A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Replanting a Nation- Who is Adam Tuller?



The statistics relating to deforestation in Kenya make scary reading. Since Kenya’s Independence in 1963, forest cover has fallen from 12.5% of the country to just 1.5%. As a result, the country has been officially declared a desert.

To raise forest cover by 10% (the UN target), 3 BILLION trees must be propagated and planted. It is a mind staggering figure, and could daunt many, but not Adam Tuller- for that is what he and his organisation, The Africa Conservation Trust are about to do.

Over the last 20 years Adam has been figuring our ways of creating sustainable community forestry. He has piloted his methodology, which has proven to be highly successful, and has just got government go-ahead to roll it out across the entire country.

Adam is confident that the programme will succeed. “It is a home grown solution”, he comments. “This is not an overseas agency that has come and said ‘you’ve got to do it like this, and it is this way or no way’. Instead this is entirely relevant and is culturally flexible to the different tribes in different areas”.

To do it, Adam has been researching Nitrogen fixing trees. These are species which can be propagated quickly, simply and at a low cost. The trees increase soil fertility, and are extremely economical with water, making them ideal candidates for the job.

Adam is also currently working on a plan to introduce the tree propagation scheme into every secondary school in the country, as part of their chemistry and biology laboratories, so that children can help replant the country for themselves.

Alongside all of that, he has been working on a rural development programme for wealth creation using trees, and a charcoal programme for sustainable energy.

Adam is keen that the Trust be self-sufficient. In order to make it so, he has developed two profit generating businesses around it. The first is commercial forestry and the second, a low-cost community housing scheme.

Seems like a lot? Well it is. To Adam it is like a large jigsaw puzzle, needing all the pieces for the big picture to successfully take shape. He has all the pieces now, including the structure of an organisation to help it happen, and is about to press play on the grand plan.

Adam is fourth generation Kenyan, with his great grandfather arriving in 1867. He attended school in the UK, returned to Kenya, and due to a strange turn in race relations, was not permitted to enter university in Kenya (because he was not Black). So, instead, he entered that universally accessible learning environment, the university of life, learning what he needed along the way. This included getting a commercial pilot’s license and an MBA by distance education.

I asked him if there was every a time over the 20 years which he felt like giving up, and as a response he quoted one of his favourite characters, Winston Churchill. Following WWII, Churchill delivered a now famous 6 word speech, which went simply as follows; ‘Never, never, never, never give up’.

Adam took Churchill to his word, and it seems like Kenya will be breathing a lot easier as a result.

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