Grow trees, make cash as you help improve climate change

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By JULIE AMBANI
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Land is the investment of choice for many Kenyans, particularly since its value is guaranteed to continue rising with time.

However, due to the steadily increasing cost of land in urban areas, many people have resorted to buying land in rural areas, far from their place of work. As a result, they often have little time to develop it, so they simply let it just lie fallow. 

However, whether you cannot develop your land due to financial constraints or you bought it for speculative purposes and are just waiting for its value to increase before selling it, Mr Peter Wangai, the founder and CEO of Goldenscape Tree Ltd, suggests that you put it to good use by planting trees on it.

“Many people nowadays buy land in areas far from Nairobi. They do this in the hope that they will get some profit from it one day,” he says, adding that what many such people do not understand is that land can take up to 10 years to realise its actual value.

“To us, as a company, leaving such land idle is quite a waste. As a result, we came up with an investment strategy which we use to help people plant and manage trees on their land and earn something from it instead of letting it lie idle,” says Mr Wangai.

Goldenscape Tree Ltd is responsible for more than 500 acres planted with trees all over Kenya, with the aim of restoring the country’s tree cover, as well as its cool and wet climatic conditions.

“I started the company in 2004 as a small nursery in Nyandarua County since I grew up planting trees as a hobby. However, I realised I could turn it into a form of investment for other people so I turned it into a business,” offers Mr Wangai.

He adds that Kenyans continue to cut trees without replacing them, which has contributed to the desertification in different parts of the country, a situation his company aims to change.

Due to the tough economic times, many people with land do not have the financial capacity to develop it, while some, Mr Wangai says, simply lack the time to focus on their land. This is where Goldenscape Trees Ltd comes in.

“Once a client allows us plant trees on their land, we manage the trees from the time we plant them until they are mature.  This is advantageous to the clients in that they do not have to participate in the management of the trees or anything related to their growth since that is done by the company, so they do not have to worry about having to  constantly check on the land,” he offers.

When the trees are mature, they are sold locally or exported and the profits go to the clients, he adds. 

For one’s land to be accepted for the investment in timber, it should be at least an acre or more so that the company can make maximum advantage of economies of scale. However, that does not mean that those with parcels of land measuring less than an acre are left out. For those with smaller plots, Goldenscape Tree Ltd invests in greenhouses, in which it grows a variety of fruits. 

“We offer different options under our greenhouse investments. If a client has land that is less than an acre and is willing to invest with us, depending on their financial capabilities, we set up one or two greenhouses on their land,” says Mr Wangai.

“We set up and manage the greenhouses and the crops  until they are ready, then we harvest and sell them. The profits, like in the case of trees, go to our clients,” he adds.

The greenhouse investments are not limited to landowners only. The company has land in Nyandarua where it has set up to 50 greenhouses for sale. Clients without land of their own can invest in these greenhouses and earn some money as well. 

“Not everyone can afford land. Such people, who pay slightly more than those with their own land, can also make some money from these greenhouses,” he explains.

Due to the many cases of pyramid schemes and related scams in the country, Kenyans are generally sceptical about investing in such projects for fear of losing their money or land.

“Most of our clients are from abroad, usually foreign investors. Kenyans living abroad who own land in the country but cannot manage it are also  among out common clients ,” he offers.

“Kenyans have not fully embraced such investments for fear of being conned, or because they think the  investment capital is way beyond their means,which is not the case.”

Ms Carolyn Wanjiku, the administrator at Goldenscape Tree Ltd, is quick in encourage Kenyans to try our timber and greenhouse investments on their land instead of wasting valuable space.

“I would advise Kenyans to embbace  such investments because all these projects have by-products that can be sold. Besides, they increase food and timber production, which not only benefits the client, but also goes to boost the country’s economy,” says Ms Wanjiku.

She adds that tree planting further helps mitigate climate change by acting as water catchment areas, especially in the dry parts of the country. 

Goldenscape Tree Ltd strives to ensure that the cost of the projects their projects are pocket-friendly and affordable to the man in the street.

Consequently, the company charges a  standard fee s for the initial year of set-up, after which it asks for token monthly maintenance fee  every year thereafter.

