Since there are no currently active contests, we have switched Climate CoLab to read-only mode.
Learn more at
Skip navigation
Share via:


Reforestation as convergence of climate change mitigation and adaptation with socioeconomic well-being and ecological restoration.



We are a young group of Kenyans, Germans, and Americans developing concepts to realize synergies between rural development and forest restoration in Kenya. With our international team we strive to connect local activities, based on community needs, with overarching national and UN-level policy objectives. We leverage our impact and expertise through vast partnership networks of diverse stakeholder groups and institutions. Our first initiative aims to restore 100 hectares of the Marmanet Forest. This Kenyan highland forest is of keystone importance to regional water flows, agricultural productivity, the local wood-based economy, and home to a unique biodiversity.

Kijani Team

In Africa alone, there are nearly 450 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes with opportunities for restoration (1); globally, the area amounts to more than two billion hectares (2). The Bonn Challenge set a high benchmark by calling for the restoration of 150 million hectares by 2020, leveraging political and financial support (3). The World Forest Foundation sees coordinated global afforestation initiatives as key to achieving the 2°C goal while accommodating economic growth projections, particularly in the developing world (4). Scientists argue such efforts could bridge the “sequestration gap” of 150-350 billion t CO2, depending on country commitment implementation (5).

Our work builds on the three pillars of community empowerment, ecological restoration, and international dialog. We take active steps to realize the huge potential forest restoration can have as a readily available tool for climate change mitigation.The interconnectedness of elements and urgency of the "super-wicked problem” (6) of climate change warrants focusing efforts on concepts merging climate change mitigation, adaptation, socioeconomic development, and environmental stewardship. Our initiative Kijani addresses these issues in a synergistic manner and spans multiple levels of governance and implementation from local to global.

Kijani Areas

What actions do you propose?

Key Facts

  • Huge emissions reductions potential of > 1 gigaton of CO2 nationally (equaling half of global emissions from land use change in 2011 (7)) and > 15,000 t CO2 locally until 2030
  • Vast partnership networks & UN policy participation enables effective scaling up & political commitment nationally and across the continent
  • By empowering young people to steward social & environmental values our approach is innovative, leading the path for next generations


We are restoring Kenyan highland forests and empower forest-based businesses in local communities. Kijani is unique in that we are redefining old-held paradigms, we tell a story of sustainability out of Africa and into the world. Our approach challenges implicit assumptions and the dominating discourse perpetuating the lock-in of the status quo that marginalizes rural communities, particularly youths and women, as well as the geopolitical identity of Africa as a whole. Kijani is set to renew this paradigm; Kijani’s identity is based on a sheer endless willingness to listen and learn from the wealth of experience of our partners, and to redefine possibilities for our own application. By mirroring in our identity what we envision at a landscape level we attain credibility, legitimacy, and influence.

This makes our approach both novel and effective. We focus on our most valuable human capital—the young generation whose deprivation of opportunities to take responsibilities in their communities constitutes a threat to sustainable development.

The broader context

The Brundtland Report "Our Common Future" from 1987 identified a suite of environmental and socioeconomic challenges humankind faces (8). Numerous reports and conferences later we have achieved a lot of progress, yet the fundamental challenges remain the same — if not in an exacerbated way. While the merit of past efforts should not be dismissed we realize that new, additional approaches are urgently needed to get a grip around climate change and ensure human and natural well-being. Luckily, our generation is the one most promising to succeed; due to our interconnectedness and because failure has become an unacceptable option.

Reducing emissions from land use is an international priority; the sector's contribution of 10-15% to global GHG emissions indicates the potential scale of positive climate impacts (9). Sequestering carbon through afforestation and reforestation (A/R), climate smart agriculture (CSA), and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) can bridge the emissions gap until solutions for other underlying human drivers of climate change have enabled a transition to a low carbon economy.

We build our project from the ground up to ensure a sense of ownership and responsibility in the community beneficial to the durability of outcomes. We see forest restoration as an opportunity for giving new life to the local economy and setting a trajectory for sustainable, low emissions development. This is also an explicit part of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals through target 15.3 on land restoration (10).

Kenya is a place uniquely suited for forest restoration initiatives. The country’s forest cover has declined dramatically since independence in 1963, and increasing droughts and recent social upheaval are threatening a potentially prosperous future (11). The rapid population growth of 2.6% annually exacerbates environmental and social pressures (12). Woodfuel consumption has soared to unsustainable levels, up 41% from 1990 to above 27 million m3 in 2005, according to FAO 2010 (13).

