Chepyuk is a well-known farming region in Mt. Elgon. Initially, it was set up as a settlement scheme for the Ogiek/Ndorobo community to grow food but subsequent creation of farm lands resulted to the loss of tree cover. However, one man is making a difference and changing the landscape through his passion for tree planting.
Meet Godfrey Chelasya from Kapkisei Village in Chepyuk. He has had a love for trees since he was young. As a child, he would gather seedlings from the forest and replant them. Later in life when he was employed as a civil servant, he had the resources to pursue his passion for tree planting. However, his neighbors couldn’t understand why he wasn’t using his land for farming and thought he was wasting valuable space.
He has been able to transform the climate of his immediate homestead by planting trees. He enjoys the cool breeze on hot sunny days. During rainy season his trees help prevent soil erosion and protect against strong winds. The benefits of his tree planting efforts extend beyond his own household. His neighbors often collect fallen branches from his trees for firewood which he also uses to build houses and cattle sheds. Most residents have to travel to the forest to collect firewood but Godfrey gets all he needs from his trees. One tree can provide enough firewood to last him 3 to 4 months.
Godfrey has planted over 2,000 trees on a 2-acre piece of land. His success has inspired his immediate neighbors and relatives to plant trees as well because they have observed the benefits of trees firsthand. However, the challenge remains that most people in Chepyuk prioritize farming over tree planting.
“I urge my people to try to plant at least 10% of their land cover. When they plant their own trees, they won’t have to destroy the forest,” he says. He also urges them to avoid charcoal burning, which contributes to deforestation.
He believes that one day, the face of Chepyuk will change for the better. He hopes to see more trees planted in Chepyuk as they grow fast. He would like to see more recognition and appreciation for those who plant trees; such as awards or recognition during holidays. He also suggests that the county government can help by availing seedlings because the lack of seedlings is one of the reasons why people don’t planted trees.
Godfrey’s story shows that one person’s passion and commitment to tree planting can make a significant impact on the environment and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.