Page 1

Mukau: A Kenyan drylands tree with a bright future Yatta farmer makes tree farming big business Interview with Ugandan farmer, George Mayanja

Issue No. 0001 January-March 2009

The billion tree race We need to plant trees on millions of hectares

Eucalyptus A blessing or a curse for Africa?


Dryland to Greenland How Better Globe is planting a new green future for Africa


Cloning trees for forestry Is it the way forward?


Water management in the drylands Why it is of utmost importance

Eucalyptus: A blessing or a curse for Africa?


Reaping in semi-arid areas With proper soil conservation efforts and irrigation, drylands can be made productive


Fighting poverty in Africa Better Globe’s three-pronged approach


Better Globe Forestry’s pilot plantation in Kiambere A trial ground for future expansion


Composting The way forward for increased yields in semi-arid areas


Milestones in forestry in Kenya Our very survival depends on the survival of our forests


Leading the way Yatta farmer makes tree farming big business



The Kenya Forestry Research Institute KEFRI conducts and disseminates forestry research findings

Put integrity first Can a new FREE e-book change Africa’s corruption problem?


Interview George William Mukasa Mayanja, a farmer in Uganda, East Africa


The story of mukau A tree species of Kenyan drylands with a bright future


Keep the memories alive Plant a tree to mark family events


Managing forests in Uganda The National Forestry Authority is formed


The billion tree race Kenya’s forest cover is severely depleted. We need to plant trees on millions of hectares


Scaling new heights Kakuzi takes to agro-forestry with vigour


A safe food additive Acacia senegal is a dryland tree species with many industrial uses




From Dryland to Greenland Better Globe Forestry Ltd plans to convert arid and semi-arid lands into productive areas




ITI means “tree” in Swahili, the most extensively spoken language in Africa. As from today, Miti it is also the name of this new, high quality and full colour tree business magazine. It is the first of its kind in East Africa, with the aim of informing and entertaining all, professional or not, with ARticles about or related to afforestation in Africa. This publication targets all tree lovers, business people, farmers, ecologists, scientists, investors, students, NGOs, government policy makers and readers at large who wish to know how important afforestation is for present and future generations. Each issue will have recurrent departments aimed at enlightening readers on the challenges and rewards related to tree planting in Africa. Apart from business articles and news updates related to afforestation, Miti will also give information on controversial tree issues, the historical use of trees, water management, tissue culture etc. We will run interviews of farmers, individuals and companies with successful afforestation stories so that readers may benefit from these experiences. Moreover, the magazine will tackle issues like improving techniques and will give advice to readers, while local institutions will have the opportunity to present themselves and their work in East Africa. Miti is more than just a magazine. It is a continuous positive training programme on how people can save the environment and make more money through tree planting. It is therefore essential for us to get feedback from you. Whether you are a professional in the forestry field, a farmer or just interested in trees, you are welcome to send us articles of interest. In this first issue, we wish to delight our readers with articles about tree-planting in general, prices of wood, presentations from various partners, informative articles about tree-planting and water management, tissue culture, interviews with successful farmers and finally, a presentation of the Better Globe and Child Africa projects, all of this related to afforestation in dry lands. Miti will be published on a quarterly basis.

Karibu. Jean-Paul Deprins Miti magazine

Published by: MITI MAGAZINE ® P.O. Box 823 – 00606 Nairobi, Kenya Tel: + 254 20 434 3435 Mobile: + 254 722 262 061 Email: Uganda office: MITI MAGAZINE ® P.O. Box 22232 Kampala, Uganda Mobile: + 256 752 896 205 Email:


