Gertrude Kadzo, a 37-year-old farmer, stands in an neglected former pineapple field.
Photo: Piers Benatar/Panos/ActionAid
When she talks about pineapples, Gertrude Kadzo looks wistful. It is only with hindsight that the 37-year-old farmer from Kenya’s Dakatcha Woodlands realises just how good they were to her.
Gertrude stopped growing them and instead planted jatropha, a tree she was told would be more profitable. But she was misinformed.
"When I was growing pineapples I used to make 150,000 Kenyan shillings a year," Gertrude remembers. That’s around $1700.
Since I’ve grown jatropha I’ve made nothing because there is no market for it. It has made me poor.
Gertrude had 20 cows when she started growing jatropha. Now she has none. She had to sell them to pay for her children’s education because she has no other income. And now the very land Gertrude has farmed all her life is under threat – and she is at risk of eviction.
The Dakatcha Woodlands – home to 20,000 people, the ancestral land of the indigenous minority Watha and Giriama tribes, a global biodiversity hotspot – are set to be destroyed to make way for an Italian biofuel plantation.
Made from jatropha, the very same tree that destroyed Gertrude’s livelihood, these biofuels are considered a green, renewable alternative to fossil fuels. But a new report by ActionAid, the RSPB and Nature Kenya reveals that the opposite is true: emissions from biofuels made from jatropha could be six times higher than those from fossil fuels.
In his blog, our Media and Communications Officer Chris Coxon describes why and how ActionAid is opposing the Dakatcha Woodlands plantation. Village elder Joshua Kahindi Pekeshe, meanwhile, writes of empty promises and a way of life under attack.
And Gertrude? “We want to keep living here. We were born here, married here, our children go to school here. If we are evicted to make way for the plantation, my community will have no place to go.”