#10Morans; Meet Tree Champion Lokeno

 
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Unlike most of his peer group, 25-year old Lokeno Toriepe spends his free time talking about trees. 

Toriepe is a Pokot from Ltungai Community Conservancy. Poverty rates are high here, a driving force, Toriepe says, behind the illegal deforestation for charcoal production that is fast degrading the landscape he loves. 

“Most of the community rely on livestock,” he says, “but deforestation contributes to environment degradation, and makes worse the effects of drought and wildfires. This affects livestock a lot.” 

A livestock herder himself, Toriepe has seen that the connection between the health of the land and the health of his cattle is strong. That is why he now leads campaigns to sensitize his peers on issues around deforestation and charcoal production. 

“We need trees for the survival of present and future generations, that is why I have set myself out to champion against charcoal burning and logging in our area,” he says. 

Two years ago, the Kenyan government imposed a ban on logging and charcoal burning, and with the support of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), community conservancy rangers and communities across the landscape are beginning to tackle this complex issue.

“We reached out to the charcoal burners who argued that they were engaging in the trade for survival since they do not have other income,” says Toriepe. “We listed its effects and how it would impact their livelihoods in the future, and encouraged them to resort to other alternative income generating activities,” he added.

Through NRT-Trading, the community in Amaiya are now able to access grants and loans to help them start up new businesses, boost existing ones, and diversify their farming to include crops, bee keeping, and poultry. This is helping reduce reliance on charcoal sales. 

“Initially, we used to see sacks filled with charcoal lined up for transportation,” says Toriepe, “but owing to this campaign we’re not seeing as many.”

These small successes are what keeps Toriepe motivated with his mission. “Although the communities’ urge to restore the forest continues, we still have a few who are still engaging in the illegal activity,” he adds, “so I will keep going!”.

 
Sophie Harrison