Two youths in Homa Bay County are selling more than five tree seedlings varieties to farmers, institutions and individuals across Kenya in a bid aimed at improving Kenya’s forest cover and reducing the effects of climate change.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, forests and trees are important carbon sinks. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as carbon. Carbon repossession by forests has attracted much interest as a mitigation approach, as it has been considered a relatively inexpensive means of addressing climate change.
The recent drought in Kenya that led to delayed rains from March to May for instance show how Kenya is vulnerable to climate change as it affects more 70 per cent of the rural population who depend on agriculture.
“We are selling grevillia, shade, whistling pine, mango, orange, pawpaw, coffee and passion fruit seedlings to anyone interested in planting these trees in their homes or institutions either for income generation, beautification or future use,” said Caleb Ouma who co-owns a tree nursery with over 100,000 seedlings with his partner, Kevin Ochieng.
They sell one seedling of grevillia at Sh30, passion fruit at Sh50, shade tree at between Sh30 to Sh40 and whistling pine at Sh30.
“Prospective buyers can get our seeds by reaching us on +254 716 825 742 and we will send the seedlings to wherever they are,” said Ouma.
In this, they pay transport costs for clients who buy more than 100 seedlings but those buying less cater for their own transport costs. Delivery is done after paying the total cost.
Ouma inspecting his tree seedlings at his farm in Homa Bay
Ouma started the venture in December 2018 after his contract at a sales and marketing firm expired.
“I chose not to look for another job; instead I realized that there is money in the soil, besides my friend Ochieng who does fencing jobs found out that there was a high demand of tree seedlings in Homa Bay where he was working,” said Ouma.
Initially, in February 2018, Ouma, Ochieng and four other friends had come together by planting 5,000 seedlings but disagreements on how to sell them when they matured in August 2018 led to the group breaking up.
“One member in the group sprayed all the trees with an herbicide and we ended making full losses, even though his family compensated us with Sh20,000 which we shared based on our contribution,” said Ouma.
After that the incident Ouma and Ochieng decided to start their own nursery by contributing Sh3000 each to buy a 15 liter water can which cost Sh500 and a hoe (jembe) which cost Sh600.
From 1,000 seedlings they started with their nursery now has over five thousand seedlings for each of pawpaw, passion fruits, mangoes, avocado, shade trees, whistling pine, over 20,000 coffee seedlings, around 10,000 grivellia seedlings, 500 oranges and 2,000 flower seedlings of different varieties.
So far the two have sold more than 2,000 seedlings since January locally. They use social media platforms such as Facebook to market the products.
“We have also donated more than 400 seedlings to various institutions and trained them on how to plant, during the recent world environment day for instance, we donated 250 seedlings to five schools within Homa Bay,” said Ouma.
When planting, Ouma advises one to dig the hole at least twice as wide as the root ball to allow them to settle deeper and penetrate firmly and use the same soil from the hole to cover the planted seedling.
“While planting, do not cover the leaves as this might lead to death of the seedling,” he said.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Economic Survey Report of 2019, the total forest area increased marginally from 4,222.4 thousand hectares in 2017 to 4224.3 thousand hectares in 2018. However, the forest cover remained at 7.28 per cent in 2018 way below the 10 per cent the country intends to achieve by 2030.