Chairman of the Editorial Board: Rino Solberg

Contributing Editor Mundia Muchiri

Editor-in-chief Jean-Paul Deprins

Designer David Kihwaga

Managing Editor – Uganda Julie Solberg

Advertising and subscription Better Globe Forestry Ltd

Technical Editor Jan Vandenabeele Copy Editor Wanjiru Ciira


Miti January-March 2 009

Advertise in Miti is Kenya’s foremost forum for talking to the growing number of people engaged in farming and the agroforestry business and reach everyone you want to talk to about agroforestry! GET IN TOUCH WITH: Jean-Paul Deprins TODAY! Te l : 2 5 4 - 2 0 - 4 3 4 3 4 3 5 • M o b ile : 254-722 262 061 • Em a i l : k eny a @m i ti a fr i c a .org P. O. Box 8 23 - 00606 Na i robi , k eny a or M o b ile : 2 5 6 - 7 5 2 8 9 6 205 • em a i l:juli e@c hi lda fr i c a .org P. O. Box 22232 K a m pa la , Uga nda

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GET IN TOUCH WITH: Jean-Paul Deprins Te l : 2 5 4 - 2 0 - 4 3 4 3 4 3 5 • M o b ile : 254-722 262 061 • Em a i l : k eny a @m i ti a fr i c a .org P. O. Box 8 2 3 - 00606 Na i robi , k eny a or M o b ile : 2 5 6 - 7 5 2 8 9 6 205 • em a i l:juli e@c hi lda fr i c a .org P. O. Box 22232 K a m pa la , Uga nda Miti January-March 2009


From Dryland to


Better Globe Forestry Ltd plans to convert arid and semi-arid lands into productive areas. By Jean-Paul Deprins


etter Globe Forestry Ltd was incorporated in Kenya in 2004 and is part of The Better Globe Group from Norway, which focuses on the need to help fight poverty. The organisation does this through promoting massive tree planting and sustainable agricultural programmes through microfinance schemes, educational programmes and building schools The mission of Better Globe Forestry Ltd is to make Kenya a greener and healthier place in which to live by focusing on the development of profitable, commercial tree plantations that will deliver environmental as well as humanitarian benefits. Better Globe Forestry Ltd is totally committed to extensive commercial tree planting in ASALs (arid and semi-arid lands) as part of its overall environmental and social mission. As such, Better Globe Forestry Ltd has developed a whole range of interventions to cooperate with communities and individuals neighbouring its plantations. Better Globe Forestry Ltd recognises that a good neighbour policy is the best way to protect its plantations. As a fundamental business principle, Better Globe Forestry Ltd conducts all its transactions with integrity and in accordance with good business ethics and practices. In November 2006, Better Globe Forestry Ltd started a pilot treeplanting project on 100 hectares 4

– the first phase of a major tree plantation of 5,000 hectares in the area around Kiambere dam on the Tana River. The land is in the custody of the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority. Over 65 per cent of the people in the area are counted among the absolute poor, with very high unemployment. Ecologically, the area around Kiambere dam is situated in semiarid lands (ASALs), with an average rainfall of about 600 mm a year. Altitude varies between 700-800 m,

making for a hot tropical climate where evaporation exceeds rainfall by far. Rainfall is however, erratic and completely dry years do occur. So far, large-scale tree plantations in ASALs do not exist in Kenya and BGF is pioneering the field. Tree species planted in the Kiambere drylands, to produce economically strong products are Melia volkensii (mukau) for highquality timber, Azadirachta indica (neem) for oil and Jatropha curcas for bio-diesel.

Miti January-March 2 009

In May 2008, Better Globe Forestry Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Sosoma Ranching Co-op Society Ltd. The ranch occupies 60,705 hectares and had been allocated by the Ministry of Land to the Sosoma Cooperative Ranching Society (SCRS) in 1991. It is located in eastern Mwingi district, some 200 kilometres east north east from Nairobi. In 2005, SCRS had a membership of 769. However, it was considered dormant, as no organised activities were taking place. In the early years of the Society, ranching proved impossible as all the cattle died. The place is really hot and dry as the following data demonstrate. The average yearly rainfall is between 300-500 millimetres, decreasing from west to east. The expected annual rains, with a 60 per cent probability (six years out of 10), for the western half of the ranch would be between 300-400 millimetres, and less than 300 millimetres for the eastern side of the ranch. In fact, November is the only month with reliable rain in all years, with 90-115 millimetres in 60 per cent of all years. The average annual evaporation is between 1,900-2,400 millimetres. Miti January-March 2009

