How We Started
Haller was set up as a charity in 2004 by Louise Piper and Julia Hailes MBE. They were inspired by the work of Dr. Rene Haller, who is most famous for rehabilitating a barren cement quarry into a flourishing natural park - now known as Haller Park.
In 1970, 'Haller Park' was an industrial wasteland. The quarry floor was barren and hard as rock, the air temperature was 40°C and the groundwater was saline.
Although reclamation of industrial wasteland was virtually unheard of in the 1970s, Dr. Haller set out to change that. He remembers, "My vision was to establish a multitude of plants, providing food and shelter to a large variety of animals."
It all began with a millipede
Dr. Haller tried planting over 26 species of trees, but discovered that in these severe conditions, only casuarina trees could grow. Its leaves are bunched together like pine needles, protecting them from losing moisture through evaporation. But, although casuarina trees would grow, their needles just lay on the forest floor, with nothing to decompose them. The true breakthrough came when Dr. Haller noticed that African "red legged" millipedes ate casuarina needles. By introducing these millipedes into the quarry, the needles were turned into humus, and the first layer of soil was formed.
From Wasteland to Paradise
Through careful observation of how plants and animals interact, and a series of trial-and-error experiments, Dr. Rene Haller transformed a barren wasteland into a flourishing natural park.
Over 1 million trees were planted in the quarry, and a range of insects, butterflies, birds and mammals were also introduced. Each plant, insect or animal had a purpose to keep the ecosystem in balance. Now Haller Park is a Wildlife Sanctuary, home to over 30 species of endangered animals. Nearly 100,000 people visit Haller Park every year.
Economy and Ecology must be in balance
Dr. Haller believes that economy and ecology need to be in balance - people will not protect the environment 'for tomorrow' if they have no food on their plates today.
Haller Park shows that being environmentally sustainable can be profitable. In addition to its recreational facilities for visitors, it has over forty different sources of income, including fish farming, beekeeping, tree nurseries, and many other sustainable agriculture and wildlife practices. It is both environmentally and financially sustainable.
The Baobab Trust and Haller
In 1991, Dr. Haller set up The Baobab Trust, a non-profit organisation that uses his knowledge to help subsistence farming communities regenerate their land, and grow more crops.
Dr. Haller and the work of The Baobab Trust hugely inspired Julia Hailes MBE and Louise Piper. Julia had met Dr. Haller when they were both awarded the UNEP Global 500 Roll of Honour for their 'outstanding environmental achievements'. Louise visited Kenya whilst a colleague of Guido Haller, Dr. Haller's son. Louise and Julia decided to set up a charity to raise funds for Dr. Haller's work and promote his ideas. In 2004 Haller was established as a UK registered charity.
Since 2004, Haller has worked with thousands of Kenyans to help them lift themselves out of poverty. Building on Dr. Haller's knowledge, we help subsistence farmers living on dry, eroded land to harvest water, rehabilitate their land, and farm sustainably so that they can become self-sufficient. Following Dr. Haller's belief that economy and ecology should be in balance, most of our projects generate income for poor families. We promote a model for economic development that is sustainable and environmentally sound.
In 2006, Haller set up an award-winning education centre, which is home to Kenya’s first free children’s library, and supports 63 schools and around 17,000 children from slums around Mombasa each year. This year, we will build a computer room in our education centre, where we will offer free IT classes, to help disadvantaged children find employment. We also plan to set up vocational workshops to teach sewing and handicrafts skills to encourage the start-up of micro-businesses.
We will also be working with 4 new rural communities, with a total population of around 5,000 people. We will help bring them water and food security, and give them the means and knowledge to live sustainably.