When he made a decision to abandon pastoralism to conserve the environment through planting trees most of his peers thought he was out of his mind.
But 31 years down the line, Isaac Juma is more determined to conserve the environment and teach the future generation about the benefits of conservation.
When The Mashariki News visited Juma in his farm in Maralal town named Akiba tree nursery, we found him watering tree nurseries whose seedlings are sourced from different forests including the Aberdere forest.
“My heart aches when I see Samburu people suffering due to prolonged drought while the solution is to plant as many trees as possible.” Says the 65 year old.
He says that during the 70s and 80s, Maralal was covered with trees from the neighboring Kirisia forest and consequently there was a lot of rainfall but as the town grew deforestation took its toll.
Juma says that he is teaching people living close to towns on the benefits of zero grazing in an effort to conserve forests in Samburu County.
“Those living in towns are the catalysts of deforestation since they use charcoal for energy and we educate them on the disadvantages of deforestation.” He said.
The conservationist says that he has planted over 3 million trees in Samburu County since he started his conservation efforts 30 years ago.
He however notes that most of the trees he plants do not get to maturity stage since they are eaten by livestock especially those planted in public areas.
Juma notes that, annually, he sells about 30,000 tree seedlings to institutions and individuals. He however notes that sales are good during the rainy season but after the rains people are reluctant to buy trees.
“On average I make about Sh 9,000 per month and I have used tree proceeds to educate my nine children and have also enabled me to employ two casual laborers.” He said. Juma points out that the mango and avocado trees are the cheapest at Sh 300 since their seeds are easily available while the most expensive is the Washingtonia Filifera (the petticoat palm) which he sells for Sh 1,000.
Juma has about 5,000 exotic tree seedlings whose varieties include Jacaranda, Brazrosewood, African Mahogany, Canary palm, coral tree, Italian cypress, bottlebrush, golden wattle, Australian flame tree among others.
At the moment, Juma has 30,000 tree seedlings in his nursery and among them12, 200 are indigenous, 5,000 exotic and 10,000 fruits producing trees while the remaining 7,200 trees are at the germination stage.
He urged the County Government to encourage conservation efforts at the same time promoting local conservationists in their work.
“This exercise requires efforts from politicians, church leaders, elders, parents and teachers in order to make it a tree planting culture.” Juma said.
Samburu County Environment CEC Grace Senei said that the county government has set aside funds for planting trees on the hills surrounding Maralal town to curb gully erosion.
“Due to deforestation, gully erosion is rampant in Maralal town and peoples’ land has been turned into deep gullies by raging waters from the surrounding hills.” She said.
Senei said that the tree planting exercise will be carried out by her office in conjunction with local conservationists.