Climate Change,  Conservation,  Forest Communities,  Profile

All About Trees; A Day In The Life Of A Carbon Sampler

By Jane Okoth

Do you know how the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project generates its carbon credits? Essential to the process is Wildlife Works’ Carbon Sampling Department, who play a vital role in calculating the amount of carbon stocks that are stored in the forest across the project area. 

Joshua Kitiro (from left), with his team members Darious Chirudi, Cyprian Mwawasi, Morris Makau, Moses Amwandu, Mathias Kakoi and Pius Lokwanya.

This week, we are profiling Joshua Kitiro, the Head of the Carbon Sampling team, a department comprising of eight team members. “Carbon sampling is about measuring trees to calculate the amount of carbon stored in them. Different trees have different amount of carbon in them depending on their species, structure, and age,” he says. The team works with Jeremy Freund, the Vice President for Carbon Development based in the United States of America. “Jeremy first sends us coordinates with maps to access the different sample plots. We feed this information into our GPS which then directs us to the specified area,” he adds. Each of the member team then takes up roles in the tree measurement process within the sample area, including recording data, measuring the diameter of the trunk of the tree with tape, capturing the height of the tree, as well as tagging the tree for easy identification. The impact of this activity is huge, especially as they have to be incredibly precise whilst recording the details of the tree population, which are then handed to the team in the USA for analysis. Their findings are then reported and evaluated as part of the project auditing.

In other instances, the sampling team works hand in hand with the ranger department. If they spot any kind of illegal activities such as logging or charcoal burning in a certain area they immediately report it to Mr Eric Sagwe, the Head Ranger, who in turn sends reinforcement to the area.

Being the head of the department, Joshua has come a long way. As the last born in a family of four, he was raised in Maungu, part of the Kasigau project area, by his grandmother after losing his mother at the age of 11. He completed his high school education in 2008 and went to study computer courses at a college in Nairobi. 

“I could not get a job after finishing the course. Life in Nairobi was tough, so I decided to come back to Maungu and sell tea leaves to make ends meet,” he says. His business could not sustain him and in 2010, he learnt of a ranger recruitment exercise at Wildlife Works. “I applied for a ranger and a driver position to increase my chances,” he recalls. Unfortunately, he failed to qualify in either positions. As luck would have had it, he later received a call from Laurian Lenjo, the then Human Resource Manager about another job offer. “Mr. Lenjo instead offered me to work as a Carbon Sampler on casual basis and in 2011, I was offered a permanent position in the department,” he says.  

His biggest accomplishment was being promoted to be the head of his department. “When I started as a carbon sampler, I was not sure I would reach this far, because I viewed it as any other job. Throughout these 9 years working at Wildlife Works, I have found satisfaction and passion in my job,” he says. Joshua also owes his success to some of his colleagues who were his mentors, playing a huge role in his career development.  

His love for trees has earned him the nickname “Campestris” because the Commiphora campestris is his favorite tree. According to Joshua, the tree has a cultural value among a section of the rural community in Sagalla. “The tree is used for burning incense as it produces a fragrant smell. Some also believe it to ward off evil spirits,” he says.

Darious Chirudi, one of the plot samplers hard at work.

Joshua’s plan for the future is to go back to school to study. “I have saved enough money to begin studying short courses as soon as possible, such as one on Environmental Impact Assessment,” he says.

His parting remark is all about emphasizing the importance of trees. “A tree is of more value alive because it gives us oxygen and stores carbon which reduces the rate of global warming,” he says. “Cutting and burning a tree for charcoal releases carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere which is harmful,” he concludes.

Joshua Kitiro, the Head of the Carbon Sampling team

Wildlife Works is lucky to have such a talented and dedicated team in the carbon sampling department. We thank Joshua for his work and wish him all the best in his future, both at the company and in his studies!

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