Temperatures are high, with a mean annual 24-30oC, and an absolute minimum of 10-16oC. Average monthly temperatures range from 27-29oC (March) to 24-26oC (July). However, the place also offers some advantages. Topography is flat, favouring mechanised work. The area mostly has deep soils with very little rock, allowing for soil improvement practices. In addition, it is a big, continuous area, alongside the major Nairobi-Garissa highway. Currently, studies are being conducted for water supply, as through boreholes, and location of earth dams. The local authorities, up to Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, the area Member of Parliament, (who is also a member of the Society) receive regular briefs on the progress of the project, and fully approve of our intervention. Feasibility studies are taking place, and an environmental impact assessment is in the pipeline. This project focuses on planting mukau (Melia volkensii) and Acacia senegal and the production of gum arabic, as a way of extracting value out of drylands with harsh climatic conditions. It is complementary to another BGF project in the same Eastern Province, where other species like Jatropha curcas and

Azadirachta indica (neem) have been planted for production of bio-diesel, glycerine and oil for plant protection. In February 2008, Better Globe Forestry Ltd signed an MOU with the Witu-Nyongoro Ranch Directed Agricultural Company Ltd, about the establishment of an industrial plantation of 23,000 hectares of Jatropha curcas in Kenya’s Lamu district, in the coastal lowlands alongside the Indian Ocean. The project includes an outgrowers scheme for an additional 12,000 hectares, to be planted by smallholders in the buffer zone around the plantation. The area to be planted is in a semi-arid zone, with rainfall decreasing rapidly from 1,000 millimetres to 500 millimetres from the coastal strip towards the interior. As year-round planting operations are planned, including during the dry season, the project will require the establishment of water infrastructure to allow additional watering of the young seedlings during their first year in the field. Currently, talks are being conducted with the ranch management committee for the location of the nursery and centre of operations. Simultaneously, the project is being presented and 5

discussed with the local authorities, which have to give their approval. The project aims at producing: • fruit coats: to be used for electricity production • seeds: for oil production and eventual refining into bio-diesel • press cake, to be fermentated into biogas and afterwards to be used for soil improvement. However, before planting properly can start, various studies need to be done. These include feasibility studies, an environmental impact assessment, a soil survey, a topographical survey, a base line to establish existing vegetation, a base line in the buffer zone (see below), for defining community development action and an overall management plan. Lamu district is at Kenya’s north coast, bordering Somali. It has 6,814 sq km, of which 308 sq km are islands (the Lamu archipelago). It has a population of 72,509 people as per the 1999 census, with a low population density of 10.6 people per sq km. Most people live along the coastal strip and Lamu island. The area’s absolute poverty index in 1999 was 42 and 58 per 6

cent of the population for Lamu West and Lamu East constituencies respectively. Absolute poverty had increased since 1994, when it stood at 29 per cent and 1997, when it was 39 per cent. (The Little Fact Book). Better Globe Forestry Ltd will establish its processing industry for this raw material in the immediate surroundings of its plantations, creating employment in the countryside.

Better Globe Forestry Ltd, supported by top experts in agroforestry, is also taking on consultancy, implementation and training services in different fields related to agroforestry in drylands and has an established forestry and agricultural test and training centre in Kibwezi for that purpose. The Better Globe Forestry Mukuyu Farm is a model dryland farm, excelling in integrated farming techniques for ASAL with emphasis on tree planting, water management and soil fertility for increased productivity. Water management and the efficient use of water are demonstrated through a variety of techniques including lowpressure drip irrigation for fruits and vegetables. The whole concept is based on long-term thinking. It involves big investments and a great deal of research. However, taking on the many challenges for the many years to come is the only way to change what has become dryland to “Greenland”.

