USAID Keeps Fighting the Good Fight
USAID witnesses landmark signing
The internationally recommended standard for forest cover is 10 percent of a country’s landmass: Kenya today has less than two percent.
USAID/Kenya has teamed up with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Clean Air Action Corporation (CAAC)—the founder of the innovative tree-planting program. The International Small Group & Tree Planting Program (TIST)—to help the country restore its forest cover.
On June 6, 2011, USAID/Kenya Mission Director, Erna Kerst, and over 40 TIST members witnessed the signing of a historic agreement between KFS and CAAC. “TIST is a jewel well adapted for Kenya,” said Erna Kerst.
The Memorandum of Understanding will enable local farmers to reforest protected areas of Mt. Kenya, the Mau Complex, and other water towers and get paid for the carbon stored in the trees they grow. “Some of the least empowered farmers—those with small land portions or none at all, especially the youth, were being discriminated by the carbon market. Today changes that… age and land tenure will no longer be a barrier,” said the President of CAAC, Ben Henneke.
“TIST enables farmers to transition from sheer survival to empowerment,” said the KFS Director David Mbugua. Eventually, TIST farmers will receive 70% of the profits on the sale of carbon credits on the global carbon markets.
USAID is supporting TIST in Kenya with $7.5 million over five years. CAAC has invested close to $11 million in developing methods, monitoring technology and pilot projects.
The International Small Group and Tree Planting Program empowers small groups of subsistence farmers in India, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nicaragua, and Honduras to combat the devastating effects of deforestation, poverty and drought.
Using handheld computers and Global Positioning System, trained TIST farmers visit each tree grove and record the location, number, size, and species of live trees. This process effectively tracks the farmers’ progress and results. The data, including pictures, is uploaded onto a central database using cell phones or the Internet, and can be viewed by the public at www.tist.org/tist/kenyagrowth.php
TIST is the world’s first community-based tree planting program to receive dual validation and verification from Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards (CCB).
Upon awarding certification, Dr. Joanna Durbin, Director of the CCBA said, “We are excited to see a project - for the first time - move beyond validation of project design to being fully ‘CCB Verified’, demonstrating that the project has actually been implemented following best practices in community engagement and is delivering truly significant benefits for the local communities and the environment.”
Group members choose which types of trees to plant and where, to gain maximum benefit over the long term. They may plant around their homes, on their farms, in their villages, and now, thanks to the new agreement with the KFS, in protected areas to safeguard watersheds.
Farmers say they are excited to join TIST because they can see how their local environmental actions are improving their lives while having a global environmental impact.
Benefits of TIST
As TIST expands to more groups and more areas, it ensures more trees, more biodiversity, more climate change benefit and more income for more people. According to USG research, 40,000 varieties of houseplants form the basis of a US$100 million global trade; most have been derived from a handful of species found in the Kenyan forests.
Other benefits include fruits, nuts, firewood, increased shade, reduced soil erosion, and increases in farm productivity—as well as long-term profits from carbon trading.