Fighting climate change and strengthening livelihoods in East Africa
Freshfields has been carbon-neutral since 2007, offsetting its emissions through various projects: biomass projects in China, Turkish wind farms, and efficient cook stoves and LifeStraw water purification in Kenya.
In 2015, the firm made a commitment to remaining carbon-neutral for the next 10 years and launched its offset project, Freshfields Reforestation in East Africa Programme (REAP).
Freshfields REAP is a community reforestation project based in Kenya and Uganda. The project empowers small groups of subsistence farmers and aims to reverse the effects of deforestation, drought and an insecure supply of food.
Farmers are invited to join with neighbouring farmers to form small tree planting groups (clusters) and collectively plant trees on their land.
‘The farmers wanted to improve their situation, and were willing to work hard to change things. Their attitude was inspiring.’
Founder, Clean Air Action Corporation
Monthly small group meetings enable farmers to develop and share best practice. Training is provided on conservation farming methods, nursery development, agroforestry techniques and health education to support them in attaining sustainable food sources, encourage diversification of income and build capacity.
Freshfields REAP is part of a larger existing project known locally as TIST, which was set up by Ben and Vannesa Henneke of Clean Air Action Corporation.
Ben describes his inspiration for setting up the programme: ‘During a trip to Tanzania in 1988 we were moved by how intelligent, committed and hard-working farmers were suffering from the third drought-induced famine in the last five years. They lived in a non-cash economy, had no savings, and the government was unable to provide food assistance – it was a wrenching experience. Women and children were walking 6–12km to gather firewood and to haul back 40-litre buckets of muddy water for the family’s cooking needs – they knew the results of land degradation and unsustainable farming practices.
‘These small groups of farmers wanted to improve their situation – particularly by planting trees – to give them shade, firewood, fodder for their cattle, building materials and even fruit or nuts. They were willing to work hard to change things – their attitude was inspiring, and we saw the opportunity to use a carbon trading approach to provide funds to farmers for restoring their local environment which used to have forests, be fertile, and have year-round rivers.’
The firm’s long-term commitment will enable five to 10 thousand East African farmers to join the project, helping them create new sources of income through the planting of up to two million trees.
Ben says, ‘The support of Freshfields over the next 10 years shows a path toward reaching the 700 million farmers that require the support of a project like this. Freshfields’ leadership is an important step toward developing sustainable, thriving communities that help heal their land, and are able to cope with the risks and impacts of climate change that we face as a global community.’