Miti January-March 2 009



Price (Ksh)

Coast Nairobi


Western Rift Valley Eastern Nyanza


2”x2” 3”x2” 4”x2” 6”x2” 6”x1” 8”x1”

25 30 40 52 42 52

28 32 34 52 34 42

25 30 32 48 32 40

15 23 25 30 25 33

16 22 25 32 26 34

24 32 36 42 32 38

18 26 27 34 30 34


2”x2” 3”x2” 4”x2” 6”x2” 6”x1” 8”x1”

22 28 30 52 30 48

26 30 32 48 32 45

24 28 30 45 32 36

14 21 22 26 24 32

15 21 22 30 26 32

20 30 34 40 32 36

18 24 25 32 28 32


2”x2” 3”x2” 4”x2” 6”x2” 6”x1” 8”x1”

20 22 25 30 26 34

18 19 22 30 24 30

15 17 20 28 22 28

12 15 17 22 18 22

13 15 17 21 17 20

17 19 22 30 24 30

14 18 18 23 20 24


2”x2” 3”x2” 4”x2” 6”x2” 6”x1” 8”x1”

20 22 25 30 26 34

18 19 22 30 24 30

15 17 20 28 22 28

12 15 17 20 18 22

13 15 17 20 17 20

17 19 22 30 24 30

14 17 18 23 20 24

CHARCOAL species price/bag (Ksh) Kenyan market Coast Nairobi Western Central Rift Valley Eastern Nyanza acacia black wattle

600 600

750 750

650 650

700 700

550 550

450 450

for forest products

650 650

This section of Miti intends to give market information for the species price/m3 (Ksh) main forest products regarding Coast Nairobi Western Central Rift Valley Eastern Nyanza prices, and also volumes and Eucalyptus/Others 1,100 1,500 1,250 1,250 1,200 900 1,300 trends. For this first issue, SEMI-PROCESSED TRANSMISSION POLES (EUCALYPTS) the information is focusing on timber, logs, eucalyptus species price/piece (Ksh) Western Central Rift Valley Nyanza construction wood and Farm gate 1,400 1,400 1,300 1,300 fencing posts and transmission Factory gate 2,200 2,200 2,200 2,200 poles. INDUSTRIAL FIREWOOD


The information has been price/piece (Ksh) Central Rift Valley Eastern Nyanza supplied by Dr Joshua K

Tender prices* 12,000 12,000 12,000 12,000 12,000 12,000 12,000 * To supply to KPLC depots throughout the country LOGS species price (Ksh/m3) Central Western Rift Valley Nyanza pine 2,800 1,500 2,500 1,500 cypress 3,200 2,000 2,000 2,000 grevillea 2,000 1,200 1,500 1,200 eucalypt 2,000 1,200 1,500 1,200 EUCALYPT CONSTRUCTION WOOD item length price (Ksh/m3) (m) Coast * Rift Valley Eastern Nyanza Withies 3 30 15 20 20 Small 6 60 40 60 65 Medium 10 200 60 70 85 Large 15 300 80 80 100

* Mangrove poles EUCALYPT FENCING POSTS species length price (Ksh/m3) (m) Coast * Western Rift Valley Eastern Small 3 80 40 45 50 Medium 3 120 60 70 80 Large 3 170 70 80 100 * Mangrove poles

Miti January-March 2009

Nyanza 60 80 100

Cheboiwo, Centre Director of Londiani Station of Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI). Dr Cheboiwo has been doing research on markets of forest products for several years and is very knowledgeable in this field. In the next issue, we will include other forest products like gum Arabic and seeds of oil producing species (neem, Jatropha curcas, and Croton megalocarpus). The prices provide a starting point for future trends, as changes will occur once the ban on logging is lifted.


