We cannot separate the wellbeing of local communities from sustainable food production and the preservation of African forests. As human populations in East Africa grow and more land is needed for food production, indigenous vegetation is often removed without clear legislation or incentive to protect it. Diverse indigenous vegetation is many times replaced with a monoculture of Eucalyptus, Wattle and Cypress timber plantations or food-based cash crops, leading to a steep decline in biodiversity and viable ecosystem services.
In this environment, ‘Plants for Life International’ (PLI), a non-governmental organization operating at Brackenhurst, has become a shining light and example of a sustainable solution to the reforestation of Kenya’s natural resources. The Brackenhurst Botanic Garden and indigenous forest is a fascinating case study of how quickly biodiversity and ecosystem services can be restored on a relatively small piece of land. Combining a high diversity of indigenous plants with a relentless effort to keep invasive species at bay without using chemical herbicides, this indigenous forest has contributed to a sharp, measurable increase in biodiversity and cleaner river water for downstream communities.
Brackenhurst Botanic Garden provides the perfect learning space for Permaculture Design programs that offer practical skills for designing and creating sustainable living systems, integrating human needs with the ecosystems in which we are rooted. Join reforestation and permaculture community education initiatives at Brackenhurst to empower and train the local community to replicate these sustainable efforts elsewhere.
Timeframe for Involvement
2 days – 2 weeks (or longer).
Service involvement includes supporting the local community in developing sustainable human settlements and agricultural systems by modeling them on the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems such as Brackenhurst Botanical Garden and indigenous forest. This service learning project is very interactive and composed of practical activities, design exercises, lectures and discussions to engage both students and the local community.
- Learn from ancient, local knowledge about the importance of African forests and the medicinal uses of plants
- Gain an understanding of some of the historical and current threats to indigenous vegetation (and biodiversity) in East Africa
- Develop a practical guide on how to restore degraded land and be introduced to field-based skills and data collection
- Understand how to increase productivity using various strategies and how to design the needs of yield systems
Approximately forty kilometers north of Nairobi extend the fertile rolling hills of Limuru, most famous for vast tea fields and farmland. Here lies Brackenhurst, a conference center and educational campus known for the beauty of its grounds, its refreshingly cool climate and first-class hospitality toward guests. Rooms are comfortable with en-suite bathrooms and hot showers, and Brackenhurst provides tasty, nutritious food ranging from traditional Kenyan to international cuisine. The conference center is equipped with an LED projector, TV multi-system, CD/DVD player and excellent Wi-Fi Internet access, creating an extremely conducive learning environment for students. Brackenhurst is proud to be home to one of the largest collections of indigenous plants in Africa with over a thousand tree and shrub species, making it a unique destination for inspiration, exploration, and learning.
Kiambethu Tea Farm
Touring the Kiambethu Tea Farm gives insight into the colonial history and economics of Kenya, as well as the process undergone to transform the leaves of a tea bush into one of the most well known beverages of all time. The tour includes a walk through indigenous forests rich with medicinal trees, as well as a delicious colonial luncheon on the lawn.
River Rafting Rapids Camp
River Tana is the perfect place for white river rafting, with rapids ranging from grades three to five. It is also the only place in for white river rafting in Kenya. Upstream and downstream currents, including waterfalls, provide different technicalities that challenge beginners as well as more experienced rafters. Rafting River Tana is a worthy adrenaline rush!
Big Cat Monitoring
Incredible wildlife is one of Africa’s most appealing icons, and is desperately in need of protection through conservation and educational projects. Many conservation efforts give rise to amazing volunteering programs, such as the opportunity to research and monitor big cats. Taking part in this project gives students a chance to deeply experience and engage with some of Africa’s most powerful and breathtaking wildlife.
Brackenhurst Botanic Gardens
Brackenhurst Botanic Gardens is a vibrant gateway into the world of pre-colonial climate diversity. Rising out of misty, rolling hills of emerald-green tea, these gardens stand as a testament to the power of environmental restoration and protection. The project began in the year 2000 and includes an arboretum of rare tree species that are critically endangered across the continent.