Icons such as 2005 Nobel Peace Price winner Wangari Maathai (followed by her daughter Wanjira Maathai) and her groundbreaking work with the Green Belt Movement have shown how a shared vision can form an active civil society. Support also comes from the government, which, in its Vision 2030, declared the goal to achieve 10% forest cover until 2030 (14). We are confident in inspiring groups in Kenya and beyond to join and enrich the momentum we are building surrounding ecosystem restoration to tackle climate change, empower marginal groups, and support forest-based socioeconomic development.



Our vision is to reverse the challenges of climate change and ecological degradation into socioeconomic opportunities for rural communities. In the past decade, certain reforestation efforts of the Kenyan government jeopardized the rights of many communities to access firewood and graze their livestock. In some cases people were evicted from their homes. In response, some communities set forests on fire (15). To address this conflict, in 2005 the government passed legislation which installed Community Forest Associations (16). These associations represent the interests of community stakeholders and liaise with the Kenya Forest Service and environmental groups to find solutions to forest restoration. Furthermore Kenyans have done a lot to increase awareness of the importance of their forests (17). We are building on these efforts and are bringing them to the next level.

To increase communities' resilience to climate change and to achieve durable forest restoration results we regard close community relationships as key. Through our expertise we aim to foster the development of forest-based businesses in an economically viable and ecologically sound way. To ensure the creation of a shared vision we engage in awareness-raising activities, leverage the power of story-telling, and engage the creativity of local communities to map their expectations.

Meeting with the local community in Marmanet

Concrete concepts include the planting of native tree species, including fruit trees, nitrogen-fixing trees, and other culturally important trees such as for medicinal purposes, traditional practices, and domestic use (including bamboo). Table 1 shows a list of native tree species envisioned for planting. Given that the 197,000 ha of planted forest in Kenya are almost exclusively constituted of introduced species (FAO 2010), our focus on restoring a forest ecosystem with indigenous tree species is particularly valuable for multifunctional uses.

Together with local and national partners we are developing concepts for Non-Timber Forests Products (NTFPs), agroforestry and conservation agriculture, solar cookers, efficient cookstoves, and sustainable charcoal. We examine production processes, regional market structures, and social acceptance and valuation of different NTFPs, including mushrooms, fruits and berries, and honey. For market access and distribution we are working with a platform of cooperatives focused on poverty eradication (18). By establishing closed-canopy, fast-growing bamboo stands  particularly indigenous Yushania alpine, Kijani will boost carbon sequestration while enhancing ecological integrity (19). Community members will benefit from the growing demand for bamboo products in the region. Besides promoting local value creation and circular economic streams we aim to boost financial self-sufficiency by marketing premium products such as herbal extracts and tea at small scales to niche segments in Europe and the U.S. (20).

Through training initiatives we will target the youth demographic, many of whom lack basic access to vocational training facilities or national universities. We see the youth as catalysts for change in the future. As youths ourselves, we believe that inspiring and mobilizing young people’s identity as stewards of the planet for further generations to prosper is critical, with cascading effects to the prevailing elite.

We will also facilitate focus group discussions, including the establishment of a decision-making committee among community members. For the community-related activities we can draw on the professional and academic expertise in community work and sociology within our team; additionally we will work together with anthropologists.

Table 1: Native Tree Species in Kenyan Highland Forests


National level

Nationally, we contribute toward achieving Kenya’s goal of 10% forest cover by 2030, part of the country’s Vision 2030. Asked by the coordinator of the National Forest Program at the Ministry of Environment to organize multi-stakeholder dialogues addressing this goal, Kijani aims to bring together local and regional NGOs with government representatives. On August 28th, Kijani will help to facilitate a regional forum on the sustainable use of forest resources in Nakuru county, Kenya. We also work together with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Kenyan Forest Research Institute (KEFRI). These partnerships will enable Kijani to scale up our operations to other gazetted forest areas in Kenya. We aim to tap into the vast pool of expertise of the diverse range of environmental organizations in Kenya, including partnering with the Green Belt Movement. Bundling the available knowledge in the areas of climate change adaptation and mitigation, including sustainable energy provision, human health, and agriculture and forestry will be of invaluable use for scaling up our reforestation initiative to achieve meaningful climate outcomes throughout the region and beyond.