A two-year-old eucalyptus plantation in Makueni District

Eucalyptus: A blessing or a curse for Africa? Eucalyptus originate from Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea and some South Pacific islands, with roughly 400 species, and have been introduced in all other continents. This is because such a variety of species is suited to a wide range of climatic conditions, from hot and tropical to rather cold and supporting freezing temperatures. It is also suited to moist and humid as well as semi-arid environments. The species are not always easy to identify, and colour and texture of bark, and size and shape of fruits are important characteristics. Actual African distribution and use Almost all African countries count with more or less sizeable presence of eucalyptus. Most plantations are found in Ethiopia and South Africa with a significant presence in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The importance and use of eucalyptus in Africa is difficult to overestimate. Not only does the tree provide poles and timber, firewood and charcoal, but also ornamental flowers and essential oils for medicinal use. Eucalyptus rank among the best honey plants in the world. Timber production requires careful seasoning of the wood, otherwise it splits easily. Characteristics of eucalyptus Eucalypt species mostly seed in abundance, and are easy to raise in nurseries. They can be cut and grow back as coppice, allowing several yields without new planting. Their root systems are strongest close to the stem, but roots have been found in light soils to extend to over 30 metres both horizontally and vertically. Some species, like E. grandis, however have comparatively shallow root systems.

Discussion Eucalyptus are being blamed for a great many evils, notably the drying up of water courses, suppression of other vegetation, as a cause of erosion and adversely affecting nutrient cycling and soil properties. These are serious accusations and they must be looked into. Various studies have been carried out on water consumption of eucalyptus. One such study was done by the Forest Research Institute of Dehradun, India1. Several tree species were studied regarding water consumption and relation biomass production:

Tree species

Water consumption (ltr/year)

Biomass produced (g/ltr of water)

Water consumed per g of biomass (ltr/g)

Eucalyptus hybrids Dalbergia sassoo Albizzia lebbek Acacia auriculiformis Syzigium cuminii Pongomia pinnata

2526 1534 1284 1232 1190 459

2.06 1.31 1.83 1.39 2.00 1.13

0.48 0.77 0.55 0.72 0.50 0.88



Vinayakrayo Patil. Local communities and Eucalyptus - An experience in India.

Miti January-March 2 009

A four-year-old, well-managed clonal eucalyptus plantation in Murang’a District

From this study, it emerges that eucalyptus are indeed big consumers of water, but also the most efficient producers of biomass per unit of water consumed. This is an important fact, and what matters then is the economic return per unit of water consumed. Another study by Davidson (1989, in Tesfaye Teshome ‘Is Eucalyptus ecologically hazardous tree species?’)2, mentions a consumption of 0.77 litres of water consumed per gram of biomass produced, and compares this with consumption for maize, coffee/tea/ banana at respectively 1.00 and 3.20 and other food crops which are all higher. That fast growing species like eucalyptus consume high levels of soil nutrients seems logical and sensible. This requires an appropriate management system to replenish the nutrient bank of the soil, just like in agricultural production. That soil properties are negatively influenced by eucalypt plantations is a controversial claim, while blaming eucalypt plantations for erosion has to be examined carefully. It is true that lack of ground covering vegetation under a plantation will favour erosion, but a mature eucalypt plantation will not behave very differently 2

from a mature pine or cypress plantation. In fact, Eucalyptus globulus, with a strong taproot and a welldeveloped lateral root system, is seen in Ethiopia as a very reputable species for catchment protection. One can argue that Kenyan and Ethiopian conditions are different, but one has to be careful about blaming planting of eucalyptus for the drying of watercourses in Kenya. All trees, whether indigenous or not, do consume water, and the continuous and indiscriminate clearing of forest and woodland for agriculture, regardless of slope, location and soil type, might be a bigger factor in drying of local streams than eucalyptus planted too close to the water course. It is however, a best and safe practice to recommend the maintenance of indigenous vegetation at both sides of a watercourse and have eucalyptus planted at least 30 - 50 metres away. In view of efficiency of biomass production, their ease of management and variety of products on offer, eucalyptus have their place in the rural landscape and economy, alongside indigenous forests, plantations and species with their own products and values.

