In July 2017, Better Globe customers visited Better Globe Forestry’s operations in Kenya. Some 40 visitors from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and even Iceland arrived in Nairobi and were driven around to see plantations and visit farmers, all the while experiencing Better Globe Forestry’s achievements. In the former Mwingi district, now Kitui county, they had the chance to experience the semi-arid countryside and to understand the livelihoods of people living there; not an easy life, and light-years away from their Scandinavian backgrounds. Indeed, it was quite an experience.
They saw Better Globe Forestry’s field office in Kamuwongo, from where its farmers program is run, and followed some of its agroforestry agents to see how farmers are planting Melia volkensii (mukau) in their farms, under a contractual agreement with the company where they are guaranteed of a market for their trees once these are ready for felling. Next day, the visitors drove to Better Globe Forestry’s plantations at the shores of Lake Kiambere, where they saw loads of trees, including some Acacia senegal, producing the valuable gum arabic. All of them had to get their hands dirty to plant a mukau tree. From there, they went to Mbuvu location in Eastern Mwingi, to a village bank. This is the popular name of a Financial Services Association (FSA), a micro-credit facility run by K-Rep Fedha Services Ltd, which is Better Globe Forestry’s contractual partner for this kind of operation. Since its inception in 2013, paid for by Better Globe Forestry, this bank has experienced wild success. Over 4,000 farmer families are accessing its services, which includes savings accounts, various types of loans and the financial capacity building that goes with it. Additionally, once opened a savings account with the bank, they become shareholders, hence owning the bank themselves, and entitled to a dividend at the end of the year. Another FSA has opened in Kamuwongo, giving more farmers access to credit services.
On the way back to Nairobi, a stop was made at Lake Kamburu, where Better Globe Forestry is preparing for its new modern nursery complex, including an in-vitro plant multiplication facility to produce seedlings for the whole Seven Forks area in Eastern Province. In Nairobi itself, the head office was visited, where the management of Better Globe Forestry was explained. Then off they went to Tsavo West National Park to sample some of Kenya’s wildlife. They passed through Mukuyu Farm in Kibwezi to see its mango orchard and water management practices in drylands, and hear of its role in farmers’ training. It was a very full week, crowned by a dinner in the Carnivore restaurant in Nairobi, before they took the plane to Uganda, to continue their trip and see operations of the NGO Child Africa, founded by Julie Solberg and of which Rino Solberg is the chairman.