Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar – December 25, 2019

Advent Calendar – December 25, 2019

December 25, 2019
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In the background, you can see people lined up. Our fellow travelers were taking a group photo, one which made its way into a newsletter reporting on the customer trip of the year. Me and Lena… we’re not in it. Actually, there are pictures with us in it as well, we sort of slid in at the very end of the photo session… but those weren’t used. Oh well. We were busy with other things. Important things!

Human to human.
Grown-up to baby.
Soul to soul.

I was in communication with the mother. With the grandmother (?).
But more significantly, I was busy communicating with this little baby.
Three generations in one fell swoop.

Connection.
There’s nothing better!

Not surprisingly, this is yet another one of my favorite pictures from my Kenyan adventures in June 2019. It’s also the twenty-fifth photo I’ve shared with you, here, in my advent calendar. I have more. Many more. But it’s Christmas Day, and hence, the end of my calendar. I would like to say thank you to you who have accompanied me on this 25-day long re-visit to Kenya, I’ve greatly enjoyed it, and I hope you have too.

I hope I have inspired you to start to buy trees or to increase your tree-savings-scheme. Or at the very least, given you a bit of insight into various aspects of Kenyan agroforestry, the economical and ecological importance of trees, and the beauty of Kenya?

If you’ve yet to make a decision (a Yes is as welcome as a No, what I am after is a clearly communicated decision!) on whether or not to start to buy trees, let me know what the snag is. A question you would like answered? More information on how it all works? Whatever it is, reach out, and I will do what I can to help you reach a clear decision. Because I unashamedly want everyone to buy trees, and that includes you!


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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Advent Calendar – December 24, 2019

December 24, 2019
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This was my first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa (and whatever trips I’ve made to northern Africa were 40+ years ago; water under the bridge!) and even though I wouldn’t claim to be extremely well-traveled, I’ve been to plenty a European country, to Thailand and Malaysia, to India quite a few times while working on a project a decade ago, and to North America.

There’s a feeling to each country I’ve visited. Sometimes open. Warm. Smiling and welcoming. Informal. Sometimes distancing. Reserved. Formal. The warmth and openness of the Kenyan people struck me;  no time during the trip had I any sense that I should keep my distance, avoid looking into eyes, laugh or touch. Not at all. Quite the opposite.

Walking down a narrow trail in the Seven Forks area to visit Simon Mulli, partner farmer of Better Globe, me and Lena came upon two women with babies. We stopped. Communicated wordlessly; gestures, smiles, winks. We asked May we take your picture? without actually voicing the question, and got a positive reply in return. I brought my Nikon to my eye, looked through the viewfinder, and was mesmerized by the piercing gaze that met me there.


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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Advent Calendar – December 23, 2019

December 23, 2019
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Mukau.
It’s a beautiful tree.
This plot of mukau at the Nyongoro plantation reminds me of Swedish birch forests.

I’ve never really been one to dig deep into specific facts on trees, but I do have a thing for them. Have for a long time. As a funny aside, I’ve been married, twice. First marriage gave me the surname Skog, which is Swedish for forest. Second marriage had me go deeper, as Roth (in Swedish) is pronounced as the Swedish word for root. Perhaps my fondness for trees is yet one more reason why I’ve fallen so hard for this way to use my savings in this win-win-win-scheme?

Going on the customer trip in June, I certainly learned a lot more about the Mukau, or Melia volkensii as it’s named in Latin. It’s a hardwood tree, in the same family as mahogany. It’s native to these parts of Kenya. It was at risk of disappearing, due to over-exploitation on account of its durability and excellent qualities, but is now on the rise, rapidly. Better Globe Forestry’s tree expert Jan Vandenabeele plays a part in that, which you can see in the acknowledgments of the Kenya Forest Service Guideline to On-Farm Melia volkensii, Growing in the Dryland Areas of Kenya

As a hardwood, it warrants a higher price on the raw material market than many other types of timber, but Better Globe Forestry does not intend to sell the wood as raw material. Rather, they are looking at setting up a sawmill, to ensure the refinement of the wood stays local. Given the richness of the African continent when it comes to natural resources, it’s a continent that should be wealthy. But it’s just this fact, that raw materials are removed rather than refined on-site, which has enriched so many other countries outside of Africa, especially those who’ve previously had colonies. Keeping the value-adding-chain in the country will lead to more job opportunities. And in a country of high unemployment, that’s a definitive plus!


