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Meet Kenya's green heroes: the team behind the Hongera projects

In the heart of Kenya, the Hongera Reforestation Project and the Hongera Energy Efficient Cookstoves Project emerge as symbols of positive transformation. The reforestation project, a large-scale initiative in the catchment areas of Mt Kenya and the Aberdares, seeks to rejuvenate landscapes marred by human activities by planting over 10 million trees. Simultaneously, the Hongera Energy Efficient Cookstoves Project pioneers energy-efficient cookstoves, reducing carbon emissions and indoor air pollution while invigorating local communities. Our journey to meet the local team unfolds through the lens of five integral figures, each contributing uniquely to these transformative endeavours.

Video interview with Haron. The team behind the Hongera projects’ impact_Haron during a presentation and distribution of new energy efficient cookstoves with local people_visual 1Click to watch the video interview with Haron, Project Director, Kenya.

Haron – Project Director

At the epicentre of DGB Group's initiatives in Kenya stands Haron, a visionary and an Ashoka fellow since 2010. Championing the cause of small-scale farmers, Haron is the orchestrator of the Hongera projects. Hongera translates to 'celebration' in Swahili, embodying the triumphs of sustainable change. The projects comprise two facets: the production of energy-efficient cookstoves and an expansive tree-planting initiative. 

The Hongera celebratory tone resonates with Haron's passion and the multifaceted benefits of the projects. The cookstove initiative, stretching across Nyeri, Laikipia, and Nyandarua, integrates seamlessly with the parallel effort to plant millions of trees. This holistic approach aims not only to absorb carbon emissions and protect the environment but also to infuse income into communities. The chosen trees, including avocado and macadamia, are strategically selected to provide immediate benefits to the users.

Haron expresses the transformative impact of Hongera cookstoves, boasting a remarkable 60% wood-saving efficiency, improving the health of households and saving time and money spent on wood collecting for traditional three-stone hearths.

Read more: Igniting impact: scaling up the Kenya cookstoves project 

Haron paints a vivid picture of the symbiotic relationship between cookstove distribution and tree planting. The projects contribute to environmental sustainability and serve as a catalyst for community development. Beyond the immediate benefits of reduced firewood usage and environmental conservation, the accrued income, primarily from carbon credits, fuels additional community improvements. 

‘Our work is not only generating carbon credits which generate income and which save the environment or improve the environment, but it also generates immediate and long-term benefits that improve an entire community.’ 

What sets these projects apart, according to Haron, is the tripartite arrangement involving communities, investors, and implementers. This unique collaboration facilitates actions that would be otherwise unattainable. The magnitude of carbon credits generated from the trees and energy-efficient cookstoves creates a financial reservoir, enabling significant advancements in the community. Haron is also proud of the employment of agronomists, researchers, and on-the-ground personnel, forming a dedicated team working directly with communities to enhance their livelihoods.

Haron's narrative transcends a mere project description. It becomes a saga of transformative impact, where nature-based initiatives combat environmental challenges and power holistic community development, embodying the true spirit of the Hongera projects.

The team behind the Hongera projects’ impact_James providing a tree planting training in a local school in Kenya_visual 2James, DGB Country Operations Director in Kenya, providing tree-planting training at a local school in Kenya. 

James – DGB Country Operations Director, Kenya

In the intricate tapestry of DGB's initiatives in Kenya, James stands as the orchestrator of seamless execution. As the Country Operations Director, his responsibilities span overseeing all DGB projects in Kenya, ensuring the realisation of milestones, and leading the field and operations teams. Acting as a focal point among stakeholders, including project partners, national and county governments, and the community, James embodies the project's inclusive and collaborative spirit.

What sets the Hongera projects apart, according to James, is its direct positive impact on local communities. The projects not only improve wellness in health but also instil a sense of socio-economic responsibility and ownership while actively promoting environmental adaptability. The uniqueness lies in the extensive involvement of beneficiaries and local communities in co-creating the projects, fostering inclusivity and community-driven contributions.

James envisions the Hongera projects as a game-changer in how communities perceive development. The projects’ emphasis on community ownership, coupled with locally led innovations, contributes to better livelihoods for local artisans and farmers, effectively mitigating the effects of environmental instability. His inspiration stems from the project's potential to transform lives and influence policy changes positively in the future.

The team behind the Hongera projects’ impact_ Diana during a work in a cookstoves factory in Kenya_visual 3Diana, DGB Deputy Centre Manager, at a cookstove factory in Kenya.

Diana – Deputy Centre Manager

Next, we meet Diana, the dynamic Deputy Centre Manager spearheading the manufacturing of cookstoves for the Hongera Energy Efficient Cookstoves Project. Her role extends beyond a managerial position; it embodies a commitment to the project's core values and profound impact on communities.

