Meeting Lydia Wangechi; a Picture of the Power of Women Empowerment 

At an elevation of 1,917 meters sits the vibrant Hombe region; a flourishing paradise surrounded by a lush canopy of diverse and majestic trees. These trees, towering gracefully over the forest floor, stretch their branches towards the sky as a rich testament to their contribution towards a thriving ecosystem.

Home to a number of wildlife species, Hombe region can easily be described as a tropical getaway, characterized by clean air and constant pockets of bird sounds. Moreover, in this verdant landscape, initiatives promoting women empowerment flourish alongside the natural beauty, fostering opportunities for women to actively participate in conservation efforts and sustainable development projects, thus enriching both the environment and the community.


Women Empowerment

Lydia Wangechi tending to her seedlings in Hombe Nursery

It is here we met the famed Lydia Wangechi Murage, a woman who’s worked at Hombe nursery for years. The nursery, nestled within the embrace of this tropical region, is hard to miss, its sign almost rising out of the ground as you approach it. To Lydia Wangechi, the nursery, an ideal setting for women empowerment and sustainability, is her home, just as much as Hombe region.

Lydia’s Wangechi’s Background 

“I grew up in Hombe. It’s all I’ve ever known. Growing up, I would see women cutting down trees for firewood, slowly changing the ecosystem,” she states sadly. But with this nursery, manned by a group of at least 2,000 women from the Community Forest Association, there is hope. Not only hope for a threatened ecosystem, but hope for a vulnerable community; the women. 


Women Empowerment

CFA’S working in Hombe Nursery

“In 1982, I began my journey at this workplace with a desire to rejuvenate and safeguard the Hombe forest ecosystem by cultivating and supplying robust seedlings.” Her presence exudes warmth as she speaks, her strong determined voice doing little to belie the kindness that radiates from her smile. 

Crafting A  Legacy 

Lovingly nicknamed as Auntie, a moniker that reflects how long she’s worked at the nursery, Lydia Wangechi has seen many come and go. “We all love her,” Mary Nyaguthii, a fellow CFA member, says with a smile on her face. “We all call her Auntie because she’s been here the longest. Most of us found her here, and regardless of her age, she’s the most hardworking. It’s rare to find her sitting down.” 


Women Empowerment

Lydia Wangechi watering her seedlings

It’s clear Lydia’s presence has had a profound influence on everyone around her. Her nickname sets her apart, and identifies her as a mentor, a constant and a confidant for many. But this also means, she’s seen the delipidating effects of deforestation, which fuels her need to keep Hombe nursery alive.

Akili’s Partnership With Hombe Nursery

Lydia Wangechi moves around the nursery, almost similarly to a worker bee, buzzing here and there, making sure that all the seedlings are well watered. On this day, a smile dances on her lips, as she narrates how the partnership between Akili Group and the nursery changed her life, and that of the Hombe community. 

Our initial encounter with Akili Group was during their distribution of cookstoves. This had the entire community buzzing with excitement, because it discouraged the cutting down of trees.”

Energy Efficient Coosktoves

The distribution of Hongera energy – efficient Cookstoves

The Hongera energy and fuel efficient cookstove – a project in partnership with Dutch Green Business – can function optimally with branches from trees for wood fuel. Additionally, it cooks faster and emits less smoke, protecting the health of the user, and reducing environmental pollution. 

“The partnership with Akili Group was life – changing. In addition to the cookstoves, Akili Group now buys tree seedlings from us as Hombe Nursery. We, as nursery workers, now have an extra income stream that helps us support our families, and live better lives.”

Watering healthy tree seedlings

Lydia Wangechi watering healthy tree seedlings

The Impact of Sustainable Partnership

Today, Lydia Wangechi can comfortably take care of her family, and can afford to keep her seedlings alive even during periods of drought, thanks to this growing partnership. This collaboration not only sustains her livelihood but also contributes to the broader goal of women empowerment within the community. 

Akili Group maintains the work of ecosystem restoration in close partnership with rural communities, including initiatives specifically aimed at empowering women. As it continues to distribute healthy tree seedlings throughout the Mt Kenya region, it not only fights against deforestation and climate change but also fosters the economic and social empowerment of women like Lydia Wangechi.