A Lesson on Resilience in Northern Kenya

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Resilience is becoming an increasingly important characteristic for us all to develop: the job market is more competitive for new graduates than it has been for decades; the pound has dropped in value since Brexit; tuition fees have increased; we are the generation that may never own a home. In Britain alone this trait is becoming ever more essential, and in many parts of the world climate change resilience is a now a matter of life or death. A project trying to increase resilience and tackle food insecurity facing the Samburu tribes people in northern Kenya is Sadhana Forest Kenya (SFK).

Sadhana Forest aims to reforest the land of the Samburu people, sustainably. It differs from wide-scale tree planting because it asks the people to do it themselves. The project trains locals in planting and protecting indigenous food-producing trees. Once trained the project then provides the people with saplings, which they plant and grow on their private land. This tree is theirs and once matured, which can be in as little as a year, will supplement their diet that currently relies on their cattle. A tribe related to the famous Masai herdsmen, they share many of the customs and traditions including being semi-nomadic. The Samburu peoples’ existence is intertwined with their cattle and goats. This way of life has sustained them for centuries, until now, climate change has increased the global mean temperature and in places like Samburu County drought has become a recurrent threat. This leads to regular deaths in herds and the deforestation of the local landscape to use as fuel for cooking means fewer clouds develop and it rains less. This creates a deadly spiral, which SFK is trying to mitigate.

Using Principal’s Go Abroad funds I travelled to northern Kenya in June 2016, in order to conduct research with SFK. The research focused on reviewing the success of the current project and identifying other possible locations that would benefit from the project being rolled out to. These areas had to have a number of criteria: be in arid areas; have malnourished populations; locals must own private land; it must be politically stable. Targeted locations were collated and will be used by SFK to obtain funding and roll out its training.

SFK gave me detailed instructions on how to reach the project via public transport, a pre-trip concern of mine, as transport in east Africa can be notoriously unreliable. This was vital information for anyone travelling to projects in such countries where timetables and routes are not available online. These instructions were invaluable and made a literally bumpy journey smooth in its execution.

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