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Environmentalist out to ‘green’ the country even as he earns a living from the initiative

A Naivasha environmentalist John Wekesa has decided to turn his tree growing venture from just a passion to a business venture in order to save future generations from the effects of climate change, brought about by the continuous degradation of the environment mainly through logging.

On our visit, we found Wekesa tending to his tree display nursery in Naivasha town that has trees and fruit seedlings which are ready for planting and as he explains, the venture was started out of passion to help conserve the environment as well as help him earn an income to sustain him and his family.

The main nursery is situated in Gilgil area, where Wekesa found suitable land. He says that due to the limited land space in the town, he opted to lease land in Gilgil to grow the bulk of the seedlings which take up to three months before they are transferred to his display nursery in Naivasha town.

He reveals that he is currently growing close to 500,000 seedlings in his Gilgil farm.

Everwood Tree Nursery as Wekesa refers to it specializes in growing different tree species as well as fruit seedlings ranging from grafted avocado, mangoes and oranges that take a short time to mature.

He started this venture in 2007 and in a good month, he makes up to Sh75, 000 from the sale of tree and fruit seedlings. He sells a tree seedling at Sh. 15 while the fruit one goes for Sh. 25.

When President William Ruto took over the reins of power one of his key agenda aims was to plant 15 billion trees by 2032 in order to reduce greenhouse emissions, stop and reverse deforestation and restore 5.1 million hectares of deforested land.

The government will involve school children and youth in other institutions of learning to plant these trees in a bid to increase the country`s tree cover and mitigate the effects of climate change. The learners will not only plant trees but will also care for trees until they grow under a program called; adopt a tree.

Wekesa says that the initiative by the President is timely and hence one of the reasons that led him to increase his capacity in order to provide ready seedlings to those willing to jump on the program and plant trees.

The decree by the President, Wekesa says has increased the number of people thronging his nursery to buy seedlings with the ongoing rains expected to boost the appetite for tree planting.

Among the tree species grown at Everwood tree nursery include gravaria species, whistling pine, eucalyptus, cypress and assorted fruits with Wekesa encouraging Kenyans to utilize every available space in their homes and farms to practice tree farming to ensure that the country gets enough tree cover and avert the effects of climate change.

In 2017, the government banned the single use plastic bags in the country, a move that Wekesa tells us posed a challenge leading to the shortage of these bags used to grow trees in nurseries.

He urges the government to consider coming up with regulations that will enable the controlled use of the special planting bags in order to reduce cost of operations which he says has skyrocketed since the inception of the ban on plastics.

Mary Muthoni, a farmhand and partner at Everwood tree nursery explains that they have been in operation for the last 15 years noting that their passion for environmental conservation has kept them going for this long and they have turned this as their full time job.

The mother of three says that she never looked back since joining the venture and she has seen it bear fruits pointing out that she has been able to buy a piece of land and built her home, and above all help in conserving the environment.

By Mabel Keya

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