look beyond short term benefit and to recreate a land that would be prosperous for future generations. Many talked of the effects of land deterioration where trees had been felled and of the boon derived from mixed land use and the increased water retention of forested areas.
Their knowledge of the types of trees to plant, and their pride in how they are now working together as a community to conserve and share water to sustain these trees and their other crops, was palpable. They spoke highly of the support they were given through TIST – and of the fact that they had not just been handed the answers but instead given the tools to work them out for themselves. This stretched beyond trees into wider sustainability solutions such as rudimentary biogas power and efficient and healthier cook stoves. Given the variety of eco-systems and solutions in such a small area the benefits of this support approach were clear – with groups sharing best practise through their cluster meetings and the monthly TIST newsletter.
This project had such energy and grass root benefit, as well as a scalable support platform, that it is hard to imagine how it won’t continue its fast track growth.
From the lush fertile slopes of Mount Kenya to the semi-arid planes below we met farmer after farmer who was enthusiastic about the change they could bring, and thankful for the additional income from carbon that enabled them to afford items such as water tanks to nourish their crops.
The strong inter-dependence of the farmers, the quantifiers, and the auditors who operate the programme on the ground, combined with the clear guidelines that TIST instils (honesty, transparency, accuracy, mutual accountability) left a strong sentiment that what had been built so far was just the beginning.
More and more local people are realising that planting trees through a scheme such as this means that they no longer have to sacrifice long term land quality for short term gain – but in fact can improve their quality of life now while improving the quality of the land that future generations will inherit.