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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Advent Calendar – December 22, 2019

December 22, 2019
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As we finished up snapping selfies with the youngsters of the primary school next to Kaewa Secondary School which really was the reason for our visit, I and Lena slowly walked back towards Kaewa, getting ready to board the bus and continue our adventurous journey. As we did, this girl followed us and gently tapped my shoulder. As I turned towards her, she dropped her gaze, and said, shyly:

Could I have my picture taken too?

I melted. Lena melted.
And of course, we snapped shots of her with both of us, respectively.
The young girl seemed happy that we took her up on her request, and after a few minutes, we went our separate ways.

On another note, I don’t know if the sweaters are part of the school uniforms all the time, or if this is the winter edition. Kenya is south of the equator, hence, technically winter during our visit in June. The weather was lovely, like a really lovely Swedish summer, with temperatures around 27 degrees Celcius. In Malindi, which is where we swam in the ocean, it was 3-4 degrees warmer, with ocean temperatures of 26-27 degrees.


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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Advent Calendar – December 21, 2019

December 21, 2019
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The magic of this place!
Kenya. Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge, inside Tsavo West National Park.
At sunset, with the view of the lit water hole.
As we stood there, birds came to drink, varying kinds of antelope, big and small animals of all kinds… and then, all of a sudden, an elephant.

It seemed so surreal.
Sure, I’d seen elephants earlier in the day, and yet.
Here, right in front of our noses, an elephant coming to have an evening drink, as we were doing the same, getting ready for dinner.

I FaceTimed my children back home in Sweden but they had a fairly lackadaisical attitude to it all. Desperate to share this with someone back home, I called my wives of sorts (yes, that’s what we call ourselves! There’s four of us and we’ve been a tightknit band ever since the days of the Twitter-born movement #skolvåren – which translates into school-spring – in 2013). And, as always, I knew I could trust them to match my wondrous state of mind, at witnessing this grandeur.

What a journey this trip turned out to be.
A journey of insights and new knowledge.
Greater understanding as well as gratitude towards life.
Friendships and new bonds formed with my fellow travel companions as well as our gracious hosts.
Laughter and singing and the occasional tear.
Erosion-stricken semi-arid lands, wildlife in the national park, a few hours of absolute relaxation at the splendid beaches of Malindi.
The plantations. The partner farmers.
The schools and microfinance banks.

A journey that is the result of a number of decisions made, starting with me buying my first trees in November of 2015.
Becoming an ambassador a year later.
Not really doing anything until yet another year had passed.
And then, slowly, getting more and more into it, simply because there’s so much about this that attracts me.

The path I’ve taken doesn’t have to be the path for everyone though. You can easily put aside a bit of your savings to buy trees – as a one-time-gig or monthly – and not think more of it than you do with your other forms of savings. But sitting here, getting to revisit Kenya again, thanks to this advent calendar, I am very happy that I did take on a more active engagement because this is not a trip that will ever be forgotten!


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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Advent Calendar – December 20, 2019

December 20, 2019
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This is me.
My hands.
Planting a (ceremonial) tree at the Nyongoro plantation, with the help of one of the workers, an older gentleman in overalls.

It’s one of my favorite photos from the journey, one I have as the locked-screen-wallpaper on my iPhone, ever since I got back at the beginning of July. Whenever I grab a hold of my phone – which, truth be told, and likely to no surprise, is something I do quite often – I am reminded of how impactful my visit to Kenya was, and still is, for me. New perspectives, the reality of other people, bearing witness to everyday struggles that I have never encountered living in Sweden, and not least, a chance to meet the people behind the company whose vision I wholeheartedly support: To eradicate poverty and corruption in Africa.

One way to help eradicate poverty is to help farmers keep their soil viable. At 21 degrees Celcius, the soil is 100% viable. At 40 degrees C, only 15% of the soil functionality remains. At 60 degrees… it’s 100% dead. There is no life in the soil then, all microbes have died off. Unfortunately, 40-60 degrees of soil temperatures are far from uncommon in Africa.

Planting trees, not only helps protect the soil from erosion thanks to the root systems of the trees, but the canopy of them literally works like sun umbrellas, protecting the soil from heating to those lethal temperatures from the unrelenting sun. This is one reason why it’s such an improvement of farmers’ situations when they contract with Better Globe Forestry to become partner farmers and plant trees on the very same land that they already – and continuously – plant cash crops on. The lowered temperatures mean that soil of partial viability within a few years bounce back and thrive, giving higher returns on their cash crops. Smart huh?

