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How Yogo's Food Trees Program Supports Entrepreneurship


Today we'd like to share a success story from our Food Trees program, which helps low-income families build financial independence at the same time as restoring the environment. But first a little background. Before I became Yogo's founder, back in the aughts, I helped bring grant money from OECD countries to recipient countries that were seeking help with adapting to climate change. Programs were diverse, but all focused on keeping trees standing, or reestablishing trees and plants on degraded land.  As you may know, "land-use" (forests, agriculture, etc.) is one of the biggest drivers of carbon emissions, but also one of our greatest tools for reducing carbon in the atmosphere.  Trees are still the best technology our planet has yet found to capture carbon and use it to enrich soil!  

I learned something interesting through this work. Did you know that one of the most common drivers of land degradation is poverty? In financially impoverished areas, locals need a reason to keep trees in the ground instead of selling them off. The decision to protect, invest or extract is primarily economic. With the right training, know-how and materials, families can also turn degraded land into productive gardens and plantations, achieving incredible transformations! A great solution to improve land and soil is agroforestry, a system where trees are complimented with food crops to provide wind protection, soil enhancement, and shade. Mixed plantings can restore the soil and produce an abundance of crops efficiently. Besides sucking up carbon, this leads to sustenance and income for local families and increased independence!

yogo food trees giveback agroforestry before and after
Before and after agroforestry implementation.

That is why, when we were looking to set up a tree planting program at Yogo,  poverty alleviation was just as important a component as combating climate change. We found the perfect technical partner, Trees for the Future, and have helped to expand their work on the ground in Africa for more than five years. 

Food Trees supports farmers in African countries (including Cameroon, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, and Tanzania) in growing agroforestry plots yielding nutrition, income, and other benefits. Local program managers provide all the training and tools that recipients will need to become independent farmers.  Each program is five years long, ensuring that skills are transferred sustainably.

One great benefit of about this model? It it also supports entrepreneurship!  Instead of being dependent on aid, with the Food Trees model, families can independently earn cash for their outputs and even use that money to start a second business. 

This week we share the story of Leonard Ogunyi, who started a brick business, using income from the food he was able to grow on his own land thanks to the Food Trees program.

yogo food trees program sustainable agroforestry
Leonard Ogunyi shares his experience.

Based in Western Kenya, Leonard joined the program in 2021 because "I wanted to be self-sufficient" he said when being interviewed. After planting 4,000 trees and establishing a vibrant garden, he was able to produce 28 different salable crops. Next he used that cash to start a brick production operation, using clay soil right from his own land. Leonard is still in the Food Trees program but already has a profitable operation! 

“This is the third round,” he says, gesturing to roughly 6,000 bricks stacked and ready for sale. “The first round was 8,000 bricks. Second round was 6,800.” Leonard plans to continue to grow his profits after training ends in two years.

This is just one story of the positive impacts of our Food Trees program which is restoring land and uplifting families. By doing business the right way we can support wellness sustainably!

Stay Bendy, Jessica Thompson 

Attribution: Leonard's story, images were shared by Trees for the Future on June 27th.