One of the first things that struck me about living here in Zanzibar was the amount of wood and timber products that are used on a daily basis. Within the first few weeks of living here, I ran into this sight:
Yes, that is a giant pile of logs obstructing the street. Imagine my shock when I rounded the corner and ran into that. The logs, I found out later, were for a bakery I live next to that literally burns tons of logs a week. Wood products are very high in demand here.
I was browsing the internet late one night and I happened upon an organization based in eastern Kenya called Komaza, which is a Swahili verb meaning “promote development; encourage growth.” Komaza works with farmers who live in areas with poor soil to plant trees, which they eventually harvest to sell as highly profitable wood and timber products. They loan them the seed and capital through microcredit and offer the technical know-how and services to bring their products to market. In the interim while the trees are growing, they also loan seed for hardy, drought resistant plants that the farmers can sell to make an income, as well as use to feed their families (like mung beans). It is a very interesting model.
This region in Kenya where Komaza is working and Zanzibar (as well as much of East Africa) have quite a bit in common, including a very high demand for wood products. Every single one of my neighbors cooks with charcoal. Similarly, Zanzibar also faces severe deforestation, and central Zanzibar has poor, infertile soil like in the area of eastern Kenya where Komaza works.
Check out this very cool video about Komaza: