Trees and food security

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Trees can improve health and produce more sociable neighborhoods

By Angela Mutiso

Grandpa Mathayo and his wife Biero were in the habit of sitting under an enormous e ucalyptus tree, most
often associated with its native Australia, whenever they needed a break. That great tree had been part of their home ever since his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren could remember (for Mathayo and Biero both lived to be over a hundred years). Next to the tree was a wooden bench that had been around for ages. One would be forgiven to think that the wooden bench was part of the overhanging eucalyptus tree.

Besides, whenever Mathayo called anyone for a meeting under this huge encompassing tree, those who knew him well, would instinctively know it was a serious matter. It is one of those trees people lovingly grow in the home landscape because it is an attractive addition to a home. For Mathayo like many people of
his generation, this great tree provided a shade for celebrations. It was a place for meetings and a perfect abode to have fun with his peers. For Biero it was a sanctuary of sorts; to enjoy the company of her family,
children and friends who frequently came to visit, idle or get inspired.

Well-established trees according to The U.S. Forest Service, can raise property value by 20 percent. It adds that besides increasing property values and creating a more desirable street on which to live,
the benefits of trees are endless. Studies show trees improve health, lower anxiety, produce more sociable neighborhoods and more.

Today, most of the inhabitants of this once lively home are no more, and the tree that once provided so much happiness, to this near deserted homestead is desolate, unutilized; events are no longer scheduled
around it. Its forlorn appearance, can make one imagine it is aware that its owners are no more. These events actually reaffirm the view that the trees we plant in our homes are part of us… like a limb.

According to, trees give off oxygen that we need to breathe. Trees reduce the amount of storm water runoff, which reduces erosion and pollution in our waterways and may reduce the effects of
flooding. Many species of wildlife depend on trees for habitat. Trees provide food, protection, and homes for many birds and mammals.

When we talk of trees in Kenya, we can’t help but remember our very own Nobel Prize Laureate, the late Wangari Maathai, with fondness and gratitude.

‘Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to plant trees across Kenya, alleviate poverty and end conflict. She was driven by a perceived connection between environmental degradation and poverty and conflict. “Poor people will cut the last tree to cook the last meal,” she was quoted as saying.’

Meanwhile, as mentioned by Tottenham trees (which is part of a global movement to protect our natural heritage) on their website, as a child, Wangari Maathai learned from her grandmother that a large fig tree near her family home in central Kenya was sacred and not to be disturbed. And she remembered gathering water at the springs protected by the roots of the trees. Then later when she returned to her family home, she began to notice the changes in the environment: the drying watersheds, forest clearance, increased desertification and the disappearance of the streams of her childhood. She listened to the women in the village talking about the ecological changes and came ‘to understand the linkage between environmental degradation and the felt needs of the communities’. She saw that trees were the key to replenishing the soil, providing fuel, protecting the watersheds and providing nutrition.

It is worth noting at this point, that more than a billion of the world’s poorest people rely on forests and trees on farms to provide food, energy and cash income (FAO, 2012). In an enlightening article titled Family Forests and trees on farms are part of Family Farming systems, fao. org enunciates the importance of trees to Trees and food security Trees can improve health and produce more sociable neighborhoods

“We have greater evidence on how forests are critical to livelihoods of the world’s poorest, with a better understanding of the trade-offs and more exact confirmation that healthy and productive forests are essential to sustainable agriculture.”- José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.

If you understand, and you are disturbed, then you are moved to action, that’s exactly what happened to me. – Nobel Peace Prize and environmental activist, Wangari Maathai THE ACCOUNTANT THE ACCOUNTANT JANUARY- FEBRUARY 2020 43

ENVIRONMENT families. It observes among other things, that many components of daily diet of rural
families come directly from forest fruits, tubers, vines, mushrooms and leafy legumes, insects and animals harvested from forests. These provide important nutritional supplements that are vital for food security.
Studies of tribal communities in a number of provinces in Central India have shown that forests may contribute up to 30 % of the diet for millions of family farmers. Forests also serve as critical reservoirs of
food during droughts and floods–often making the difference in poor peoples’ ability to withstand significant climate fluctuations and maintain resilience in times of poor harvests.

It further says that the ability to draw from the productive capacity of both forests and farms (and pastures and fishing resources) at a landscape level is a key component in the livelihood and income generation strategies of many family farmers. Combining products from forest and field allows family farmers to avoid
the cost of purchasing essential building materials, mats, flooring, baskets, tools and farming implements, ropes and so on. In the same way the mixture of forest and farms allows family farmers to collect,
process and market a wider variety of products adding everything from timber to an astonishing array of non-wood forest products, medicinal and ornamental plants, forest fruits, mushrooms, honey, edible
insects, fish, bush meat and many others to crops and horticultural farm products. It concludes that often women supplement household income through the sale of these products they collect from the forest.
In order to appreciate the increasing value of trees in relation to food security, it would be worthwhile to take note of the 2018 state of the world’s forests. Under the heading; the people left furthest behind are
often located in areas in and around forests, it points out that the livelihoods and food security of many of the world’s rural poor depend on vibrant forests and trees. Evidence shows that around 40 percent
of the extreme rural poor – around 250 million people – live in forest and savannah areas. Access to forest products, goods and services are vital for the livelihoods and resilience of the poorest households,
acting as safety nets in difficult times. Some studies suggest that forests and trees may provide around 20 percent of income for rural households in developing countries, both through cash income and
by meeting subsistence needs. Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) provide food, income, and nutritional diversity for an estimated one in five people around the world, notably women, children, landless
farmers and others in vulnerable situations. Changes in land cover, use and management have grave implications on a nation’s water supply. While three-quarters of the globe’s accessible freshwater comes
from forested watersheds, research shows that 40 percent of the world’s 230 major watersheds have lost more than half of their original tree cover. Despite this, the area of forests managed for soil and water
conservation has increased globally over the past 25 years, and in 2015 a quarter of forests were managed with soil and/or water conservation as an objective.

The benefits of trees are there for us to see, that is why we never tire of reminding you about it in our environment segment.

What do experts say?

  • One of the fastest growing fruit trees is the Peach Tree. The tree can grow a height of 15 feet within a year and will be able to provide some delicious peaches too. Coconut is one of the fruit trees which can grow pretty fast and rapidly…the
  • The Pawpaw’s preferred habitat is rich, moist bottomland, but will also grow on other sites that are well drained and sunny or partly shaded. Within their native range, they can be found almost
    anywhere from river bottoms to hill tops..,blossom nursery
  • Mulberry is a hardy deep rooted tree that can do well in almost all types of soils. It is draught tolerant and can thrive in arid and semi-arid areas. It thrives best with rainfall of 400 mm and above. The optimum rainfall requirement is 800 mm per year….infonet-biovision
  • Grow guava trees in a tropical or subtropical environment. Guava trees thrive in areas where the summers are warm, and the winters are cool. … Select a well sunlit spot. Make sure the spot receives at least 6 to 8 hours of sun daily. … Find moist, well-drained soil…wikihow
  • The many benefits of growing fruit trees include their yield of fresh, locally grown food. As another advantage, fruit trees grow well in urban and suburban settings. From a social aspect, fruit trees
    help people become connected to the growing process while also providing a nutritious food source and food security….homeguides


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