International level

Our initiative addresses the countless intergovernmental declarations warranting integrated development and conservation, community-based resource management, inclusive participation, generational equity, and a landscape approach, just to name a few. Backed with our societal legitimacy we aim to generate political commitment for facilitating the replication and scaling-up of our reforestation initiative. With the Focal Point of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) for the Major Group Children and Youth (21) in our team, we directly participate in policy processes at the highest level. Here, Kijani’s first reforestation project will serve as a concrete example for how UN-level policy deliberations can be implemented on the ground, what the precise challenges are, and how this process of multi-level governance can be improved. We pilot ways for improved communication, feedback loops, and feasibility assessments between the local and global spheres.

An assessment for forest restoration in the entire region following the methodology set out by IUCN in its 2014 Handbook for Forest Landscape Restoration is envisioned (22). This will help identify concrete opportunities for scaling up and replicating the reforestation efforts by Kijani and other organizations.


National carbon sequestration through 10% forest cover

Achieving 10% forest cover requires almost 2.3 million ha of forest additional to a 2015 linear projection of forest cover based on 1990-2010 dynamics (Table 2, FAO 2010). Reforestation would have to approach 2.5 million ha (Table 2) if assessed against a baseline of projecting trends to the period of 2015-2030 (Table 3).

Table2: Current Forest Cover and Carbon Stocks

Table 3: Baseline usind FAO Data with Linear Projection to 2015 and 2030

To be conservative, this scenario assumes additional forest area from reforestation to replace “other wooded land,” (which contains more carbon than tree-less areas, but 125tC/ha less than forests, see Table 4). Following this calculation, 10% forest cover would yield an increase in living biomass carbon stocks of 291 million against the baseline scenario, equating more than one billion tons of CO2 sequestered (Table 2).

Table 4: Woody Biomass and Carbon Density per Hectare in Kenya

We see our first 100ha for 2015 as paving the way for the other 40,000ha in Marmanet, for the envisioned 2.5 million ha in Kenya, and 450 million ha in Africa. We can effectively scale up through the power of technology such as by introducing Digital Green, a platform sharing sustainable land use and community development innovation with > 3,000 videos and > 200,000 video screenings, to Kenya. Kijani recombines and enriches existing landmark achievements like the Community Forest Associations and the Green Belt Movement to foster exchange across regions while leveraging political commitment.

We are sign of a new role of youths in the world, and by fostering collaborations with universities we enable Kenyan students to do field work and conduct research theses with us to become active creators of knowledge and environmental stewards.

Who will take these actions?

The NGO Kijani is comprised of 14 young team members from Germany, the United States, and Kenya. We unite a unique skill set including forestry, economics, business management, international relations, law, sociology, marketing, film production, and computer science converging into a visionary medley to turn climate change from burden to opportunity. We are supported by mentors experienced in the fields of environmental policy, community development, and entrepreneurship, including the former Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat.

Our team work is effectively organized with online task management and information sharing tools, and we have regular Skype meetings in topic-based subteams to foster efficiency and team spirit.

Kijani has developed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI). These are involved in the establishment of our tree nursery, ongoing forest guarding activities, and social and ecological baseline surveys.

Local Kijani Team Members with KFS Officers

Academically, our partners include University of Eberswalde, Technische Universität München, and Yale University. Their support will be particularly valuable for the processing of survey data, geospatial analysis, as well as for facilitating ongoing research opportunities for other students.

NGO partners include Green Africa Foundation, providing training to community employees in tree planting techniques and drift fencing, Mother Earth Network, the Sirikwa Wildlife Trust, Springs of Africa, and Greenpop. Our collaboration includes joint tree planting initiatives and continent-wide promotion through media. We work with youth-led Plant-for-the-Planet—home to the UN-endorsed trillion tree campaign—to leverage opportunities for the young generation, and to amplify our international awareness campaign in the run-up to a new United Nations development paradigm and revised international forest policy framework in 2015.

Where will these actions be taken?

Kijani's first forest restoration project will take place in the northern Marmanet Forest in Laikipia county, Kenya.

Map of Marmanet Forest

Nested in the central highlands of Kenya, the Marmanet region acts as a microcosm to help us understand the crucial importance of sustainability. Fifty years ago, the forest covered over 40,000 hectares. Half a century later over 90% has disappeared (23), among other reasons due to political instability and social unrest.

Marmanet Region

Today, the local economy—booming through the exploitation of wood for 20 years—has collapsed; the crisis of high unemployment and poverty is compounded by a loss of biodiversity and seasonal drought (24). This is where our project is based.

