Wema, a community transformed by FMNR

March 31, 2016

By Sarah McKenzie (World Vision Australia)

We travel north-west from Nairobi towards Wema and pass the sweeping rift valley on our left. It welcomes us to a truly beautiful part of Kenya. The road is lined with vibrant jacaranda trees, dropping their flowers on the dusty ground. The land flattens out again and we drive through flat planes where zebras mingle with cows. Colourful birds race alongside our dusty four-wheel drive.

Soon the smooth paved road ends and we become partially airborne as we bounce down an unmade road. Occasionally we overtake a slow mutatu (passenger van) but mostly the roads are quiet. The silence is broken as we pull up at Solai Lakeview Academy Primary School. The entire local community has turned out and the children are singing at the top of their little lungs ‘Welcome, welcome, welcome. Pleased to meet you pleased to know you”.

We are led through the school to lush green paddocks where the community members have successfully pruned and managed trees. It has been three years since 2012, when the community were trained in Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration. At that time the paddock was a tangled thicket of shrubs. Today the trees stand straight and tall, surrounded by healthy grass. The prunings from these trees are now used as firewood in the school kitchen. This means that children don’t need to travel long distances in search of firewood.  Furthermore these children can recite, passionately, the added benefits of practicing FMNR: the windbreaks, the soil enrichment, the shade, the oxygen, the disaster-risk reduction and so on.

We return to the school building and the community pours inside. They fill up the seats, the benches and the aisles to share their stories of how FMNR has helped them. An elder in the village stands by the window and gazes out the window to a view of the local hills ‘these hills used to be bare, because of FMNR they are green’ he says. He tells of a time when he visited Germany and, despite how beautiful their hills were they just weren’t the same as his green hills back home. He is so proud that the green has now returned.

Children read poems and sing songs – all proclaiming the joy that FMNR has brought to the community. The green is back, the animals are returning and the community works together. Cynthia Mogoto stands up to tell her tale. She is the secretary of the FMNR community learning centre. She talks enigmatically of the successes the group have been having – from hiring their first staff member to finding a learning site to house their building. In this group both men and women are represented equally – as Cynthia puts it ‘we go faster if we go together’.

We end the day by visiting the Community Learning site where a visitor book is bursting with the names of people who have come here and learnt of the importance of tree management and caring for the environment. The desk is filled with resources and posters for people to learn more.

As the village elder was staring out the window he reflected back on his life in the community “as I get older, things keep getting better and it’s because of FMNR”.