Through the donation packages I purchase monthly, I ensure that partner farmers not only get to tend my trees which, as you understand from the reasoning above, is of benefit for them, they actually receive a tree for themselves for each tree of mine. If you want to start your own monthly contribution to this fantastic and life-changing work, start a monthly subscription. And if you need help, reach out!


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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Advent Calendar – December 19, 2019

December 19, 2019
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Mukau trees at Nyongoro, with one of our two buses in front of the magnificent baobab tree; the green leafage proof that the climate here – closer to the ocean – differs from Kiambere, where there were no leaves on the baobab trees. As stunning as these trees are with their green finery, when the only thing you see is the very peculiar and unique silhouette of the tree itself, without leaves, it’s even more special. Not for nothing are they called the life of trees.

At the Nyongoro plantation which is a total of 32 000 hectares large, only about a thirtieth of the land has been planted, if my memory (and hearing during the visit) serves me. The Kiambere plantation has been visible on Google maps for years, and now you can see the Nyongoro plantation there as well.

However, the plantations are just one aspect of the tree plantation of Better Globe Forestry. Since 2016 there is an active and growing outgrower-program in place with partner farmers, some of whom we got to visit. Once contracted,  the partner farmers (about half of whom are women) basically get free business development from the Agroforestry Agents employed by Better Globe Forestry, helping the farmers in many ways, both relating to the planting and caring for the mukau trees themselves, as to how they can increase their yield by improved irrigation, mulching and so on.

One farmer we talked to told of mukau trees he’d planted before becoming a partner farmer, comparing them to the ones he’d planted since (with his newly gained knowledge, courtesy of the training he’s entitled to as a partner farmer). Guess what? In but a few years, the mukau trees he’d planted after becoming a Better Globe partner farmer had already outgrown the older trees. Knowledge of proper spacing, planting, watering, mulching and so on, transformed into practice makes a difference!


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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Advent Calendar – December 18, 2019

December 18, 2019
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With each donation package I buy (and you?) €1,50 goes to fund the start-up of microloan banks. During my visit to Kenya, I got to visit the first one, talking to the staff, getting to ask the chairman of the bank questions about who uses it, how it works, the most common size of the loans and what they used the loans for. I was reading Muhammad Yunus’s book Banker to the poor during the week which gave me a deeper insight into the phenomena of micro-financing.

Next to the bank, a small saloon. Closed.
Outside a young mother with a baby on her back, tending a donkey with yellow cans of water.
Two other women leaning against a post, and a toddler.

And these two.
Girls, in school uniforms, sitting there, solemnly observing the spectacle in front of them: Thirty-something mzungus busily snapping photos and talking to the bank staff, the gang of young kids congregating in front of the bank, two old men sitting along the road watching the traffic, a man grabbing the front paws of a stray dog, doing a little dance with him. The odd goat passing by.

As I moved to catch them in my camera lens I locked eyes with the girl in front, holding her gaze. Finally, I winked at her, only to have her drop her serious expression, giggle and lower her chin, laughingly looking at me from under her bangs. If she’d had any, that is. All the children and youngsters we met sported this hairdo. Closely shaven heads. Beautiful, all of them, girls and boys alike. Ever curious, we asked about it during our visit to Kaewa Secondary School and learned there are too many costs involved with letting the kids have long hair. And I assume this hairstyle is much more practical as well.


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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Advent Calendar – December 17, 2019

December 17, 2019
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Does money grow on trees?
Well… no. Of course, they don’t.
Yet, in a sense, they actually do!

When I started this calendar, I wrote how I, in 2015, “came home” when I found a way to put my savings into trees. End November 2019, I got my first return on the trees I bought four years ago, and it’s as if it was yesterday… The return I got was basically worth a week’s wages. And sure, I could have used the money with Christmas around the corner, but I actually bought new trees instead. You see, I have a long-term plan with this! As I am saving money, in reality, what I am giving myself is time.

Time? Yes!
With a week’s wages, I could take an extra week off work if I wanted to, without it affecting my finances. As I’ve bought trees every year since 2015, the return will increase yearly as well, like an automatic money-making-machine. In another three to five years, the cost of buying trees will equal the return I get. The year after that, that’s when I will be giving myself that extra time, to live, to love, to laugh!

In 2020, I will get my second return from the trees I bought in 2015, as well as the first from the trees of 2016. Two week’s wages! In 2021, three week’s wages, and by 2024, I could have an extra month of vacation without it having a negative impact on my financial situation. Do the math; the return keeps on coming for a total of 15 years, starting the fourth year after the trees are bought. So yeah, money d o e s grow on trees!

The years fly by!
And sure… five years can feel like an eternity, not to mention ten! But stop and pause for just a second, and think back. Twenty years ago, I was a new mom, and now that kid of mine is more than ready to leave the nest! Hard to imagine, I remember caring for my tiny baby as if it was yesterday…

And do you remember when the Icelandic cloud of ashes put a halt to all flights in northeastern Europe? That was in 2010. Close to ten years ago. I remember it well as my oldest niece was in the US at the time and had to stay for a couple of extra weeks before being able to fly back home to Europe.

In 2015 the gruesome images of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed up drowned on a beach in Turkey trying to flee Syria with his family, finally pushed me over the edge to apply to become a legal guardian for unaccompanied minors, a position I’ve held ever since.

That’s why I want to make the most of my time.
Now, I’ve more or less stopped buying unnecessary things. I don’t need a lot. So I am not looking at creating a money-making-machine so I can use it on shit and stuff. Honestly, I hardly shop at all, not even Christmas gifts! Except for trees, that is. Those trees will help me (and my kids! I buy as many trees for them, as I do for myself.) buy myself time and freedom. Time for that which truly matters: My loved ones. Family. Friends.

If you or someone you know is interested in saving in trees, contact me and I will explain in greater detail how it works, and share how anyone can set up that money-making-machine. And remember, even though time does fly, if you buy trees before the end of the year, the return comes end November 2023. If you buy your trees come the new year, you’ll have to wait another year for it.


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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Advent Calendar – December 16, 2019

December 16, 2019
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I admit.

I went to Kenya fairly certain I would be able to find stuff that I would do differently or knew just the right way to improve on, or that I had “the answer” to.

Prejudice. I admit.
I was. I am.

On item after item, I was proven wrong in my assumptions.
I thought I’d know better… and yet, here I was, over and over again, being proven wrong as well as impressed by what I saw.

Like the Suggestions-box on the office wall. I took the photo at the Nyongoro plantation, but I saw the same type of box at the Kiambere plantation as well as at the head office in Nairobi.

You see, two of the founders of Better Globe have spent a good deal of time helping companies in Kenya and Uganda achieve ISO 9000-standard. ISO 9000 is the family of quality management standards of the International Organization for Standardization and as such is a globally recognized standard. Working many years in the pharmaceutical industry, I’ve come across the standard many a times, and have even given two-day trainings in Quality Management Systems with a focus on ISO 9001.

Better Globe Forestry (BGF) operates according to all the best practices (and a few next ones at that!) of the quality standard – and the suggestion boxes were but one of the most visible clues around – without actually being certified, because knowing the standard as well as they do, the management of BGF also knows there’s no real point to them being certified. And that actually impresses me even more! This is what quality should be about – doing the best you can, while operating under a continuous improvement cycle, regardless of whether you happen to be certified or not. There are companies out there who have chosen to become certified, for the certification, rather than because they want to run and operate the best company they can. But not BGF, they go the other way. They use the standard, for the quality aspects of it, because they do want to run and operate the best company they can.

What I saw throughout the trip impressed me. Greatly.

And not just me, even though my fellow travel companions – CEOs, CFOs, marketing directors, investors, high-level coaches, management consultants, and I don’t know all. Many years of experience that’s for sure! – aren’t the ones writing this blog. I am. But I promise, we were a l l, unanimously, very impressed with what we saw.

So yeah. Rightly so, I was stripped of my prejudices, and I am frigging glad I was!


Advent Calendar for 2019: sharing pictures and stories/reflections from my trip to Kenya in June. I went to visit “my trees” and get a hands-on experience of the social entrepreneurship of the Kenyan forestry company that I buy trees through.

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I am both a customer and an ambassador for the company. If you are curious to find out more, let me know and I’ll gladly get in touch with you! Here’s my sponsored link: https://betterglobe.com/27216 

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