HDRA is now called Garden Organic.
This letter is from Phil Harris, Professor of Plant Science at Coventry
University, who works with Garden Organic's International Development
programme. The bold type is our emphasis.
I am responding to your message
to Garden Organic regarding the Today Programme that was edited by
Michael Palin on 30th December 2013 about the problems in Ethiopia with
the 'Devil Tree' (Prosopis). I have also sent the relevant information
to Farm Africa/ Michael Palin stressing that it is not all bad
news. While Prosopis is certainly perceived as a major week in
some places, it has also successfully been turned into a valuable
resource in many areas, including in Kenya with the invaluable early support from Kennington
Overseas Aid. The work in Kenya started back then is going from
strength to strength and our collaborator, Simon Choge from the Kenya
Forestry Research Institute, is now Director of a Sub-Centre of KEFRI
in Baringo District with the remit to take this work forward. The best
publication that sets out the overall position and our currrent view on
Prosopis is attached: Pasiecznik, N.
M., Choge, S. K., Trenchard, E. J., and Harris, P. J. C. (2012)
‘Improving Food Security in Famine-Prone Areas Using Invasive and
Underutilized Prosopis Trees’. FoodChain 2(2): 197-206.
The following information may
result of work in Kenya in 2006, including work by Garden Organic and
Coventry University funded by Kennington Overseas Aid, the Kenyan Government, and others were
two policy changes. The Kenyan Government lifted the blanket ban on
charcoal production and trade specifically for the exploitation of
Prosopis, and issued a two-year moratorium on the release of biological
control agents against Prosopis to allow time for a nascent pod
processing industry to develop and make an impact. Both policy changes
came into full effect in 2008. By 2013, the moratorium had not been
overturned as Prosopis utilisation is expanding.
Target groups in Kenya include
poor pastoralists and subsistence farmers, including women-headed
households and indigenous peoples, many in very remote areas. Studies
on the impacts of Prosopis on livelihoods concluded that revenues from the
sale of Prosopis products was providing up to 46% of family income in
Baringo, and approaching one million pounds per year of additional income in selected
communities in Baringo, Garissa and Tana River since 2008 (Choge et
al., 2012). These are all areas where training and demonstration
courses occurred and have large areas of Prosopis.
Official records of charcoal
sales gathered from individual communities in all the three districts
since the charcoal trade ban was lifted in 2007 averaged £440,000 for
each full year for which data was available. In addition, official
estimates of illegal sales by the Kenya Forest Service were considered
to be at least equal to official sales figures. Added to this were
estimates of the income earned by local community associations from the
sale of pods for animal feed and poles used in the construction of
local huts, particularly in Garissa where they are used by many of the
450,000 Somalis in the Dadaab refugee camp, the largest in the world.
The informal sale of fuelwood is also considered to be significant.
These huge benefits approaching one million pounds a year directly to
poor rural people during the past five years is considered as
self-sustaining, and such impacts are actually expected to increase.
Choge et al. (2012) note for example, that “there is an increasing use
of processed Prosopis pods by many communities for feeding livestock as
a positive impact of the awareness and training programmes in the
recent years by the Government and other development partners.”
The economic potential of
Prosopis in Kenya is also soon to expand exponentially. A company is
preparing to invest in a ‘green’ power station in Baringo using only
Prosopis wood (Price, 2012), supported by external financial support.
The company attributes their successful application for a grant and
loan of one million US Dollars to the results of the Garden Organic/
Coventry University research programme (Saleem Ahmed, Tower Power
Baringo Limited, Nairobi, Kenya, 24 September 2012). A second power
station is also planned in Garissa.