Chapurukha Kusimba, a professor of Anthropology based in the United States, is not your ordinary scholar.
He is a nature enthusiast, a devout environmentalist, and the proud owner of a breathtaking 200-acre tree farm nestled in Kiminini, Trans Nzoia county.
Over the past decade, Kusimba has single-handedly planted a staggering 400,000 trees on his farm, transforming it from a rocky, arable land into a lush, green haven for both flora and fauna.
Nature has also played its part in planting other trees, and Kusimba estimates the tree population on his farm to be about a million. When he bought the land in 2007, he says he found only a single fig tree.
“At that time, the land was rocky and arable. So, I could afford to buy it because nobody wanted it,” he told Alex Chamwada in an interview. However, his investment was no small feat, as each acre cost at least Ksh 250,000.
Today, he estimates the value of the land and the assets on it to be over Ksh 1 billion.
On the farm, which he visits three times a year, you will mostly find eucalyptus and cypress trees.
You will also find the Mvule tree, which he says takes about 300 years to mature and is used to make carved furniture.
He has also planted Neem trees and Jacaranda, which he says he was advised to plant as they grow very fast.
“This place was very eroded and had plenty of gulleys. The trees shed leaves that help in the rebuilding of the topsoil,” he says.
He buys seedlings from Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) and others are from his own nurseries on the farm.
Initially, he planted the trees and then gave local farmers space to farm while taking care of the trees. As they were taking care of the crops, they also helped maintain the trees
Aside from trees, Kusimba has reared livestock and poultry on the farm, which is home to over 250 species of birds. He says they are useful in reforesting the environment.
The forest has brought more rain to the area and fostered the return of wildlife such as antelopes and rabbits, whose population had declined with the advent of civilization. He has also created employment for several locals who take care of the farm.
With approximately 50 acres of eucalyptus, 10 acres of cypress, and 7 acres dedicated to coffee cultivation, Kusimba has diversified his agricultural pursuits.
He also maintains 130 bee hives that not only produce honey but play a vital role in fertilizing his coffee crops. Fruit trees, including pawpaws and mangos, add a touch of biodiversity to his sustainable oasis.
In the next 10 years, he hopes the farm will have perennial running streams and a conservation area where local children can walk around and learn about the ecosystem.
“We aspire to create an example of how one can create an organic farm out of bare rock,” he says.
Kusimba joins the ranks of Kenyans who are making serious money from tree farming.
According to Business Daily, tree products enjoy a ready market, unlike other agricultural products whose markets are already saturated.
Local demand for trees outpaces supply, with many companies relying on imports to meet their needs.
Most people often shy away from planting trees due to the long time it takes for the investment to mature. For instance, it can take up to 10 years before eucalyptus trees achieve the diameter required for harvest as KPLC poles.
However, farmers can target other end products that take less time to mature and are still marketable. For instance, eucalyptus stems can be harvested within two to three years and used as rafters for semi-permanent houses.
In five to six years, they will usually have matured enough to be used as shutter poles in the real estate industry, a booming business in Kenya’s ever-expanding construction sector.