KEFRI is a research institute in Kenya dealing with forestry products. On 15th May 2015 they held an open day at Karura for the public to consult and learn more on tree products, in which I got to attend. From my observation they were lesser youths compared to the older generation in attendance. Majority were selling their respective company’s products. Such forums present a platform for the youth to gain ideas that they can venture in as employment opportunities. May be in planning of such events the planners should involve local artists, such as AMIRAN involving Juliani as their brand ambassador for ‘Farming is cool’. Creating fun activities like engraving names of the attendants on a tree in Karura or a bird watching competition.
KEFRI has ventured in making Aloe Vera products which were in display they included shampoo, creams and lotions. They do not commercialize the products and this opportunity is given to the public. The only requirement is one need to form a group and apply to the institute. This is an opportunity that the youth are missing given the high unemployment rate in the country.
Aloe Vera is mainly grown in the arid areas of the country such as coast and Eastern region. Its two main products are the Aloe Vera gel and bitter gum which are mainly exported and used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies. Locally it’s mainly known for its herbal medicinal values. There were concerns among the attendants why one needs a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service to plan and harvest the Aloe Vera, also why the public cannot venture further into processing bitter gum products. It’s estimated that the global trade of raw Aloe Vera leaves amount to 70-80 million US dollars, processed derivatives at around 1billion and value added products at 25 billion US dollars. If fully exploited can be a major export earner for the country and employer.
On display were also the Moringa seeds and products such as the leaf powder. Moringa has become widely popular among locals due to the health benefits linked to it. The Moringa leaf powder act as an anti-oxidant, energy giver and the seeds are rich in zinc, iron and calcium which are essential for human body growth. With the increased awareness on the health benefits of herbal medicine there is need for more information on their side effects for they can be used to exploit the public (mystery herbal concoction from Loliondo).
There was also a pest and management stand which focused on the pest and diseases affecting the eucalyptus tree which include the root rot, canker and borers. If one is unaware of the disease affecting their trees h/she should report to the nearest KEFRI office and they do visit your farm. I came to learn there are over 600 species of the eucalyptus tree and one needs expert advice on which species to plant in an area. There should be more sensitization on the global carbon trade where a farmer can be paid for planting trees over 6 months maturity, the firms involved in it and their agreements plus more private sector support is needed.
There was a bamboo section where a KEFRI official took us through the processing of the bamboo tree to some of its products in display such as chairs, tables, artist stand and curtain holders. The official informed us that there were two counties interested in setting up a bamboo workshop thus were sending its locals for training in the institution. This means that the expertise is lacking among the locals in the counties. So why can’t these research institutions run under colleges or polytechnics and the training be part of the curriculum. The practical skills will help the youth capture these opportunities in the county or be self employed.
The benefits of trees are numerous and can be a huge revenue earner. With the setting up of counties it has led to resources being devolved to rural areas thus improving their livelihoods. As counties view trees as an economic activity it provides opportunities in terms of employment, to the private sector by providing equipments and training schools.
Blogpost and photos submitted by Maryann Wamaitha Gathekia (Kenya) – maryanngathekia(at)yahoo.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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