A Mother’s Resilience: From Struggle to Sustainability

Celestine Nekesa, Trans Nzoia County – Kenya.  Before joining the Livelihood Mount Elgon Programme, by Vi-Agroforestry, she lacked knowledge about sustainable land management and had not planted trees on her farm. But now she says her life has changed for the better.

Since I joined the Vi Agroforestry project, my life has changed.

In the verdant countryside of a quaint village in Kenya, nestled amidst rolling hills and fertile fields, resided Celestine, a devoted mother of five. Despite facing numerous challenges, Celestine harbored an unyielding resolve to secure a brighter future for her children. 

For years, Celestine had labored tirelessly on her farm, yet her efforts seemed futile against the harsh realities of poverty. She dreamt of providing her children with an education, but the burden of destitution weighed heavily upon her. 

Then, a beacon of hope emerged on the horizon—the Vi Agroforestry project. Skeptical yet desperate for change, Celestine took a leap of faith and embraced the initiative. 

Initially, doubts clouded her mind. Planting trees in her yard seemed counterintuitive, and she feared it would further degrade her already struggling soil. However, as she immersed herself in the project, Celestine unearthed a wealth of knowledge previously unknown to her. 

With newfound understanding, Celestine transformed her farm into a thriving oasis of greenery. No longer did she need to traverse great distances in search of pasture for her animals; she cultivated feed right in her own backyard. The days of struggling to collect firewood were replaced with abundance, as her trees provided plentiful fuel for her family’s needs.

Celestine Nafula feeds her cows leaves from her crops, offering valuable nutrients to the cattle while minimizing waste. 

Yet, the most profound transformation occurred within Celestine herself. She evolved into a confident, empowered woman, capable of providing for her family’s every need. With her own nursery, she not only sustained her livelihood but also generated income by selling trees to others. 

As her children thrived under her care, Celestine’s heart swelled with pride. Thanks to the Vi Agroforestry project, all her children completed elementary school, and three had embarked on the journey of higher education. 

Before I joined the Vi Agroforestry project, I had no knowledge about how to plan my farm. I thought planting trees in my yard would destroy my soil. 

I would have to go long distances looking for pasture for my animals because I didn’t know I could plant feed for my cows directly in my yard. 

I also struggled to gather enough firewood. 

Since I joined the Vi Agroforestry project, my life has changed. I have enough and can provide for my entire family. I have a nursery and make a good income from selling trees. I’ve also learned how to create a balanced diet by including nutritious vegetables and fruits from my garden.” Celestine says. 
This World Environment Day, as the world united to celebrate #GenerationRestoration, Celestine’s story stood as a testament to the transformative power of conservation and sustainable practices. Her journey from skepticism to success underscored the resilience of the human spirit and the profound impact individuals could have on their environment.

In a world where time cannot be turned back, Celestine and others like her embodied the spirit of #GenerationRestoration. Through their collective efforts to grow forests, revive water sources, and replenish soils, they endeavored to make peace with the land and secure a greener, more sustainable future for generations to come. 

Vi Agroforestry on the other hand with other partners is advocating for conducive policy changes in order to allow more colleagues like celestines to enjoy the benefits of land restoration through tree planting. Such efforts include having National Agroforestry strategies and policies. 

Text and photo: David Maeri, Vi Agroforestry