KKL-JNF Explores New Projects on Forestry and Water in Kenya

Sunday, October 30, 2016 4:56 PM

KKL-JNF representatives visit Kenya to explore possible collaborative efforts with the Kenyan Forestry Service and to visit the fascinating Furrows in the Desert project.

KKL-JNF Israel representatives Aviram Zuk and Karine Bolton-Laor visited Kenya in the late summer of this year. The duo toured the region with the Kenyan Forestry Service, visited the KKL-JNF-supported Furrows in the Desert initiative in Turkana and met with NGOs from around the world. The successful visit paved the way for a future Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries to boost afforestation, water management and sustainable agriculture in Kenya using Israeli technology.
With a track record of being one of the world's oldest green organizations that has also made the arid and semi-arid terrains of Israel bloom, KKL-JNF is on a mission to share its 115 years of accumulated knowledge with countries and organizations around the world, in order to create a better and greener tomorrow for everyone.
 
KKL-JNF's recent visit in Kenya to explore possible collaborations with the Kenyan Forestry Service and NGOs and its involvement in the highly successful Furrows in the Desert project in theTurkana region, form part of its efforts to foster partnerships with international bodies in order to find solutions to problems concerning forestry, water and arid land management.   
 
So no sooner had KKL-JNF's Karine Bolton-Laor and Aviram Zuk landed in Kenya than they embarked on a flight once again, but this time, it was very different - together with Kenyan Forestry Service representatives, they went up in helicopter, which flew over the main areas of Samburu, Marsabit & Kajiado in order to get a bird's eye view of the country's dry-land regions.
 
The team saw first-hand what the country's needs were in the areas of afforestation, water and natural resource management, and were able to determine how KKL-JNF could best contribute to address those needs.
 
In a detailed report, Karine Bolton-Laor, KKL-JNF's director of international relations and conferences, and Aviram Zuk, KKL-JNF's regional director of the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights, noted that the main challenges facing Kenya were a high amount of deforestation on hillside and watershed areas, and inadequate resources and capacity to sustainably manage water resources and woodlands or promote research and development in the area of sustainable forestry. 
 
The trip enabled the KFS and KKL-JNF teams to make significant progress in preparing the outline for a Memorandum of Understanding to undertake a pilot project together in Kenya using Israeli technology. The outline was presented to the Kenyan Minister for the Environment and cabinet members for approval.
The teams expect to sign an MOU in Israel in the presence of the Israeli Minister for the Environment in November-December 2016.
 
Bolton-Laor and Zuk also met with NGOs that are doing important work in Kenya, such as the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), UN Women, the Green Belt Movement, the German Economic Development office and the World Resource Institute, where they learned about their projects Kenya, and discussed possibilities for collaboration. The meetings were deemed a success by all involved.
 
It was then time to pay a site visit to the Furrows in the Desert (FID) Program in Turkana, which KKL-JNF joined as a partner in 2015.
 
FID is an agricultural development program based on Israeli expertise in desert agriculture that is especially adapted to the Turkana region in northwestern Kenya. Founded by the Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle (MCSPA), the Arava Center for Sustainable Development and international volunteer agency Brit Olam, it seeks to bring economic independence to the region's Turkana tribe.
 
The project trains locals in desert agricultural practices. Upon finishing their training course, they are given credit to acquire 1000 square-meter plots of land, where they can grow vegetables, grain, and fruit for the consumption of the extended family, with some surplus to sell. The farmers receive ongoing Israeli technical support from volunteers. 
 
The agricultural training has become a new source for economic independence that the Turkana people so desperately need. The Turkana tribe is traditionally a pastoralist society, but increasing frequencies of drought as well as conflicts with neighboring tribes over steadily decreasing pastures and water resources have made eking out a living herding livestock increasingly difficult. 
Furrows in the Desert brings desert agriculture to Turkana as a sustainable source for food creation and revenue.
 
Ever since joining FID in 2015, KKL-JNF, with the support of its Friends worldwide, has contributed a pilot date tree plantation intercropped with fodder and vegetables, which will be used for training and research. It has also installed two solar irrigation systems.  Together with JNF-KKL Germany, it also established a new agricultural volunteer program where interested Israelis and Germans train in Israel and then volunteer in Turkana for 5 months.
"This network of farm volunteer experts is critical for the success of the program and it allows JNF-KKL Germany to create ambassadors for Israel through this experience," stated Karine Bolton-Laor.
 
The KKL-JNF team travelled around the project area and saw how Israeli desert agricultural methods were being adapted to Turkana.
 
One example included the use of the Liman, the Israeli-developed method of diverting runoff from streaming wadies to walled plots, trapping the water long enough for it to sink into the sand.  This method enables the production of rain-fed crops, such as chickpeas, sorghum, millet, and watermelon. 
KKL-JNF uses the liman in a similar way to plant trees in the Negev.
 
"As of today," Bolton-Laor noted, "there are around 120 agricultural plots, each 0.12 acres in area, spread out all throughout the county, and the training courses continue to take place every six months."
 
This project has truly become a catalyst for change in the region. Bolton-Laor and Zuk reported that FID is making a change in the dietary habits of the inhabitants of Turkana. From a diet consisting of only meat and dry goods, the inhabitants of the region are starting to consume vegetables, legumes, melons, watermelons and more. The farmers sell their surplus produce to their neighbors, to neighboring nursery schools, grade schools and refugee camps. With the money they make, they improve their economic status and their ability to improve the education and life conditions of their children.
 
"This is not just another project for investing money in infrastructure abroad that collapses after a few years, when the contributing party ends its obligations", said Bolton-Laor. "This is a sustainable project, training the local population to continue to work the agricultural lands independently, and that is its greatness."
 
The visit to the FID project in Turkana has enabled KKL-JNF to examine areas of need where it can contribute. Asides from enhancing the support that they already provide, Bolton Laor and Zuk also suggest looking into options to increase the planting of fast-growing, desert adaptable tree species in water flooded areas. This would create more shade and food sources for grazing animals, as the majority of the Turkana people are still herders. They also recommend looking into options to expand the repertoire of crops and to plant additional fruit trees, as well as exploring the possibility of bee-keeping in the area.
 
This productive two-week visit, which took place in the late summer of this year, will hopefully be only the beginning of a blossoming partnership between Israel and Kenya in making another part of the world greener.