The eucalyptus dilemma. Arguments for and against eucalyptus planting in Ethiopia. The Forestry Research Centre Seminar. Note Series No 1.A.A.

Miti January-March 2009


Fighting poverty in Africa Better Globe’s three-pronged approach By Julie Solberg, PR Director, Better Globe


The Better Globe Vision e are going to do more to eradicate poverty in Africa in the next 20 years than any other single organisation has ever done before. We don’t believe in just charity, except during catastrophes, but we believe strongly in systems of “self-help” and will support poor people in Africa based on principles of profitability. This way they can be self-sustained and able to work themselves out of poverty. 1 Tree planting The desert in Africa is moving south very fast and without massive forestation, in the next 20 - 30 years, most land suitable for farming will be gone. Massive tree planting will also hinder global warming, which is one of the biggest threats in our world today. The company Better Globe Forestry Ltd will focus on massive tree planting in East Africa, mainly in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Sudan over the next 20 - 30 years. We will plant different trees for different purposes, like bio fuel, rubber, timber and different medicinal and other products. Better Globe also plans to set up production plants on site in order to build stronger communities, wherever we have tree plantations. However, we are specialising in planting trees in arid and semi arid lands (ASALs), where the trees are not competing with food production. (See the article about this on page 12.) This way, we secure work for many people who otherwise do not have many alternatives for getting a job. In addition, we are able to stop migration of people from rural to 10

urban areas, where they mostly live in slums. 2 Microfinance for agriculture About 70 - 80 per cent of the people of Africa are poor farmers, surviving on less than US$ 1a day. If we are ever to eradicate poverty in Africa, we have to help poor farmers make more money for themselves. Wherever Better Globe has a tree plantation, there are many small farmers in the buffer zones around the plantations who have no money to buy seeds, no money for good farming equipment, no money for modern farm education and even more important, often no markets for their products. From 2009, Better Globe will therefore start giving small loans to farmers in the different areas where the company is planting trees. We will have a “Microfinance bank”

for poor farmers, where they can borrow money needed to increase their crop and their income. MICROFINANCE GOAL: We are aiming at becoming the biggest “Microfinance bank” for poor farmers in Africa, by the year 2026. 3. Education through Child Africa Child Africa is a non-profit organisation (NGO) which originated from Norway. It works closely with and is supported by Better Globe as a big part of the Better Globe vision. Since 1991, Child Africa’s vision has been “to help disadvantaged children in East-Africa to enhance their lives through education”. Poverty is common in Africa. Many children are orphaned due to AIDS and other diseases. We have

TREE PLANTING GOAL: We are going to plant 5 billion trees in Africa, by the year 2026.

Miti January-March 2009

made it our mission, with support from “sponsor parents”, to help thousands of children in East Africa with food, clothing, medication, education and homes. Increasing support from around the world will enable us to help many more children in the years to come. All over the world, children’s joyful laughter and songs are the same, yet the children behind them are so different. The sound of children’s laughter anywhere in the world brings a thrill of happiness in our hearts, for we love children, we love to make them happy, we enjoy seeing their big bright eyes, their smiles and their cheekiness. In short, their joy is our joy. However, the little beings behind these laughter and songs are in two different worlds, it is like day and night. The children of the developed world cannot even comprehend the pain and difficulties most of their fellow playmates in the developing part of the world go through. It is indeed like day and night, for the light is very slow in reaching the majority of children in the third world, and for many, this means death. If children in Africa do not get free primary education, there is no way any African country will be able to eradicate poverty. Education is the basis for all development and democracies and should therefore be the birthright of every human being, wherever they are born in the world. Very few countries in Africa offer free primary education so they need all the help they can get. Miti January-March 2009