“We charge a standard fee of Sh75,300 per acre for the first year for the timber investments. This caters for the project, right from initiation up to the maturation and sales of the trees. After the project is concluded, we get 10 per cent of the total sales from the trees as our cut,” explains Ms Wanjiku.

“For the greenhouse investment, we charge Sh320,000 for a greenhouse measuring 8 by 30 feet and Sh290,000 for one measuring 8×15 feet.”

It is important to note that these prices are subject to change, depending on the specific conditions of  the location of the land and the processes that will take place there.

“Once we locate your site, we send our foresters, who collect soil for testing and analyse the area for water supply, soil fertility and security,” explains Ms Wanjiku.

“In the event that these are lacking, the cost might go up a little to take care of the costs  that will be incurred making up for them  maintaining the trees until they mature.”

After investing the money and letting Goldenscape Tree Ltd do the planting and management of the products, investors yield a good amount of profit. The profit from the timber investment can go up to Sh4 million per acre.

Meanwhile, greenhouse investments can yield up to Sh550,000 after six months, notes Ms Wanjiku.

Kenyans are skeptical about investing in timber at the moment because  they are not yet convinced the benefits of timber as an investment compared to real estate.

“There is shortage of timber in the country and as a result, construction companies are turning to imported timber to satisfy their needs,” says Mr Wangai.

“While investing in real estate might  yield profits almost immediately once the construction is done, with timber one has to wait for the trees to mature to enjoy the profits. However, the return on the investment is worth the wait,” he says.

Mr Eluid Kipkorir, a real estate valuer at Daima Prime Management Agencies in Nakuru, sheds some light on the profits  one can make  from the different types of investments in land.

“Any investment on land in this  day and age is a prudent move. However, the different types of investments yield different returns,” he says. “With real estate investments, and especially construction, if not well thought-out,  might not yield the amounts of money expected,” he says.

“Timber is a necessary commodity in the market today, and especially in construction, which gives it the advantage of never going out of style. However, people will always need homes and not everyone can afford to build their own house and this gives real estate investment an advantage as well,” he adds.

Before deciding what to do with your land, you should consider several factors such as the size and location of the land, as well as the human traffic in the surrounding area.

“The location of the land plays an  important role  in determining whether or not a particular investment is appropriate for the area. For example, one cannot invest in rentals in an area that is sparsely populated.Similarly, one cannot invest in trees in an urban areas since it would not be logical,” notes Mr Kipkorir.

Although timber is likely to yield more at a go, real estate has the advantage of continuously appreciating in value, and unless the property is allowed to go to wrack and ruin, the profit it earns is sure to continue rising with time, says  Mr Kipkorir. 

The standard fee in f shillings Greenscape Trees Ltd charges investors per acre of land planted with trees for the first year. 

The cost in shillings of an investment in a greenhouse measuring 8×30 feet

The cost in shillings of an investment in a greenhouse measuring 8×15 feet.  

The  possible returns in shillings from a greenhouse after six months 

The possible profit in shillings from an acre under trees

After growing trees on my land once, I was sold

MS IRENE NJERI, a businesswoman in Nairobi  who had Greenscape Tree Ltd plant trees on her land, shared her experience.

“For my initial investment in timber, I planted trees on my two acres in Laikipia County back in 2006,” she says. “A total of 1,300 trees were planted on each acre. However, only 1,000 trees on each acre made it to maturity in 2014 and were sold on the market. At that time the market price for one tree was Sh3,500. So from the total sales of trees on my two acres I made Sh7 million, 

She adds that, given that she had invested an initial amount of about Sh220,000, the Sh7 million she got from the sale of her trees was certainly a very big l profit.

Ms Njeri says she found investing in the Greenscape project a venture with minimal stress, and which was worthwhile since it gave her good value for her money.

 “That was the first time I was investing  in timber because I was employed,” narrates Ms Njeri. “Luckily for me, this project  was mostly hands off, so I was able to strike a balancee between my work and the investment. But after the first returns,  I quit my job  to venture into business full-time and at the moment, I have eight acres of land planted with trees. Kenyans should embrace this venture.”

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