A community-based social enterprise is receiving $145,000 to advance a market-led conservation effort using essential oils from native trees to save and restore Kenyan forests.
Horizon Essential Oils is thrilled to announce a $145,000 grant award from the Netherlands’ DOEN Foundation to scale a successful essential oils project in communities near Mount Kenya. The project encourages community-based action to conserve and restore forests through circular entrepreneurship. Thousands of hectares of forest will benefit while boosting income and livelihood options for local community members, especially women.
Kenya’s forest cover rate is only 5%, with a deforestation rate of 1.13% annually (according to Kenya Forestry Services). Since the country’s forests provide the principal origin for water, at this rate the country will be a desert in only a little over a century. Over half the country’s population will be water insecure, and millions of hectares of natural carbon storage will be forever put out of use in the global fight against climate change. Mount Kenya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has around 705 square kilometres of protected forest under threat.
Deforestation in Kenya is mostly caused by low-income people who don’t have anywhere else to turn to make a living. They take what economic value they can from their forest by cutting down trees and selling for charcoal or timber.
Horizon was founded by Bernard Muchiri and Mary Njeri to change this paradigm altogether. Farming was becoming untenable, and Bernard wanted to find a better income stream for his people. He identified many plants that were used in the old days. By giving local people an alternate source of income people can see that the trees are worth more alive than dead
Bernard says, “When people discover that this plant they have grown up with can generate income, they get surprised.” Based on the success of the cape chestnut, Horizon expanded to other biomass and have started to plant crop-based oils such as geranium and immortelle. The company organizes local collecting groups, mostly women, to collect plant matter in a sustainable way. Horizon currently collects essential oil biomass on 300 hectares, with 150 part-time staff.
This project will enable Horizon to increase processing capacity. In 3 years, 3,000 hectares will be in operation, with 1,500 collectors and 10 additional full-time staff. Deforestation will be reduced in the area by at least 40%.
Horizon’s model of market-led conservation is simple yet effective. Commercial products are produced for the growing essential oil market while helping to preserve biodiversity and improve local livelihoods. Collecting forest nuts and leaves creates a new local income source from products that previously held no commercial value. The by-products of oil pressing are converted into animal feed.
Along with discouraging deforestation, the company promotes reforestation and planting initiatives around Mount Kenya, with 261,000 oil-bearing trees planted to date.
The DOEN Foundation is a Netherlands-based charitable entity whose aim is to add to the transition of a green and innovative economy where inspiring entrepreneurs contribute to a better world for people and the planet. The companies it supports work actively to establish sustainable change in the whole production chain, from procurement to sales. To achieve impact financial profit is a precondition, not an end in itself. The DOEN Foundation is funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery.