The DNRC (formed in 2008) is the brainchild of Nicholas Mutuku Syano, a leader in natural resources management and nonprofit leadership, who was born and continues to live in Mbumbuni, a small rural town in semi-arid Makueni County in central Kenya. Passionate about trees and from a drylands area suffering environmental degradation, Nicholas started off simply with a tree nursery where farmers could purchase subsidized tree seedlings suitable to the area and receive training on tree planting and maintenance. Nicholas loved farming but also excelled as a student, receiving a series of scholarships to University in Kenya and eventually earning a (MSc) Master of Science in Natural Resources Management at the University of Wisconsin in the U.S. For his Master’s thesis, he focused on self-help food and fuel security in impoverished communities of Kenya. He was the first international student to receive a Master’s Student of the Year award from the College of Natural Resources at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.
When Nicholas was introduced to permaculture in 2010, he felt with his background, more training and tools, he could help his community respond to the interconnected problems of deforestation, famine, and poverty that they faced, and with that he started incorporating permaculture design principles and the tree planting project developed into a permaculture food forest project for the local farmers.
Eight years later, the DNRC has refined its model and expanded beyond Mbumbuni to five other towns. By providing agroforestry training via demonstration and saplings through long-term credit, they are reversing vicious cycles of deforestation, soil erosion, and farm collapse. Their effort have enabled thousands of people to learn and share ideas, restore their land, and build stronger, more prosperous communities. DNRC is has now partnered with PRI-Kenya and LUSH to develop Moringa oil production as one of the income generating opportunities for the farmers working with DNRC.
Nicholas is also the Chairman of Permaculture Research Institute-Kenya (PRI-Kenya), and is currently studying for a PhD in Drylands Resource Management at the University of Nairobi.