The well-equipped and excited Youth Future Lab (YFLab) team embarked on a journey on the chilly morning of Friday, June 16, 2023. Leaving behind the bustling city of Nairobi, they eagerly anticipated the adventure that awaited them. As they descended into the Rift Valley, the team couldn’t help but admire the breathtaking escarpments and picturesque landscapes that unfolded before their eyes. Their destination: Naivasha in Nakuru County, where they would visit the esteemed Kenya Forestry Services (KFS) tree nurseries. The YFLab team sought the best trees to plant for their ambitious tree planting initiative, and KFS was renowned for their high-quality seedlings and expertise in tree planting.

At the KFS tree nurseries, the YFLab members received invaluable advice from the experienced team. They were guided on the best tree species that would thrive in the challenging climate of Mai Mahiu. With great care, the YFLab team selected a variety of tree species including Albizia, Croton, Acacia, Blue gum, Tecla, and Kei Apple. These species were specifically chosen for their resilience in the harsh conditions of Mai Mahiu.

After their visit to KFS, the team made their way to Mai Mahiu, where they would spend the night before commencing their tree planting expedition the next morning. Rising early with the sun, the team eagerly set off to the planting site on a rough road, enduring a 15-kilometer journey from Mai Mahiu town. Arriving at the site, they were greeted with an awe-inspiring view of Mount Longonot, illuminated by the golden hues of the sunrise. The beauty of nature served as a reminder of the vital task ahead.

Joined by enthusiastic community volunteers, the YFLab team wasted no time and began preparing the holes for planting, following the guidelines provided by KFS. With precise measurements, the team diligently spaced the trees three meters apart. Together, they carefully planted all 500 seedlings, ensuring each one had the best possible chance of survival. Water, a precious resource in the area, was sourced from a nearby dam using a donkey-pulled cart. The team worked tirelessly, watering each tree with great care.

After a long day of hard work, the exhausted team gathered around a fire to enjoy a well-deserved feast. They roasted goat meat, a Kenyan delicacy known as “nyama choma,” and savored it alongside steaming plates of ugali, a staple food loved by all. As they shared laughter and stories with the welcoming local community, the YFLab team learned about the area and its people. They discovered that “Mai Mahiu” is a Kikuyu word meaning “the place of hot water,” a fitting name for a region known for its geothermal activity.

As the sun began its descent, casting a warm glow over the landscape, the team completed their planting endeavor. Exhausted yet exhilarated, they retired to Mai Mahiu town for a well-deserved rest, preparing to return to Nairobi the following day. The YFLab team felt a sense of fulfillment, having not only planted trees but also gained a deeper understanding of the local environment and the challenges it faces.

The journey to Mai Mahiu had its fair share of obstacles. The plot of land designated for planting was situated 15 kilometers from Mai Mahiu town, and the roads leading there were in poor condition, making access challenging. Additionally, water scarcity posed a significant hurdle, with the nearest dam located a considerable distance away. However, armed with determination and resilience, the YFLab team overcame these obstacles, knowing that their efforts would contribute to the greater goal of combating deforestation and desertification.

The YFLab team’s tree planting initiative aligned with the Kenyan government’s ambitious plan to plant 15 billion trees by 2032. The team’s efforts in Mai Mahiu were a crucial step towards achieving this goal. Moreover, they hoped that their continued afforestation endeavors would help attract more rainfall to the region in the years to come, providing much-needed relief to the area’s water-scarce ecosystem.

As the YFLab team bid farewell to Mai Mahiu, they carried with them a renewed sense of purpose. Their journey had been one of discovery, unity, and resilience. Through their tireless efforts, they had sown the seeds of hope and made a tangible difference in the fight against deforestation. The YFLab team vowed to return, their hearts filled with a determination to nurture the trees they had planted and to continue their mission of safeguarding the environment for future generations.

The tree planting initiative in Mai Mahiu showcased the power of collaboration, where passionate individuals and communities came together to create positive change. It served as a reminder that each person has the ability to make a significant impact, no matter how small their contribution may seem. With youth-led initiatives like the YFLab’s, a greener, more sustainable future is well within reach.

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Alice Kamau

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