Human health is soil health. Only through rich, biodiverse soil can we realise the bioavailability of plants and create a happy microbiome. It is the cells within our microbiome, not the human cells that function as the life-giving soil for our body. The catastrophic explosion of chronic diseases and unhealthy skin is a result of our detachment from nature.
Once we recognise the importance of healthy soils, we unlock Earth's powerful healing potential. It's this understanding that brought us to Kenya to explore their ancient botanical wisdom and its beautiful, but sadly degrading nature.
The lowland regions of coastal eastern Africa were once a rich forest mosaic extending from southern Mozambique north to Kenya’s border with Somalia. The diverse mix of forest and woodland types formed what is known as the Northern & Southern ‘Zanzibar-Inhambane Forest’.
Despite its biological relevance, the region has undergone a long history of anthropogenic destruction and disturbance. Today, a mere 10% of the original coastal forest habitat remains. The remnants of these fragile ecosystems are a treasure trove of species and a centre of endemism.
The LEAF plant the seed for change
The LEAF, an integral part of the Kilifi ecosystem, are on a mission to help restore the health of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest, the largest remaining patch of indigenous dry coastal forest in Kenya (approximately 416 km2).
With 3 different forest types, 35 global biodiversity hotspots and a high diversity of endemic plant and animal species, the Eastern African Coastal Forests remains a site of extreme importance. From providing rich sources of superfoods, medicine and wellbeing, to ecosystem services, including reducing soil erosion, maintaining ecological & carbon cycles, these species are irreplaceable.
However, even with large internationally sponsored conservation projects raising awareness and knowledge of the area to inform policymakers, few areas remain protected. Thankfully, with organisations like The LEAF, we have started to see community projects start to take hold and spread.
With the help from Pwani University and the Kijabe Forest Trust, climate stewards are sprouting up ready to collect seeds, replant trees and build local capacity. Indigenous knowledge & wisdom around the benefits of organic botanicals are re-emerging and the value of a plant & ecosystem alive is being reimagined.
Our health is in the soil
In 2021, Emilie and I moved to Kilifi, Kenya for a year to research healing, organic & native botanicals that support human health, soil health & community wealth.
We immediately fell in love with Kilifornia; its people, the beauty and our project. Yet what struck us was how the areas rich in resources were largely populated by material wealth & the land's healing benefits were shared among the few. Yet, set back in the hinterland, you experienced smallholder farmlands & entire ecosystems, once full of life, now collapsing.
With health & wellness in our sights, Star Seed felt a need and responsibility to act. How can we leave this planet better than we found it? Our reason to exist became clear: Regeneration. With the road to heaven paved with good actions, we needed to find the right local partners on the ground to make this a reality.
After extensive due diligence and farmer visits, we shortlisted a few partners. When it came to land regeneration & community livelihoods, The LEAF's holistic restoration work presented something unique. We witnessed local botanists empowering local people, in particular marginalised groups such as women and youth, about the healing botanical benefits of endemic species, while preserving the long-term benefits of a healthy forest ecosystem.
To date, we have helped support The LEAF in their efforts to increase biodiversity in the Arabuko-Sukoke Forest by planting a range of 130 species, many of which are endemic to the region. We are also co-creating new community seed banks and nurseries to spread the restoration process on to smallholder farms helping increase biodiversity corridors in the region.
It is our shared belief that by transitioning smallholder land to agroforestry practices, we can heal degraded soil, restore human health and put the power back in the hands of local farming communities.
Check out LEAF's video below explaining the science-based restoration methods used to help increase biodiversity & community livelihoods in Kilifi, Kenya.