Tackling Kenya’s Biggest Reforestation Challenges
Environmental problems are inherently complex, and that complexity is what attracted Alex de Sosa Kinzer to study landscape architecture and conservation ecology at SEAS.
Kinzer is a regional director for Eden Reforestation Projects’ work in mainland African nations. Eden is the largest, most efficient tree-planting organization in the world, said Kinzer, and one of only three with meaningful, long-term monitoring measures in place. Its goal is to provide dignifying employment in impoverished communities worldwide through large-scale tree planting (most projects are 500 hectares or more). “We work in some of the poorest communities worldwide to actualize local visions of reforestation for a variety of purposes, including agroforestry, sustainable fisheries, landslide protection, water resource protection, and habitat conservation that reduces human-wildlife conflict in farmland and homesteads,” Kinzer said.
Eden takes a simple solution—tree planting—and applies it to a variety of landscape-scale environmental issues worldwide in a wide variety of forest types, Kinzer added. “A lot of my job is creating strategies for growth in each national office I manage and in the wider region I manage. My degrees allow me to simplify the complexity inherent in any reforestation project and to create systems for the teams I manage in Kenya, Mozambique, and other offices that have not officially opened yet. At Eden, we also have the opportunity to leverage the scale of our work to address landscape-level environmental issues in each nation, which was the focus of my time at SEAS.
Kinzer said she is proud of building the national office in Kenya from the ground up, including watching the team “grow into a collaborative group of people ready to tackle some of Kenya’s biggest reforestation challenges, which include invasive species and landslides. After only one year of operation, we have planted and monitored almost 5 million trees with high survival rates in both mangrove and Afromontane forests.
Kinzer, whose favorite SEAS memory is spending time in the field with her classmates, said it’s often easy to get lost in the daily challenges of her work, whether it’s a germination problem in a tree nursery or a planning issue. She said she takes strength from her collaborative environment, where “you can rely on colleagues to bring ideas to the table and create solutions together. Anything worthwhile is built by a community of people coming together around a common goal.