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Meet the Bishop who Planted his Pension: Emeritus … | Projects

Meet the Bishop who Planted his Pension: Emeritus …

“Bishop Kanuku you didn’t just plant trees, you planted a forest. The Chinese say 'If your plan is for ten years plant trees and we attest to your long term strategy of seeing far in your years of planting trees,” Paul Thaxter CMS Director for International Missions. 1, 000, 000 trees are the estimate number of trees planted by one retired Bishop Joseph Kanuku formerly of Machakos and Makueni Anglican Church of Kenya over the year.

A man born and raised in Mbooni area in the semi-arid areas of Eastern Kenya, experiencing desert-like environments decided to change this right from when he was a student. He planted trees his first ever trees. 10, 000 in total while at high school, and when he was in college and became a teacher, the passion of environmental conservation had already consumed him. All the land he ever acquired, he planted trees; every money he received, his chosen investment vehicle was trees. He was informed by this old adage that if you have a long term vision plant trees and he decided to invest the whole of his life in planting trees.

This is quite unlike todays working class who would rather save their monies to a pension fund in preparation for old age. Bishop Kanuku who is now in his 70s put all that he had as wealth, money and resources into the trees. Bishop Kanuku’s aim was not even about money and savings but addressing a myriad of issues associated with deforestation and the desire to care for creation as part of Gods plan as to redeem everything to himself. “Whilst planting trees may seem like a simple solution to a massive global problem, this one action can lessen the impact of global warming and enhance biodiversity.

Trees are key to protecting the environment for future generations,” says the now retired Bishop. In planting trees, it is possible to increase the production of oxygen, absorption of carbon monoxide, reduce soil erosion and its damaging effects, ensure the provision of habitat for wildlife among other benefits. The earth was created to thrive with healthy forests as home to some of the most biodiverse ecosystems. All this is greatly threatened with NO trees and one of the major challenges that Bishop Kanuku had to deal with in engendering afforestation in his region was mindset change. Farming God’s way is one of the approaches that he embraced and encouraged the clergy and parishioner’s under him to practice.

When the land is bear, the water takes away all the soil leaving barren land and the trees helps to conserve the soils. In order to conserve trees, Bishop Kanuku praises CMS-Africa for initiating the Biogas project in the then Machakos diocese that helped change the mindsets of the locals not to cut trees for fuel but use cow dung as a source of. Change from electricity to solar. It is cheaper to manage solar than to use electivity. He has also helped build water ridges on all the iron roofed houses for collection and conservation of water in Ukambani that experiences prolonged drought spells. Growing of aloe vera plants as medicinal plants was another strategy.

These and other medicinal plants like Muringa, Neem among others have been introduced over time in these area and Aloevera has become a cash crop for many in these semi-arid areas. Overall Bishop Kanuku who served on the CMS-Africa Board till 2018 was inspired to create value addition for the farm produces and local resources including fruits, water, milk and milk products among others all in attempt to make the people and the church self-sustaining. Bishop Kanuku’s desire is that CMS-Africa buys more space on the CMS-Africa House to ensure sustainability. Bishop Kanuku is one of the best known tree farmers in Kenya,” says Bishop Joseph Matui who took over from Bishop Kanuku as the Bishop of Makueni in 2017.

Makueni Diocese has become a model in tree planting and Bishop Matui has continued in this good work of taking care of creation by enhancing afforestation. This was taken up after CMS-Africa trained the people of Machakos Diocese then on Farming Gods Ways and Care of Creation and the Gospel. Makueni Dioceses plants trees in the churches, all the schools that are under the church sponsorship and in the community where parishioner’s come from as part of its plan to enhance afforestation in Makueni.

I have planted 1000 trees here at the Dioceses headquarters. Each of the diocesan synod delegates planted one tree and all the dioceses staff too planted. The minister for Environment in the Local Makueni County celebrates the work done by the Anglican Church of Kenya leadership for advocating for tree planting in that region.

The church has become a model celebrated by the Government for taking care of the environment and taking forward the Government of Kenya’s strategy of having every piece of land covered by 10% of trees. Bishop Kanuku was encourage to plant more trees every day and when he looks back he’s grateful for his contribution in conserving nature. Some of the trees he has planted will obviously outlive him and when he is 6 feet under the ground, retired bishop Kanuku believes that he will still be existing with and in the trees.

“I have educated all my children and the trees have paid hundred fold over the years. I am also pleased that the church continues in this good work long after I have left and the congregants too have taken up the care of creation as major issue with thousands upon thousands today planting trees in their compounds, and pieces of land,” says Bishop Kanuku. Bishop Kanuku became transformational and provided a come and see platform for other dioceses from across Africa. Bishop James Ssebagala of Mukono diocese in Uganda came and saw what Bishop Kanuku had done and went and transformed his own diocese. The other beneficiary of the CMS-Africa facilitated cross cultural Missions is Bishop Mathayo Kasagara of Lake Rukwa Diocese.

He visited Makueni as well as hosted Mission teams from Makueni Diocese. He was greatly challenged and inspired to tap into local resources and in 2018, he opened a big Diocesan offices and a cathedral to match in Mpanda area, Tanzania. The Malay say though a tree grows so high, the falling leaves return to the root and Bishop Kanuku confirms accruing benefits from the trees he has planted over the years. “I have educated children, I have built my home, I have sold trees and timber of the years and made profits beyond my wildest imaginations,” says Kanuku.

Looking Forward Working with dioceses to building the capacity of the local communities to manage their own lives including planting of trees should be encouraged under the Care of Creation and the Gospel. He cited the training Centre under construction in Makueni Christian and Social Centre whose aim is to equip the locals with basic accounting, basic health, basic farming and all the basic skills that can help. CMS and CMS-Africa could do very well to empower such centres as well as provide missioners and experts who can help such visions to come to fruition.

“If there are missionaries that are willing to help in such an area, it would be a big help. A missionary will do the will of the one who has send him not his will.” Says Bishop Kanuku. CMS-Africa can bring other people from other dioceses and countries to come to such a Centres for cross learnings. Consider supporting centers like the one in Mukono to get a good manager so that it can flourish and become a model for others to work with.

The need for Western Missionaries is on skills. We need a person with specific skills to be taken to specific places where there are specific needs. CMS was challenged to serve as a channel through which missionaries can emerge from Africa to and become witnesses of the gospel in other worlds. Gods work done in God’s way will never lack resources. Telling of the CMS-Africa story. People are willing to hear the success story will make people interested.

Prayer, writing brochures, talking to people to help, CMS introducing themselves to dioceses by developing relations, establishing resources to help missions work, looking for individuals who can support missions as well as people who can leave their wealth to go to the church and mission’s wealth.

CMS-Africa was also challenged to tap into voluntarism and giving of self to mission’s work both at the community level, office and in mission’s work in general. Look for the CMS-Africa Day in some of these dioceses as one of the strategies of resources mobilization. CMS-Africa was encouraged to start with few dioceses and sell their ideas well and get the resources from places where there are existing relationships with CMS-Africa