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Sep 30, 2017 6 Min Read

The Miyawaki Reforestation Method

Kijani Forests for Change has been searching for an economic model for sustainable income generation for our forest restoration projects in Marmanet as well as our newly acquired land in Ol Kalau. Currently, we are funded by donors and well-wishers, and realize that in order to become financially sustainable as an organization, we need to tie our value proposition as an organization to market needs.

Many residents in urban areas value greenery and trees in their home spaces or compounds. At the same time, trees take a long time to grow, especially indigenous trees, which take upwards of 20 years to achieve maturity. It is for this reason, that we have been involved in training our staff on setting up demonstration plots for the Miyawaki Method. In partnership with Eshel Garden guesthouse, we have set up two Miyawaki demonstration plots in Karen, Nairobi with a third one underway.

The Miyawaki Method is an ideal economic model for raising the needed funds to propel Kijani’s forest restoration work further. A concept initiated by Dr. Akira Miyawaki, it is aimed at restoring and creating an indigenous forest within 10 years. You can find an excellent article on the method by TED Talks here. In practice, the soil is amended for optimal growth outcomes, seedlings are spaced very close together to induce competition and mulch is used to conserve soil moisture and suppress weed growth.

The Miyawaki Method relies on the following principles for faster growth of trees.

Indigenous trees

Various indigenous trees species on Demo Miyawaki Plot.
Various indigenous trees species on Demo Miyawaki Plot.

Certain trees are better suited for unique ecological environments than others. To have the highest chance of success in terms of tree health and survival, one needs to know the indigenous trees in the proposed rehabilitation area and also select young indigenous seedlings that are under 1 year old. Kijani conducted an inventory assessment of the indigenous trees in the area. We then approached a local Non-Governmental Organization, A-Rocha Kenya, that sells indigenous trees unique to this area, and purchased 984 indigenous trees with 14 different species.

Land preparation

Kijani Staff working on the third Demo plot for establishing a Miyawaki Plot.
Kijani Staff working on the third Demo plot for establishing a Miyawaki Plot.

For the trees to grow healthy and strong, they need the right nourishment. Land has to be prepared adequately. Land preparation entails mixing manure and rice husks to the soil in equal portions. The manure provides nourishment of vital nutrients, while the perforated husks help water to pass through the soil. In the two demonstration plots, we dug the forestation zones 1 meter deep and added the correct mixture of perforated material (rice and coffee husks), animal manure, and soil before planting the trees. To make sure we prepared the land adequately, Erick, our Forestation Manager, attended a training through Afforest, an organization promoting the Miyawaki Method in India, to learn about the soil requirements for success of the method.

Species Competition and Mixing

Claire Nasike, one of the Kijani Volunteers, checking on the Demo plot.
Claire Nasike, one of the Kijani Volunteers, checking on the Demo plot.

In a natural forest, there is intense competition for sunlight. In order for an indigenous forest to grow back in under 10 years, the spacing and placement of trees needs to be carefully considered for maximum growth. Within each square meter, 3 tree seedlings are planted. Because of the good amount of mulch used, weeding is not needed, as the weeds are then suppressed by the mulch. Mixing the species reinforces species diversity and resistance leading to the co-existence of trees.

Water Conservation

Water Sprinkler, for watering Miyawaki plot.
Water Sprinkler, for watering Miyawaki plot.

A significant amount of water loss happens through evaporation from the soil surface. By mulching the ground of the area to be rehabilitated, water is preserved. In addition to this, the trees need to be intensely watered, with up to 5 litres per square meter once a week.

We are excited to see the growth of this forest in the coming years and so is Eshel Guesthouse.

In years to come, we see ourselves creating a business service model similar to that of Afforest, offering urban clients – both residential and commercial – with a service that allows them to establish a forest in small spaces according to their specific wants and needs of the client. Watch this space!

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