Restoration champions of Upper Yala

Jane Wangithi carefully arranges a pile of propagated tree seedlings on a new tree nursery adjacent to a stream in Kusa village, Central Asembo, Bondo Sub-county. Wangithi has been on shift for the day tending to the tree nursery at a farm. 

Wangithi is one of the 30 members of the Rambugu-Hafife Farmers’ Group, a community-based organisation (CBO) based in Siaya County. This CBO is a constituent member of the bigger Yala Ecosystem Site Support Group (YESSG), the Nature Kenya site support group for Yala Swamp. 

Rambugu-Hafife is among the vibrant community groups championing the conservation of Yala Swamp. The group’s activities revolve around habitat restoration within the upper Yala area, conservation agriculture and commercial tree farming as part of its sustainability program.

“We do all these activities as members. Everyone has a slotted time to work on the farm. It is rewarding because whoever works get some allowances,” Wangithi says. 

Rambugu-Hafife started in 2004. The group grows farm vegetables including kales and traditional indigenous vegetables. Within its established nurseries are fruit trees that include grafted mangoes and avocados that they sell to farmers locally.

“We sell the vegetables for local consumption. We also sell commercial trees to farmers and institutions in Siaya, Busia and Kakamega,” the group’s chairperson, Jacob Sijenyi, said.

For their commercial tree planting venture, the group has been leasing parcels of land to plant trees, in addition to three acres they have bought. Through this venture, they supply firewood to schools. The group also supplies logs for use in construction.

“The secret behind our success is that we have vibrant activities to support our restoration activities. We have a table banking group that has grown over time, and at the moment, every farmer has a cow courtesy of the group. We have also bought land from the earnings and savings from these ventures,” Sijenyi added.

The group was among the beneficiaries of water pumps provided by Nature Kenya, which they say have greatly helped in irrigating their produce.

Moses Nyawasa, Nature Kenya extension officer based in the Yala ecosystem, says the group is one of those that have managed to sustain their activities.

“The group has been able to sustain its restoration activities while undertaking conservation agriculture initiatives worth emulating,” Nyawasa said.

In the past year, the group has managed to plant 20,000 indigenous trees as part of its restoration plan.