|BGF started its first field work in Kenya at the end of 2006, at Katithini village at the shores of Lake Kiambere in eastern Kenya, currently Kitui county.|
The land is owned by the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority (TARDA), a Kenyan parastatal.
The lake is man-made through construction of a dam, and fed by river Tana, the biggest river in Kenya. The purpose of the dam is electricity generation, and this operation is managed by KenGen (Kenya Electricity Generating Company).There are 4 more dams on the same river, all in the area called “Seven Forks”.
Poverty is high in Kitui county, with 63.5% of the population classified as poor, compared to 47.2% on a national level (international poverty line: living on less than 1.9 US$ per day). Ecological conditions of the area are typical for semi-arid lands, with Potential Evapotranspiration higher than 2000mm per year, and Mean Annual Rainfall at 700mm, occurring quite irregularly. Soils are red and sandy, and stony on slopes. BGF here planted mainly Melia volkensii, and a small area with neem (Azadirachta indica). Growth of the melia is excellent, and enhanced by soil conservation works that eliminated erosion by constructing thousands of check-dams in gullies. BGF’s trials have shown that melia can be planted year-round, provided it receives adequate care and irrigation. Being quite drought-resistant, melia is completely adapted to this environment.
Around 100-250 people are employed in the plantation, depending on the season, in various activities going from seedling production towards around-the-clock protection of the plantation. This protection is required to safeguard the investment against theft of trees and trespassing of livestock like goats which would inflict damage on the trees. During all these years, BGF was in close contact with KEFRI (Kenya Forestry Research Institute), ICRAF (International Centre for Agroforestry) and KFS (Kenya Forest Service), sharing its experiences.
BGF is the biggest employer in the area, injecting significant amounts of cash in the countryside through payment of salaries, and purchase of inputs like melia fruits. The plantation in this dryland, and its size, the biggest in Kenya, is widely seen as a milestone in Kenyan forestry, pioneering the transformation of semi-arid bushland into a commercially valuable investment. More and more visitors are coming to see this with their own eyes.
KIAMBERE MODEL PLANTATION PHOTO GALLERY