Poverty in Marmanet Region

We are presently working with the Community Forest Association (CFA) in Kwanjiku village to build a participatory approach of reforestation and community development. This will start with engaging community members to plant trees in the rehabilitation zone in order to build a sense of trust and ownership in the community.

Map of Reforestation Area

The highland forests of East Africa are not only important carbon sinks and are home to a unique flora and fauna and are a vital source of fresh water. With altitudes between 1,800 and 3,000m and rainfall between 1,000 and 2,000mm per year, they span a variety of climatic conditions and ecologic communities (25). The highland forests of Kenya contain what are known as water towers, vital to the region’s people, plants, and animals.

Without the highland forests, rivers and lakes are cut off from their water supply. The micro-climate is destabilized and rainfall patterns are affected (26). The water supply from these highland forests is needed not only to support major lakes such as Lake Victoria—source of the Nile—but it provides tens of thousands of rural farmers and pastoralists with water.

Lastly, Marmanet is a breeding ground for migratory elephants facing extinction from soaring poaching. These elephants rely on natural forest cover to raise their young in a protective environment.

Deforestation in Marmanet

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Precise projections for emissions reductions (ER) in A/R projects are challenging due to varying time horizons, scarcity of local data, and other uncertainties (27). The following scenario gives benchmark figures for the ER potential for Kijani’s 100-hectare reforestation project. The calculation only considers living above-ground biomass accumulated from 2015-2030, underestimating the project’s total carbon sequestration over its entire life-time including living below-ground and soil carbon pools.

Considering a modest mean annual increment of 10m3 biomass/yr/ha (50% of the growth of introduced species in Kenya (28)) yields 15,000m3 for 100ha over 15 yrs. Averaging 2,482 entries in the Global Wood Density Database (29) for tropical Africa yields a factor of 0.598t/m3 of oven dry biomass to fresh volume. Assuming a carbon content of 0.475t per t oven dry biomass (30) yields 0.284t carbon per m3 fresh wood. Carbon sequestration therefore is 4,260t, amounting to 15,634t of CO2.

What are other key benefits?

A range of “co-benefits" of our project are described above. The following outlines the importance of water provisioning and the value of biodiversity supported by our initiative.

Restoring the Marmanet and other forests will stabilize rainfall patterns and prevent water-related conflicts among the thousands of farmers and pastoralists in the region that rely on clean water for their livelihoods. Furthermore, the tea and tourism industries, the two largest earners of foreign currency in Kenya, generating more than US$ 229 annually (31), depend on these forests. Lastly, hydroelectricity, accounting for almost 50% of Kenya’s electricity needs, depends on major rivers such as the Tana River.

The highland forests also support a unique biodiversity. The forests' significance for threatened birds led to their international designation as an Important Bird Area. A variety of plant species, including the endemic Parasol tree and various orchids are commonly found in the wet upland forests.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Our costs will be mostly comprised of labor for maintenance and potential expansion of the project area. Over time we intend to achieve financial sustainability through project-internal income generating activities including, but not limited to, NTFPs, agroforestry, and eco-tourism. Carbon finance is a possibility for the medium to long-term upon scaling up of the project area. Bridge finance will be generated through the sale of Kenyan tree seedlings as bonsai's in Germany (and potentially other countries). Other innovative funding models we are currently developing include trees for travel offsets, offering companies opportunities to conduct CSR and pro-bono activities with us, and tree adoption schemes.

In Kenya, our main cost factors are the following: technical support from research institutions (e.g. KEFRI), purchase of indigenous tree seeds and saplings, labor and equipment for the tree planting and tree nursery establishment, NGO registration, transportation and accommodation at the planting site, production and publication of training materials and curricula and miscellaneous infrastructure costs. Our budget for the first year foresees no financial compensation for the work of Kijani team members except for a modest stipend for four of our Kenyan team members. We aim to employ one person to engage the local community. 

Cost Estimations for First Year of Operations

Our funding model relies on three pillars: personal and corporate donations, grants and stipends, and income generation in Kenya. Our initial money is sourced from personal donations and we are currently preparing a crowd funding campaign. It is our aim to not only raise money, but to also spark dialog about sustainability and create lasting relationships with donors. As part of this strategy donors will get seeds of a Kenyan tree, which they can grow at home using the bonsai technique. Our first growing tests have proven that it is relatively easy to nurture and grow these trees in German living rooms. 

One of the First Kenyan Seedlings in Kenya

Time line

Our project is still young (we got started in 10/2013) and we believe that our project needs time to grow organically. However we have set some clear goals.

