Bonface Khwesa, Mondia whitei (Mukombela) Production and Processing Project

Date grant awarded: October 29, 2016

he Kakamega Forest of Western Kenya is the only tropical rainforest in Kenya. Under threat from deforestation and harvesting of forest plants, the forest has suffered a great deal as people living nearby depend on it for firewood, food, and sources of income.

One such plant harvested from the forest is Mondia whitei, known in the local language of the Luhya people as Mukombela. Nutrient dense, and known as a medicinal and ritual plant among many communities in Kenya, wild populations of this plant are under such threat that in 2007 the Kenyan government banned exports to try to limit harvesting from the wild. Harvesting of the crop has also been made illegal within the Kakamega Forest, criminalizing those who depend on the harvest to make their living.

In an effort to preserve the forest while also serving the communities that live around it, community environmental champion Bonface Khwesa has a plan to train young people on how to domesticate and cultivate the crop on farm plots. Mentored by experienced Agricultural trainer and East Africa Team Leader Vincent Atitwa, who is supporting this program with the flow fund grant.

Bonface will begin training those who have criminal records for illegally harvesting the plant. If this project is successful, it will change the relationship between the community and the forest, while also providing income for community members who have suffered prosecution for doing what they had to in order to survive.