Diana's pride in her pivotal role in the Hongera cookstove project is palpable. As the overseer of manufacturing operations and ensuring that all production processes conform to quality standards, she is a linchpin in the intricate machinery of positive change. While the project is undeniably about producing energy-efficient cookstoves, Diana paints a broader canvas, highlighting its multifaceted benefits.

She passionately underscores the tangible differences made in the lives of local communities. Beyond the evident reduction in carbon emissions through the adoption of energy-efficient cookstoves, Diana highlights the transformative power of improved cooking conditions. The ripple effect extends further, touching the lives of over 200 families who find financial support through their involvement in the project.

‘We are not only producing stoves; we are impacting the lives of communities in the Mt Kenya region, from providing employment opportunities to improving cooking conditions and contributing to sustainability. The Hongera project is well-rounded and is well-placed for positive changes and long-term success. I feel optimistic about the strides we are making, and I am confident that the project has a bright and impactful future.’

For Diana, the Hongera cookstove project transcends the realm of stoves; it becomes a driver for sustainable living conditions. Teamwork, purpose, and the positive ripple effect resonate profoundly in her perspective. It's the collective effort of individuals like Diana that transforms this project into a force for enduring change. The echo of its impact reverberates far beyond the individual components, creating a harmonious symphony of progress and purpose.

The team behind the Hongera projects’ impact_Martha during a work in a seedling nursery in Kenya_visual 4Martha, DGB Agronomist/Agroforestry Manager, at a seedling nursery in Kenya. 

Martha – Agronomist/Agroforestry Manager

Then, there is Martha, the Agronomist Manager dedicated to uplifting communities through efficient cookstoves and sustainable agriculture. Her role involves crafting agronomy manuals and planting protocols and ensuring their integration into daily routines. Martha finds inspiration in the projects’ dual focus on providing energy-efficient cooking stoves and planting trees that sequester carbon, aligning with Sustainable Development Goals. 

Read more: Growing green: The Hongera Reforestation Project expands its nurseries in Kenya

For Martha, witnessing the success of the agricultural farming communities, working hand in hand, is a source of profound inspiration, showcasing the tangible impacts of the Hongera projects on lives and livelihoods.

The team behind the Hongera projects’ impact_John during a tree planting with local people in Kenya_visual 5John, DGB Field Officer for the Hongera projects, during tree planting with local people in Kenya.

John Field Officer for the Hongera projects

Meet John, a dedicated Field Officer at the forefront of the Hongera project operations working with Simon, the Regional Coordinator. John’s role involves championing the projects in specific areas, educating communities on environmental preservation, and overseeing the implementation of tree planting and using Hongera cookstoves. John finds immense value in the projects, witnessing firsthand its profound impact on farmers and envisioning lasting financial benefits for generations.

In a semi-arid area like Laikipia County, where drought is prevalent, the Hongera projects emerge as a long-term solution. Through tree planting, the reforestation project aims to increase rain and food production. John emphasises the projects’ uniqueness in directly impacting individual lives, especially through daily activities like cooking. The individual-centric approach, exemplified by issuing fruit trees to individuals, sets the Hongera projects apart, making it a standout initiative.

The projects’ focus on financial wellbeing is evident through various avenues—from the sale of fruits to the positive financial impact of carbon credit production. The Hongera cookstove, by saving firewood, not only reduces fuel expenses but also contributes to clean air and good health. John draws inspiration from picturing the future impacts the projects will have on the community and the country at large, fueled by the rapid tree planting, including fruit trees, that brings the projects’ vision closer to reality.

The team behind the Hongera projects’ impact_Group photo of a DGB members in Kenya_visual 7Group photo of team members in Kenya with locals. 

These individuals, each contributing their expertise and passion, personify the essence of the Hongera projects, where social impact, environmental sustainability, and economic empowerment converge, creating a narrative of positive transformation in the heart of Kenya.

DGB Group, planting the seeds of change with green heroes

DGB's mission transcends environmental stewardship; it's a dedicated commitment to a harmonious coexistence between nature and humanity. Through our nature-based projects, we champion positive environmental contributions and place a significant emphasis on fostering social wellbeing and economic growth. 

Our holistic nature-centric approach ensures that the ripple effects of our initiatives extend beyond carbon reduction, creating a brighter, greener, more sustainable future where the benefits resonate across all facets with involved communities. DGB is dedicated to restoring nature, weaving together the threads of environmental resilience, social progress, and economic vitality for a truly impactful and enduring legacy.

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