community development

Greening the Desert

Safarilink / Barefoot tree planting day @ Ngamia Secondary School, Nakukulas – Turkana East.

Barefoot Soulutions is a Kenyan start-up specializing in tropical permaculture. The team were sub contracted by Tullow Oil in July 2017 to design, implement and manage a number of working demonstration farms in partnership with local community groups.

In September 2018, Safarilink jumped on board and together the trio embarked on a tree planting campaign that saw 200 mixed variety seedlings, including the superfood ‘moringa’ dug carefully into the soil by students and teachers of Ngamia Secondary School.

Barefoot’s demonstration farm ‘Akiro Amana Analaireng’ from the air

Barefoot’s demonstration farm ‘Akiro Amana Analaireng’ from the air

Harsh, inhospitable, 8 billion black rocks.

Lake Turkana land is Kenya’s far north and unlike anywhere else in the country. Thousands of years ago this was once a lush wetland where our earliest ancestors roamed, the fossilized remains of one discovered 1.6 million years later by a team of sweaty archaeologists who promptly re-christened the area ‘The Cradle of Mankind’.

Hosting the world’s largest permanent desert lake this region is uniquely under-populated and holds the title of Kenya’s poorest, driest and hottest county. Stuck right up on Ethiopia’s southern border this arid place occupies a vast empty space on the map, shaded yellow right across the sweeping breadth of the Great Rift Valley.

This area is a throwback to our most ancient human origins but besides the dam it is an awakening economic giant. Beneath its surface lies significant oil deposits, sub surface water reserves and on the southern shore a scurrying hive of activity with the construction of Africa’s largest wind power farm. Expansive roads now cut through swathes of prehistoric acacia savanna and the buzz of boda-boda’s regularly interrupts the waaaaa call of the go-away bird whose whoosh of grey feathers against the piercing blue sky is often the only movement between the hours of 9 to 5 when day time temperatures peak at ‘sweaty.’

Africa as a whole is on the march, urban centers have replaced fly ravaged shack-scapes and flying high above this still empty landscape for the fist time the dust from a hundred thousand hooves far below quickens the heartbeat… where did all the grass go?

The challenge of our generation is regeneration - and this is Barefoot’s mission.

The ‘Alaireng womens group work closely with the Barefoot team learning and implementing Permaculture practices on a daily basis.

The ‘Alaireng womens group work closely with the Barefoot team learning and implementing Permaculture practices on a daily basis.

“Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” said Allan Savory in his widely acclaimed 2013 TED talk[1] on holistic land management - and it's happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Solutions exist in theory but it’s the practice part that stumps most. To this end, Barefoot had been sub contracted to set up a series of agro-ecological demonstration sites together with select members of adjacent communities who would train alongside our team in anticipation of the day when they would take over the full running of the sites and their associated value chains – of which Moringa is just one. 

Fresh Moringa leaves being naturally dried in the Turkana heat – before being turned into high grade powder.

Fresh Moringa leaves being naturally dried in the Turkana heat – before being turned into high grade powder.

Akiro Amana Analaireng is the name of the main farm site and tree nursery - ‘Demonstration farm in the desert’ is the literal translation and it is from here that several pick up loads of indigenous and exotic seedlings were selected and taken to the school for the Safarilink sponsored tree planting /out grower program.

Along with a fine mix of indigenous species like desert dates, acacia melifera, henna and flamboyant came 100 young Moringa oleifera and Moringa stenopetala; one of the most nutritionally dense plants in the world whose leaves once dried and crushed into powder occupy pride of place amongst the world of ‘superfoods’ whose global market value is projected to increase at a compound annual rate of 16% in the coming decade.

Both species of Moringa thrive in hot, sandy places –the oleifera species (originally from India) grows in abundance along our coastline and is favored by the Giriama as a tasty green vegetable, but it is the indigenous stenopetala that gets us excited; the leaves of which are darker and larger in size and when eaten raw, added to boiling water for a super-tea or dried, crushed and spooned into a cute packet for sale (see below) bring in a tidy income for the farm, community and one day the school too.

The farm produces its own organic moringa powder – from both species – with the school set to be our first out grower.

The farm produces its own organic moringa powder – from both species – with the school set to be our first out grower.

Because we’re planting in Turkana – hot, dry and sandy, the trees are planted along with a range of Organix (K) products: Absorber is a hydrogel substance that helps retain precious water in the soil, Earthlee is a concentrated humate powder and Asilee a soil conditioner

= All organic – all brilliant.

Students celebrate their visit with a cup of fresh moringa tea

Students celebrate their visit with a cup of fresh moringa tea

Earlier on that week the students received a farm tour (that included a cup of fresh moringa tea at the end) and upon our arrival at the school the team quickly got busy with a mechanical hole-digger... noise, sweat, heat, dust and many tiny seedlings in whose future canopies lies so much potential. Each student was allocated one moringa and one indigenous tree to nurture over the coming months and a competition of ‘whose tree grows the fastest’ initiated with a prize awarded at the end of the year.

In summary, tree plantings don’t get more exciting – or cooler than this – an essential realization to make as we face down the future as a country whose very future lies in the hands of its young people – and the natural world. 

We have much work to do people…

Thank you Safarilink !

