Charles Kevin Otieno – FMNR Champion

April 5, 2016

Charles is leading the way for FMNR in Somalia. He explains in this blog what drew him to FMNR and how he is adapting the practice for the dry conditions of Somalia.

By Tony Rinaudo – World Vision Australia

Charles Kevin Otieno is the Sector Lead in the Livelihoods and Resilience team of the WV International Somalia program.
Charles first learnt about FMNR at the 2012 Beating Famine conference in Nairobi and has been a devoted FMNR champion ever since. “it was the simplicity of the method which attracted me and I saw it as a powerful tool of environmental restoration. I was also impressed by the Senegalese presentation on the value of the fertilizer tree, Faidherbia albida. This story appealed to me and we began growing the tree out in our tree nurseries.”

After the Beating Famine conference, Charles had a desire to promote FMNR in Somalia. He wanted to learn more about FMNR, but wasn’t able to attend the 2012 Trainers of Trainers workshop in Addis Ababa, so he sent one of his staff who was subsequently charged with training others in the team. Both the conference and the workshop were supported by the WVA FMNR hub.

Charles has had to be both patient and persistent. First he had to convince WV Australia that FMNR was worth trying in such a dry region. An opportunity came to promote FMNR in communities through (a World Vision program fund called FarSight) drought response funding from WV Australia. Next, he had to overcome skepticism in the community. They actually gave the most degraded site for the pilot area, not believing such bare land could be green again. As the fence was going up, one community member mocked the volunteers, asking them if they were fencing a graveyard!

Pilot sites were initially set up in two communities. They started by mobilizing the community and identifying would-be adopters who would become FMNR champions. Initially these included the Mayors of Lughaya and Baki, the government regional coordinators from the Ministry of Environment and Rural development and two community members. Champions were then sent on exposure visits to a successful FMNR site in Tigray Region of Ethiopia – because of the similarity in climate. Despite the fact that Tigray was experiencing drought at the time, listening to the testimonies of the communities convinced the participants of the value of FMNR. They returned enthused and determined to transform their landscape. They created their own by-laws for tree management and worked tirelessly to bring the rest of the community along on the journey. Selection of the champions and the Ethiopia visit were the turning point for FMNR adoption in Somaliland. Today there are ten pilot FMNR plots covering 45 hectares in Somaliland. Each site has bee hives and women’s groups are equipped and trained on how to build fuel saving stoves as an income generating activity. In total there are 420 FMNR champions across Somalia and Somaliland and donors from Australia (DFAT), Germany, US and Canada have contributed to the spread.

Charles’ dream is to expand FMNR adoption in Somalia and Somaliland, especially in agro-pastoral communities. he sees FMNR as a tool for pastoralists to not only restore their land but increase soil fertility, moisture availability and increase fodder, food and fuel supplies. “FMNR is a system that can be integrated well with pastoral systems. Livestock largely depend on browse from trees in arid and semi-arid regions. All a pastoralist needs to know are the principles of FMNR and how to balance livestock numbers with land carrying capacity. Livelihoods are completely dependent on browse availability here. If the trees disappear from this region, so will life.”