Fighting Desertification in Kenya and the Remakery

Sand dams in rural Kenya; restoring forest habitats of the High Appalachians; and a new re-use economy in London.

Rain Catchers 

On 40 percent of the earth’s land, long periods of drought with short spells of intense rainfall are the norm.

These drylands are home to millions of people, and the constant search for water can trap inhabitants into a vicious cycle of subsistence.

But in Eastern Kenya, ancient rainwater harvesting structures known as “sand dams” are being constructed to hold and filter valuable water, turning once arid land into fertile soil.

Russell Beard travels to rural Kenya to see the remarkable impact the sand dams are having on landscapes and livelihoods alike.

Montaintop Renewal 

Since the 1970s, a controversial form of coal mining known as mountaintop removal has been used on the Appalachian Mountains in the US.

During the process, mountainsides are blasted off to reveal coal seams. Mountain peaks are flattened, streams and rivers buried under rubble, and habitats destroyed.

But reforestation organisation Green Forest Works aims to re-establish native, healthy and productive forests.

After access to mined sites is agreed with landowners, the highly compacted soil is ripped up with a bulldozer. Seedlings are then planted and other vegetation controlled so the young trees can compete for sunlight and nutrients.

“It’s amazing how well these trees do on land that has been ripped up,” says Nathan Hall, the organisation’s reforestation coordinator. “Basically they just need a good seed bed to get their roots down.”

Reporter Juliana Schatz travels to Eastern Kentucky to meet the people restoring the forest habitats of the High Appalachians.

The Remakery 

Every year an estimated 11.2bn tonnes of solid waste are collected worldwide.

But in Brixton, south London, items such wooden planks, broken tiles, scaffolding poles, pianos and even gym flooring – all once destined for landfill – are being re-used as part of a new volunteer-run social enterprise.

The Remakery is the first centre in the UK set up to repair and re-use a wide range of valuable materials that would otherwise be wasted. And the team’s first job has been to remake their own space – once a derelict car park, bricked up because of vandalism and other crime.

Around 100 entrepreneurs, from furniture refurbishers to textile upcylers, have already shown an interest in renting the Remakery’s workshop spaces, and the centre aims to be self-funding by 2015.

Brixton suffers from high levels of unemployment and deprivation, and the project also aims to help repair people’s lives by offering volunteering opportunities.

Reporter Sylvia Rowley travels to south London to meet the team hoping to kick-start a new re-use economy.