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Contact: Jess de Boer ( for information on our farm fresh moringa powder

Check out for more information on their epic products

A word from the training department!

By Florence Njoki

We learn as we work!

On a daily basis, the barefoot training department takes the Nakukulas community ladies into sessions of training; both hands-on as well as theoretical. The training's range from nutrition, composting using worms, nutrition gardening, tree planting, soil enriching techniques, crop protection, propagation, basic financial (saving, budgeting) hygiene among others. The hands-on training help the women know how to work on the farm, with the theory training enabling them to know the background of what they do on the farm.

Turkana being a pastoralist community has the locals inexperienced on agricultural issues. The community based women group, learns how to be trainers for the rest of the community. The ladies are also equipped with life skills i.e. financial and hygiene that enable them to be independent and take better care of their families. The ladies are eager to learn and they insist on other training like charcoal making, baking, soap making among others.

Barefoot Training Department teaches Turkana community ladies

Barefoot Training Department teaches Turkana community ladies

The ladies of the community are taught on our demonstration farm that has drip-line nutrition gardens where we grow herbs, green vegetables, moringa, salads, lemon grass, neem trees among others. The nutrition training made a big impact on the women. They were surprised to know that lemon grass cures stomach problems, and that moringa has seven times the vitamin C of oranges, three times the potassium of bananas, four times the proteins of eggs, four times the vitamin A of carrots and four times the Calcium of milk.

Namoni one of our ladies reports that she has learnt that if she has no fruits, she can drink the healthy vitamins from the moringa tree. Akale remarks: "kumbe moringa ni dawa ya kimaajabu”?  Translates that moringa is indeed a miraculous tree. Anna was surprised to learn that the composting worms are hermaphrodites!

IMG_7003 (1).jpg

Training on enriching the soil for example, mulching, cover crops, use of compost as well as companion planting is among the training that could see the transformation of the potential Turkana. Our big challenge is now convincing the girls to eat salad. Tasting classes are coming up soon to get the ladies gain new taste buds;). Our satisfaction comes from the joy when the women notice how their soils have changed in a short time with the right input,  having them get new diverse food,  and when they ask for lemon tea. We know we have created an impact.

Barefoot promotes the training because with knowledge dispersed, our goals of replicability, scalability and success are possible!

If you are interested in joining our apprentischip program to learn all about what we do up here, read more and apply here

Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp


Mfangano lies on the Eastern part of Lake Victoria in the Homa Bay county of Kenya. 65 km² with a population of approximately 17,000 and home to the Wasuba tribe who were originally refugees from Uganda around 400 years ago.

 Lake Victoria | Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

 Lake Victoria | Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

Traditionally the people of the Island are fishermen, they fish for ‘omena’ sardines at night using lights to lure the fish into their nets. This is a dangerous occupation and also produces a lot of wasted by-catch such as juvenile Nile Perch. Tilapia are also netted in great numbers close to the shoreline and with no regulated fishing procedures the practices have become unsustainable with fish stocks seeing massive reductions over the past few years. There is a minimal amount of subsistence farming carried out on the Island using the highly destructive slash and burn method which has rendered great swathes of the landscape barren and susceptible to desertification.

Tilapia from Lake Victoria | Permaculture on Mfangano Island

Tilapia from Lake Victoria | Permaculture on Mfangano Island

Since we hosted our first guests in 1990 Mfangano Island Camp has been the only major hotel on the Island welcoming people from all over the world, we have created many jobs, assisted communities and families and become firmly integrated in Island life building schools and clinics in various villages. We believe that it is our duty and responsibility to preserve the heritage of the community as well as being a driving force for positive change.  We now wish to take this train of thought further by establishing truly sustainable development which will empower the community and allow them to progress independently without relying wholly on outside funds or influence.

Through mutual friendships, interests and good old serendipity we teamed up with the Barefootsoulutions team with the aim to initiate a drastic change in mindset on an island wide scale hopefully allowing the islanders to prosper with work, food and nutritional security. After an initial site visit we sent two of our staff members to Kilifi where they successfully completed a PDC course.


The Garden

a showcase and training centre for the local community on Mfangano Island

The team then returned to the camp where we first focused on our own carbon footprint setting up a now thriving garden, revamping our waste water management, kitchen waste and plastic recycling. We are well on the way to producing 80 percent of our vegetables and fish by the end of 2017. This garden has become a show case and training centre for the local community and with the help of Barefootsoulutions we will be running regular workshops held on building low emission and low consumption wood burners, eco friendly building techniques and encouraging sustainable agriculture, fish farming and aquaponics.

Composting | Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

Composting | Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

Already we have implemented a project at a local primary school with astounding success. We have found that through a connection with nature some of the children struggling academically have thrived and the community as a whole has rallied around the idea of sustainability raising funds amongst themselves to fence the school and donate seedlings.


Permaculture on Mfangao Island | Governor's Camp

Our eventual goal is to spread the Permaculture message throughout the island and have a collective of farmers who can supply the camp and the island with food creating sustainability and abundance. We look forward to an exciting future working with the Barefoot team.

Sukuma Wiki Forest

Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governor's Camp

If you are interested in improving your eco rating and implementing a permaculture approach to your lodge, hotel or restaurant please visit our "Course" page and sign up for the next Permaculture Design Course (PDC).