Short Term (≤ 3 yr):

  • We will run a crowd-funding campaign to cover initial costs and start a donor engagement platform to spark international dialog. 
  • We will further develop our organizational structure and establish a well trained employee base and a modern work culture.
  • We will create a detailed plan on how to tangible achieve our mid-term development goals.
  • We will plant 100 hectares of indigenous trees in the Marmanet forest. 
  • We will empower community members in Marmanet to set up sustainable forest based businesses.
  • We will establish research partnerships that lead to tangible research projects in the area of forestry management and sustainable community development.
  • We will create a youth exchange between Kenya, Germany and USA. 
  • We will achieve financial sustainability through the establishment of income generating activities and partnerships with comparatives, that buy sustainable products. 


Kijani Milestone Plan


Mid Term (≤ 15 yr):

  • We plan that the local community members feel a sense of ownership over the project.
  • We plan that income-generating opportunities install positive financial returns to community members.
  • We plan to replicate our model for sustainable development in other Kenyan and East African forest regions in collaboration with other organizations.
  • We plan to define a new model of NGO-donor relationships by creating a platform for mutually enriching exchange between African countries and Africa and the West.
  • We plan to foster interdisciplinary research initiatives developing ground level sustainability solutions for rural economies.
  • We plan to be a major contributor to the Bonn Challenge and the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration


Long Term ( ≥ 15 yr):

  • It is our vision to inspire a new sensibility toward sustainability world wide and contribute to the renewal of the relationship between Africa and the West.


Related proposals

We are not yet in direct contact with other Climate CoLab proposals, but we are looking forward to get in contact with some of the other interesting related proposals to explore synergies.

Land Use: Agriculture, Livestock & Forestry:

The following two projects focus on the planting of native tree and involve community aspects as well.


Youth Action on Climate Change:

The project following targets youths and children and engages in environmental education. This is also a focus of Kijani through our planned involvement of schools and universities. Furthermore, Kijani consists of a young team and we promote generational equity.



  1. Potapov and Minnemeyer. 2011. Opportunities for Forest Landscape Restoration in Africa. A map jointly created by WRI and South Dakota State University.

  2. Minnemeyer et al. 2011. A World of Opportunity for Forest and Landscape Restoration. A map jointly created by WRI, IUCN, South Dakota State University.

  3. By 2012, 50 million hectares out of the 150 million hectare target have been restored, according to IUCN

  4. Welt Wald Klima - World Forest Foundation

  5. Radermacher, F. 2011. Wege zum 2°C-Ziel – Wälder als Joker. Politische Ökologie.

  6. Levin, K., B. Cashore, S. Bernstein, and G. Auld. 2012. Overcoming the tragedy of super wicked problems: constraining our future selves to ameliorate global climate change.

  7. World Resources Institute CAIT 2.0 Climate Data Explorer

  8. Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future

  9. GEF. 2012. Land use, land use change, and forestry activities

  10. Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals - Outcome Document

  11. UNESCO Courier. 2006. Fighting desertification in Kenya

  12. CIA - The World Factbook

  13. FAO. 2010. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010. FAO Forestry Paper 163 and FAO. 2010. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 Country Report Kenya.

  14. Government of Kenya. 2008. Kenya Vision 2030.

  15. Haynes. 1999. Power, politics and environmental movements in the Third World. Environmental Politics.

  16. Parliament of Kenya. 2005. The Forest Act.

  17. The Nobel Foundation. 2004. Nobel Lecture of Wangari Maathai.

  18. Wildliving: a community cooperative marketing NTFPs we intend to work with.

  19. Bamboo Propagation Methods – KEFRI Case Study

  20. Conservation Through Cocktails

  21. UNFF Major Group Focal Points

  22. IUCN. 2014. Handbook for Forest Landscape Restoration

  23. Kenyan Ministry of Environment and UNEP. 2008. Mau Complex and Marmanet forests.

  24. Laikipia County Development Office. 2012. Laikipia Development Plan.

  25. BirdLife International. 2014. Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mau forest complex

  26. Mungai et al. 2004. Lessons from two long-term hydrological studies in Kenya and Sri Lanka. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.

  27. DiRocco, T. L. et al. 2014. Accountable Accounting: Carbon-Based Management on Marginal Lands.

  28. FAO - Total Reported Area, All Forest Plantations

  29. Global Wood Density Database

  30. National Forest Assessments Knowledge Reference - Carbon content estimation

  31. BirdLife International. 2013. Deforestation in the Mau Forest, Kenya, is impacting wildlife and people