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Jan 12, 2015 4 Min Read

Taking Root

With a graceful demeanor she waltzed into the coffee shop where not 1, not 2, not 3… but 4 Kijani members awaited her arrival; pen in hand and chai (Kenyan tea) a’ sipping. “We need to work on our gender balance”, was the thought that popped to mind. I’m sure a female presence would have eased her sink into the booth where we spent the next 1.5 hours gleaning from the experience of the former Natural Resources Manager for Gamewatcher’s Safaris. This is one of the largest tour operators in Kenya – their multi-million dollar budget a testament to their success.

Chantal in the field with students from a primary school in the Maasai Mara

Chantal Migongo-Bake, a Master’s graduate of the London School of Economics, answered our questions with deliberance and poise. In the conservancies surrounding the Maasai Mara, her role was to balance the needs of Maasai pastoralists with the need to maintain suitable habitats from wild game. Conservancies have emerged all over Kenya as a means to protect pristine landscapes while contributing to sustainable community development through tourism. The vibrant discussion danced in an arena of interest and possibility; bee-keeping, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) financing, SWOT analyses and the Maasai blood-and-milk drinking tradition only a fraction of the topics raised.!

The truth is, in 2014 Kijani was privileged to meet all sorts of experienced and interesting people, Chantal just one in a cohort of inspirational leaders and game-changers. Robert Mwehe, the Forest Expert for TOTAL Eco-Challenge Kenya, is another example. I’m sure you’ll read about all the potions and concoctions – from extracts from indigenous trees and shrub – that he implored Kijani members to experiment with. That deserves as post of its own. Dr. Mercy Gichora, the former National Cordinations Expert for the Ministry of Environment graced us with her belief in the passionate, albeit slightly inexperienced, Kijani team; “Once you get your feet planted in the ground, you’re really going to have some impact!”, were her parting words to us.

Gleaning from the wisdom of Ben Henneke - the founder of TIST

Ben Henneke, the founder of The International Small Group and Tree-Planting Program (TIST), inspired us with his wisdom, humility and practical bottom-up approach to community engagement. TIST has contributed to the plantation of over 10 million trees in Kenya with simple technology and a low budget. We subsequently traversed the miraa-laden foothills (“miraa” is a kind of drug grown in that part of Kenya) of Meru to see for ourselves the secrets to TIST’s success.

While it will not be possible to recount all these meetings in a short post, one truth is evident: the guidance and mentorship of these notable people will continue to steer the course of Kijani for many years into the future. It is safe to say that we have established a firm foundation for 2015 and beyond. This year is one where we aim to act on the wonderful advice, and “take root” – literally!


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  1. Looking forward to great things in 2015!

    Dickens Likhanga
    • Dickens Likhanga
    • Mar 9, 2015
    • Reply
  2. Impressive! Looking forward to seeing the NEP benefit from your dedication, insight and vision for sustainable natural environmental conservation. I believe the NEP can be reclaimed. Godspeed!

    • Josephine Josiah
    • Feb 9, 2015
    • Reply
  3. We just added the functionality to leave comments on the blog. We are really looking forward to answer your questions, suggestions and replies. Happy commenting :)

    Tobias Lohse