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.
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