“If we can warm up the earth, we can also cool it down.” Justdiggit doesn’t just talk about cooling it down, but actually makes it happen. In the last ten years the Justdiggit foundation, that originated in The Netherlands, uses different techniques to re-green Kenya & Tanzania. How? By digging bunds and bringing back old trees – together with the local farmers and communities. We were fascinated and got to ask Justdiggit how it all started and what a bund actually is.
Who founded Justdiggit & what inspired them to do so?
Justdiggit was originally called Naga foundation – founded by Peter Westerveld & Dennis Karpes. Peter Westerveld unfortunately passed away in 2014. He was an artist who grew up in Tanzania, having lived there the first 25 years of his life. His father worked in an industry for which many trees and forests were cut down. This made it possible for Peter to see what the results were of removing vegetation. He knew something had to be done in order to fertilize the ground again. He took his artist perspective to see what could work. He came up with the idea to take the water that comes down and bring it back in the ground. He started by digging long trenches in which the water could be collected in order for the vegetation to grow again. Once the vegetation is back again, there’s more water in the air which restores the water cycle.
In 2010 Peter met Dennis Karpes, founder of Dance4life. Dennis has always been very dedicated to make this planet a better place and soon after they met, they started Naga foundation together. One of the campains at the time was Justdiggit. Apparently the name Justdiggit was a big succes, which made them decide to change their name.
Justdiggit is trying to cool down the planet, what’s your approach?
We cool it down by re-greening the areas that once used to be green. We always say “Green is the airconditioning for our planet.” It brings water back in the air, which results in more rain, which results in more cooling down. The shadow of the trees and plants also make sure the ground becomes cool again. Vegetation holds carbon from the atmosphere – making the climate problem smaller and therefor global warming as well.
We use different techniques. At the moment, we’re on the ground in Kenya & Tanzania. In Kenya we dig semi-circular so called bunds. The land is very dry due to droughts and global warming, but also because the Masai started to live in just one area again. A long time ago they moved around a lot, which resulted in their cattle grazing in different places – making sure the ground left behind could be restored. Nowadays the Masai live in communities and the cattle is grazing from the same area – which causes overgrazing. This automatically makes the ground more dry and the top layer becomes hard. This means that rainwater can’t enter the ground anymore. The water flows away to lower areas, taking the top layer consisting of seeds and nutrients with it. That’s where the bunds come in – by opening up this hard top layer and retaining the rainwater, the water has time to infiltrate into the soil, enabling vegetation to grow.
In Tanzania we use another technique – we bring back trees that were once cut down for firewood. The shadow of the trees is necessary to protect crops from the sun and the heat, and the trees make it possible for water to enter to soil more quickly. We teach the local community a technique called Farmer Manager Natural Generation. However, we prefer to call it Kisiki Hai – this means living strunk in Swahili. With this technique we teach the local people that roots of these trees are often still alive, causing little shoots to grow from the stumps. As there are many, none of them gets enough energy to grow. With the Kisiki Hai technique most of these shoots are pruned, keeping only two or three shoots getting enough energy to grow big. The farmers not only prune the shoots, they also protect the ones that are left, as they are a really tasty snack for livestock and wildlife. By pruning and protecting the shoots, they can grow into big trees again!
Justdiggit supports many projects, what are you most proud of so far?
The way things are going! We have a ‘can do’ mentality and we’re proud of what we have accomplished, proud of the impact we’ve had so far. We exist 10 years and so much has happened! In Tanzania, for example, 4 million trees have been re-grown, together with the farmers. With the local communities in Kenya and Tanzania we dug over 145.000 bunds, so you could say we’ve had an impact.
In ten years from now, what do you hope to have accomplished with Justdiggit?
Upscaling where possible. Our goal is to not only work in Tanzania & Kenya, but all over Africa. To let farmers know how easy it can be to make the ground fertile again. It has so many advantages for the farmers. Not only will their income grow, the Masai will also have more areas where their cattle can graze again. Once they know how it’s done, many areas can profit. And best part – they can all do it themselves!
We’re also partner of UN decade on Ecosystem Restoration. The UN has exclaimed 2021-2030 as decade on Ecosystem Restoration – trying to create a movement by bringing different people and groups together to restore ecosytems. Once the ecosystems are back in balance, so is our planet. The next ten years are crucial, these are the years things have to change.
How can someone reading this help your initiative?
Spread the word! Tell your network about us, your colleagues, friends, family, neighbours, everyone! Share our mission on social media, it all helps. You can also make a donation to support our projects. More information to be found on our website: justdiggit.org
Club Kakatua, partner of Your Souldier, is raising money for Justdiggit on their platform
Check it out!