Okezie Kelechukwu

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2013
Neighbourhood Environment Watch(NEW) Foundation


This profile was prepared when Okezie Kelechukwu was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Okezie has positioned rural communities to become custodians of their lands and forests. He is using traditional agroforestry practices to create alternative livelihoods for communities, as opposed to timber, artisanal mining and oil extraction, so that there will be no further indiscriminate felling of trees. Okezie works with communities to create their own governing principles and mechanisms to protect the land they live on.

With community buy-in for his ideas, Okezie begins work in a given area by establishing a small nursery. This nursery acts as a laboratory to test different plant species for their appropriateness to the climate and culture. He works directly with community women at this stage since they are largely responsible for agriculture on household land. Okezie works with them to determine what the community will plant, with an emphasis on crop diversity, maximizing returns from crop type, and the nutritional value of produce. Successful seedlings are transported to both communal and household lands and transferred to the soil. The returns from the communal land are used to fund education and healthcare. In this way, the community has an incentive to protect the land and village political structures are used to create laws for its use and penalties for misuse. On household lands, women tend crops that bring in increased returns from the diversification of plant and tree species. Okezie encourages using sustainable agroforestry practices to replete the poor soil quality and degenerated land.

Okezie’s organization, Neighborhood Environmental Watch (NEW), has worked in three communities across two government districts (2008 to 2012). He recognizes the benefits of his solution for a variety of land depletion challenges, irrespective of the cause, and is working through the Host Community Network to adapt his idea for other communities.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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