The Naretoi Tree Project

“A tree is a special thing because you can use it to make many things, like making medicine, making papers, clothes and birds make their nest on a tree.  You can plant a tree and use it for fuel and furniture and other animals use it like food.”

Students living in Talek, in the Maasai Mara, made use of their extra time, while schools were closed during the Covid19 pandemic, to learn more about the trees around them.  Ninety four students from the Naretoi Home Schooling programme (from grade four to form 4)  set out to interview local experts (their parents, grandparents, neighbours and local tour guides). They also consulted books, online sources, television and used their own observation skills to find out about the trees and forest in their area.

How did it feel to spend time close to trees?

I see

-       Birds, wild animals, bees, butterflies, mosquitoes, wasps.

-       Birds, lizards, monkeys.

-       Different types of trees.

-       Plants; ferns, algae and moss.

-       Climbers supported by the trees.

I hear

·      Bird sounds.

·      Wind in the trees.

I smell

·      Scent from some beautiful flowers.

·      Animal dung.

I feel

·      Cool under the forest canopy.

·      I feel good as fresh air in the environment.

Trees and forests are important to us because...

Most rivers begin in forests (the Mara river begins in the Mau forest).

Forests bring rain.

Trees create oxygen, so forests bring fresh air and improve the environment.

Trees provide shade. 

Trees provide shelter for animals and birds.

Trees and forest are a habitat for wild animals.

Trees prevent or slow down soil erosion.

Trees provide food for people and animals.

Trees contribute to our economy. We use them for timber, furniture, paper and lots more.

Trees are a source of medicine.

Some tree twigs can be used as toothbrushes.

When trees grow in the compound it looks beautiful and smart.

Forests provide grazing for the cows when there is no grass outside the forest.

These are the trees the students found around their community...

Olerai (Acacia trees)

Our community values this tree because…

People use its bark and root for medicine.

Bees value this tree for honey.

Birds use the tree as their habitat.

Olng’ongwenyi (Vachellia gerardii)

Our community values this tree because…

It provides very good for shade (can fit 100 people under it).

It is used for medicine, timber and food for herbivores (giraffe and elephant) and bees.

Lantana camara

Our community values this tree because…

The ash of burnt leaves, together with a little soot, is used as a remedy for coughs, sore throats and toothache. The leaves can be inhaled to relieve headaches and colds.

Aloe vera


Our community values this tree because…

It is used for medicine.

(This plant is not a tree, but we've included it because so many students talked about it!)

Olng’aboli, Sycamore tree (Ficus sycamorus)

This tree is mostly found on the banks of the river


Our community values this tree because…

We can eat the fruit.

Insects, like bees, shelter in it. 

The wood is useful for building and firewood.

Osokonoi (Warburgia ugandensis)

Our community values this tree because…


People use the roots to mix with oil and give it to a mother after she has given birth to clean the womb. The wood is used to construct the manyatta house roof.  Its fruits can be eaten by people.  It makes good firewood.  Some birds like the flowers.  Elephants use the tree.

Oloirien (Olea europaea)

Our community values this tree because…


The wood is good for construction and firewood. The flowers have a good scent and attract insects.  It has a good smoke that cures headache.  Smoke/charcoal from the wood is used to cleanse calabashes and the twigs are good to make tooth brushes. The fruit is small and red. People don’t eat it, but it is enjoyed by birds.

Olng’oswa (Balanites aegyptiaca)

Our community values this tree because…

The tree has yellow fruit, birds like to make their houses on the leaves.

The tree is used for firewood, medicine, construction and for making charcoal.  You can find chameleons there.  Baboons, gazelle and goats like to eat the leaves.

Osananguguri (Scutia myrtina)

Our community values this tree because…

Young children are given (the fruit?) as medicine to give them energy.

Fruits and leaves are food for animals and human beings.

Firewood used to preserve food when people slaughter an animal.

The tree is used by goats, elephants, giraffes, bees and butterflies.

Olkinyei (Euclea divinorum)

Our community values this tree because…

You can eat the fruit.

It has a beautiful shape.

What is the Naretoi students' vision for the future?

We need to preserve and take care of our trees.

I would like our forests to be green and not to be cut.

I would like to teach people the importance of forests so that everybody could at least plant one tree.

What next?

The students of Naretoi home schooling programme have taken the first step towards their vision.  They purchased seedballs from and have scattered them around their community.  We are looking forward to seeing pictures of the young trees soon!

How much do you know about the trees in your community?

If you would like to organise a Tree Project at your school, you can download the Naretoi worksheets.  This link will take you to the Naretoi homepage.  Visit the project homepage to find out more. 

Let us know what you find, and we will share it on the Tree Safari Website.

With a big thank you to the staff and students of Naretoi home schooling programme. Visit their website to find out more.