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Gardening

CEO who spends his free time with trees

NIC Bank chief executive John Gachora at his farm in Limuru, Kiambu. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG
NIC Bank chief executive John Gachora at his farm in Limuru, Kiambu County. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

NIC Bank group #ticker:NIC managing director John Gachora’s love affair with trees started with a plum plant gifted by his father.

Years later, on February 21, the engineer-cum-banker was emboldened by the same love for nature and a sent a tweet calling on Kenyans to act and reverse effects of environmental degradation.

“We need a national tree planting week. If every able Kenyan planted a tree, that is 30 million strong! We can do this!”.

The tweet elicited strong reactions. Others told him to spearhead a campaign to evict people who have encroached Mau Forest before asking Kenyans to plant trees or leave such a move to the government. He did and along with other players in private sector are driving a tree planting campaign.

Deforestation is one of the causes of some of the environmental issues being faced today, including the ongoing floods that have affected hundreds of thousands of Kenyans.

Every day, we are waking up to the effects of deforestation with the changing weather patterns.

Mr Gachora has travelled the world, lived overseas and worked in global firms in the US and South Africa, but his love for greenery has never waned. He has 650 avocado trees, 2,500 eucalyptus and 1,000 Casuarina trees in his farm.

Practising what he preaches. But that is not enough. He wants Kenyans to rekindle their love for greenery, plant millions trees and improve the country’s forest cover.

More trees, he says, will boost food security ending conflict, water scarcity, prevent floods and play a role in boosting the country’s economy.

NIC Bank chief executive John Gachora at his farm in Limuru, Kiambu County. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG

NIC Bank chief executive John Gachora at his farm in Limuru, Kiambu County. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG

He says the deforestation reality hit him last year when he lost an entire crop of beans on his 100-acre farm in Naivasha.

“How do farmers survive such a loss and what can be done about it? We need to change the story,” he says. He understands the plight of farmer having as he was born and raised in Kiambu, where his parents were farmers.

On a drive back to Nairobi one day, his heart sunk when he saw large swathes of woodlands cleared to pave the way for multi-billion shillings real-estate projects.

“Developers even cut down century-old trees to put up multi-storey buildings and hardly replace the trees cut. In other countries, such projects would be stopped until the developer puts in writing a commitment to restore the green cover,” he says.

After his secondary schooling at Alliance High School, Mr Gachora joined Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he studied engineering and computer science.

He worked for Credit Suisse, then Bank of America and later moved to South Africa as head of Absa Bank.  

Mark trees

“I lived and studied in the US where forest conservation is taken seriously by the citizenry and the federal government. Cutting a tree requires a licence and one must show in writing and practically how you intend to replace the fallen tree,” says the engineer-turned-banker.

“Johannesburg was also a concrete city until new laws were passed, requiring developers to come up with building plans that incorporate trees and gardens,” he says.

At his other farm in Limuru, where he spends more time due to its proximity to Nairobi, he has planted tea leaves, maize, avocados and beans.

The avocado trees are marked at the stem to deter theft because he can easily trace them.

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