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In view: What a 33-year-old Kenyan environmentalist’s restoration work looks like

A photo essay of a journey to Charity Lanoi’s Maasai community project site

Charity Lanoi, a Kenyan environmentalist, at the Kuku Group Ranch. Anthony Ochieng, TonyWild
21 April 2022
Landscape News Editor
21 April 2022
Landscape News Editor

Near Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, famed for Mount Kilimanjaro and herds of free-ranging elephants, sits Kuku Group Ranch, a grassland area traditionally managed by Maasai pastoralist communities. Like many once-healthy grasslands, the Ranch began in recent years to become increasingly degraded due to deforestation, overgrazing and droughts that can be traced back to the climate crisis. But thanks to one young conservationist, these processes are being reversed before they worsen.

Charity Lanoi, a 33-year-old native of the region, is serving as the coordinator of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust’s livelihoods initiatives, and is helping restore the Kuku Group Ranch back to the fertile grazing area it once was. At the core of this effort are the local Maasai women, whom Lanoi has been collaborating with to regreen the area through proper management of a seed bank. It is not only nature that benefits from these efforts: the women are gaining new sources of income selling honey and other traditional goods in markets, with the broader community increasingly recognizing their leadership.

To support work such as Lanoi’s, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) each year equips a small number of young environmentalists with mentorship and grant funding to apply to projects that are making tangible impacts on lives and landscapes. Lanoi was selected to be a part of this program — the Restoration Stewards — in 2021, and this year, a team from the GLF, a scientist from World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and two 2022 Restoration Stewards from Africa traveled to visit Lanoi at her site. For four days, the group was immersed in peer-to-peer learning about the challenges young African restoration practitioners are facing, how the benefits of the Restoration Stewards program can be put to best use, and what it takes to transform a corner of life on this planet from one that is degrading to one that will sustainably thrive. 

Here is a selection of photos from the trip, as captured by award-winning Kenyan ecologist, conservationist and photographer Anthony Ochieng, founder of the environmental photography platform TonyWild.

An African Bush elephant roams in the Amboseli National Park.
An African Bush elephant roams in the Amboseli National Park.
A tree burns in Amboseli, threatening local species and the spread of wildfire. It was soon put down by the park’s rangers, who believed it was caused by young schoolboys who started it as a joke.
A tree burns in Amboseli, threatening local species and the spread of wildfire. It was soon put down by the park’s rangers, who believed it was caused by young schoolboys who started it as a joke.
The team leaves on a safari to explore the surrounding area of Amboseli National Park. From left: Adrian Leitoro (2022 Restoration Steward for Drylands), Salina Abraham (GLF Regional Hub Manager for Africa), Khalil Wajil (ICRAF scientist and Landscapes for our Future project coordinator), Kandi (2022 Restoration Steward for Forests), Eirini Sakellari (GLF youth assistant coordinator), Anna Bucci (GLF youth coordinator) and driver.
The team leaves on a safari to explore the surrounding area of Amboseli National Park. From left: Adrian Leitoro (2022 Restoration Steward for Drylands), Salina Abraham (GLF Regional Hub Manager for Africa), Khalil Wajil (ICRAF scientist and Landscapes for our Future project coordinator), Kandi (2022 Restoration Steward for Forests), Eirini Sakellari (GLF youth assistant coordinator), Anna Bucci (GLF youth coordinator) and driver.
Kandi and Bucci smile in front of an Amboseli sunset.
Kandi and Bucci smile in front of an Amboseli sunset.
The team checks in at the start of a morning workshop on the fundamentals of designing and developing a restoration project, led by ICRAF scientist Walji.
The team checks in at the start of a morning workshop on the fundamentals of designing and developing a restoration project, led by ICRAF scientist Walji.
Walji gives a workshop on the best practices of planning a successful restoration project, discussing how to work with communities, build a robust strategy, thrive in fundraising and implement the project’s plan.
Walji gives a workshop on the best practices of planning a successful restoration project, discussing how to work with communities, build a robust strategy, thrive in fundraising and implement the project’s plan.
Kandi, Abraham and Sakellari dive deeper into the specifics of Kandi’s restoration project, mapping out the issues the project aims to address and the next steps in utilizing her Restoration Stewards grant.
Kandi, Abraham and Sakellari dive deeper into the specifics of Kandi’s restoration project, mapping out the issues the project aims to address and the next steps in utilizing her Restoration Stewards grant.
GLF team members discuss with Kandi the mission of her forest restoration project. “My grandmother was an educator, and she is my greatest inspiration for working with children and environmental education,” she said.
GLF team members discuss with Kandi the mission of her forest restoration project. “My grandmother was an educator, and she is my greatest inspiration for working with children and environmental education,” she said.
Maasai women managing the Moilo Grass Seed Bank and Apiary share how the GLF Restoration Stewards grant has supported their efforts, including the establishment of a robust fence around the seed bank and the purchase of new beehives.
Maasai women managing the Moilo Grass Seed Bank and Apiary share how the GLF Restoration Stewards grant has supported their efforts, including the establishment of a robust fence around the seed bank and the purchase of new beehives.  
The GLF team with the Maasai community. Lanoi works daily with these women to maintain the seedbank that supports both the landscape and their livelihoods.
The GLF team with the Maasai community. Lanoi works daily with these women to maintain the seedbank that supports both the landscape and their livelihoods. 
Lanoi explains about a 7-year-long drylands restoration project run by the Maasai Wildlife Conservation Trust. The project is supported by Justdiggit, a Netherlands-based NGO focused on re-greening Africa, and works with locals to dig crescent-shaped holes, known as ‘bunds’, in the ground to help the soil absorb more rainwater and gain fertility.
Lanoi explains about a 7-year-long drylands restoration project run by the Maasai Wildlife Conservation Trust. The project is supported by Justdiggit, a Netherlands-based NGO focused on re-greening Africa, and works with locals to dig crescent-shaped holes, known as ‘bunds’, in the ground to help the soil absorb more rainwater and gain fertility.
Leitoro and a child from the Maasai community share a hug.
Leitoro and a child from the Maasai community share a hug.
Photographer Anthony Ochieng captures the local children exploring his devices.
Photographer Anthony Ochieng captures the local children exploring his devices.
Kandi on-site at a Maasai Wildlife Conservation Trust project that benefits women’s entrepreneurship by linking them to global markets to sell their traditional beaded jewelry.
Kandi on-site at a Maasai Wildlife Conservation Trust project that benefits women’s entrepreneurship by linking them to global markets to sell their traditional beaded jewelry.
“Seeing is believing.” This is the phrase Lanoi shared with the team when they first arrived at the restoration site, which the team reflected upon during their last dinner.
“Seeing is believing.” This is the phrase Lanoi shared with the team when they first arrived at the restoration site, which the team reflected upon during their last dinner.
The GLF African Restoration Stewards smiling after three full days of sharing and learning.
The GLF African Restoration Stewards smiling after three full days of sharing and learning.

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