Celebrating 5,500 Forest Garden Graduates
Trees for the Future
May 18, 2023 (Article written by Junior Walters and Lindsay Cobb)
In much of the world, students of all ages and studies are graduating over the next month – celebrating
their hard work and successes over years of schooling. The same is true for Forest Garden farmers in
Kenya and Tanzania. More than 5,500 farmers celebrated their successful completion of Trees for the
Future’s (TREES) Forest Garden training program in April and May.“This day means that I have graduated, and I have reached such a level that I am an expert and am
better than before,” says graduate farmer Peter Ngigi.
Peter and his fellow graduates joined TREES’ training program four years ago and have been hard at
work ever since. TREES works with farming communities in challenging climates where hunger and
poverty are persistent. Local staff provide training, seeds, and resources, teaching farmers how to
transform unproductive, degraded land into thriving Forest Gardens full of thousands of trees and
dozens of species. Using permaculture and nature-based solutions, farmers are able to restore their land
and provide for their families year-round.
“Before joining the Tree for the Future program, I had so many problems,” recalls graduate Perpetual
Njoki. “I was not able to stand on my own, but now I am able to. I am not idle, I am self-employed. I am
not looking for work from other people, I work using my own hands.”
On average, farmers establish a one-acre Forest Garden, they plant 2,500 – 4,000 trees, and they gain
access to everything they need to eat and sell on their own property. Peter, for example, went from
growing six food crops on his land when he joined in 2019 to growing 18 different types of food crops in
his Forest Garden. Before, he had two crops or products to sell for income, now he has 23 different
crops and products serving as streams of income throughout the year.
“When farmers join our program, they have very little to rely on,” says Tanzania Country Director Heri
Rashid. “Today, being able to celebrate all these farmers and all their accomplishments over the last
four years is proof that the Forest Garden Approach has a powerful, lasting impact on people and
planet. We are so proud of all the graduating farmers and are confident that they will continue to show
the power of the Forest Garden for years and years to come.”
Although their formal training with TREES ends with graduation, their Forest Gardens are only just
beginning. With the trees they’ve planted and the knowledge they’ve gained, every farmer graduating
now has the tools they need to succeed in the long term. In addition to their continued growth and
success, farmers often have the option to “Plant it Forward” by sharing their knowledge with other
farmers in their communities through TREES’ growing network.
“Anyone who would like to learn they can come [to me] and I will train them so that they can help
themselves and their families… so that they can reach where I have reached,” says Perpetual.
The April and May graduation graduations welcomed entire communities for the celebrations. Farmers
gathered with their family members, community leaders, government officials, and TREES staff.
“It is a joy to celebrate these accomplishments with farmers and encourage them to continue in their
journey to prosperity,” says Brandy Lellou, Trees for the Future Vice President of Programs. “Our
training program may end after four years, but these inspiring graduates are planting the seeds of
transformation for generations to come.”
The 5,500 graduates make up the largest graduating class from the Forest Garden training program ever
and represent 14% of all farmers trained by TREES to date. There are currently 25,000+ farmers enrolled
in TREES training programs across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal, and Mali.
Help more farmers transform their land and livelihoods through the Forest Garden training program.
Article originally published at https://trees.org/2023/05/17/2023graduations/