Jim Cummings, a lifelong educator, has a long-standing passion for combating climate change and involving younger generations, both in Kenya and in the United States. Mr. Cummings spearheaded an initiative to plant 500,000 trees after discovering the Kenyan government’s plan to plant 2 billion seedlings by 2022, through his Kijana Educational Empowerment initiative.
Kijana operates in Kenya and the U.S., promoting and cultivating youth empowerment through educational development, cross-cultural dialogue, and sustainable and environmentally friendly economic growth. Thanks to financial support by philanthropists, schools, businesses, and churches in the U.S, Kijana has served in transforming education and lives in Kenya by investing in over 30 schools countrywide since 1998.
One such funding effort catapulted Cummings’ tree planting endeavor. Kijana received support in March 2021 to develop an environmentally-centered program at the Kijana Global Innovation School, a modern pre-k through 12th grade independent school that Kijana is currently building. The environmental education program dubbed Care, Share and Explore, aims to protect and value life on earth-human, non-human, and plant.
As the Founder and President of Kijana, Cummings spends his time straddled between 2 continents, mostly raising money and developing relationships in the United States and overseeing the execution of Kijana’s programs in Kenya. On a recent trip to Kenya last summer of 2021, Cummings and some of his Kijana team members engaged in collaborative discussions related to the tree-planting element of the Care, Share, Explore initiative and how to best implement the Ksh. 679,272 (USD 6,000) budget to acquire 6,000 seedlings and distribute the trees.
Thanks to Kijana’s recent hire of Mercy Chepsuge, a young environmentalist, new ideas emerged for the Kijana team to exceed its original goal of planting 6,000 trees and achieve the goal of planting 302,480 trees in the Buchenya sublocation. Chepsuge explained that a small sachet of seeds, one kilo, could produce around 30,000 seedlings and cost about kSH. 5,660.60 (USD 50).
Their goal quickly shifted course: build a community alliance with the six churches and three other schools in the sublocation and each would plant one seedbed and generate 30,000 trees. The team would later work with the Church and schools to grow, care for and plant the seedlings.
Chepsuge led the tree planting efforts at Kijana School and other entities in Buchenya. All 130 students from Kijana School participated in learning every aspect of tree planting in order to develop different skills including reliability, responsibility, curiosity, exploratory nature, teamwork, creativity, and growing the love for nature.
The Kijana team members reached out to over 30 schools, churches, and other non-governmental organizations throughout Kenya. The team was able to grow over 500,000 seedlings from seed in 5 months. 2 members of the team, Anita Achieng and Linda Shiroya led the effort of planting from seed and growing 429,826 seedlings through 20 entities in Kisumu and Nyakach.
Cummings described his next goal as cross-cultural teaching and learning of what they have modeled in Kenya with respect to tree planting and climate change mitigation. He also plans to begin meeting with local schools in the coming weeks to pilot this idea.