We believe that the only sure cure for poverty is education, which is why we put school first. “Help people to help themselves” through education is the main purpose of Child Africa. We are a charity organisation undertaking school projects to give poor children in African countries care and high quality education. By building our own schools from donations and fund-raising, among others, we will be able to have good nutritious food, good teachers, a good curriculum where children will be taught ethics and morals and how corruption can devastate a country and its people. We will guide them to be self-sufficient and self motivated and have a will power to overcome any difficulties. Child Africa school project for deaf children The first Child Africa school was started in Kabale Uganda. This school is unique because 20 per cent of

deaf children in the school, we teach both the speaking and non-speaking to tolerate each other and by teaching sign language to the whole school, we make communication easier for both parties. The deaf children at the Child Africa school have changed positively. When they first came to us, they were both scared and shy with very little self-esteem and practically no self-confidence. We were amazed at the change after just a few months. They are now very outgoing and they smile, dance and learn very well. The next school that we are building will accommodate some 1,500 children, with 200 to 300 places reserved for deaf children. Tree planting in schools As depletion of tree cover in many African countries is a big and serious problem, Child Africa will have a special emphasis on teaching children how and why to plant trees at home. We will make an effort to plant indigenous trees in and around our schools so the children can get to know the different tree species. Child Africa schools will also mark and attend the national treeplanting day in each country where we operate, in order to make the children aware of the importance of planting trees both for the local and world environment. Because of the relationship to and support from Better Globe, Child Africa will be able to help

CHILD AFRICA GOAL: We will build more schools in Africa than any other single organisation has ever done before. the children are deaf and it teaches sign language to all the pupils and teachers in the school. A research done in Cambridge University in England shows that deaf children who are integrated with normal children learn much faster and enjoy their stay in school. By incorporating

some of the children make a career as carpenters, craftsmen, furniture makers or in other wood processing jobs. Better Globe will be a major player in the forestry sector in East Africa and will therefore provide thousands of jobs in different fields within this sector in the years to come. 11

Left: Jatropha curcas at the end of the dry season (Sept 2008) almost completely defoliated and seriously stressed by drought. Right: The same Jatropha curcas, two weeks after two downpours, of 76 and 14mm respectively, completely recovered and flowering (Oct 2008)

Better Globe forestry’s pilot plantation in Kiambere A trial ground for future expansion

By Jan Vandenabeele, Executive Director, Better Globe Forestry Ltd Background and the working environment iambere is located 130 kilometres northeast of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, in a semi-arid zone where average yearly rainfall fluctuates between 500-700 millimetres. Potential evapotranspiration however exceeds 2,000 millimetres per year. Better Globe Forestry (BGF) has set up a pilot plantation by Lake Kiambere, an artificial water body created by damming river Tana for electricity generation, at 750masl. The Kenya Government has created a buffer zone around this lake, for its protection and for security


reasons, under the tutelage of the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority (TARDA). TARDA and its parent Ministry of Regional Development are BGF’s partners in this undertaking. As long as no works were going on in the buffer zone, it farmers repeatedly invaded and occupied it, cultivating subsistence crops like maize, millet, sorghum and cowpeas. Aware of their status as illegal squatters, the farmers never invested in anti-erosion measures and soil fertility management, as they knew they could be evicted any day. Consequently, fertile top soil has been washed away by erosion, and the soil’s fertility is seriously depleted. This is particularly serious as the

washed away soil ends up in the lake, contributing to its silt load and diminishing the lifetime for the power generation facility. Poverty is rampant in the area, with over 65 per cent of the population living below the absolute poverty line, defined at an income of US$1per day. Against this background, BGF is rehabilitating the area, with a plantation that is about 100 hectares, meant as a trial ground for planting and management practices. A tree plantation in a semi-arid zone on this scale is a novelty for East Africa, and BGF’s work is truly groundbreaking.

The plantation in October 2008, with trees approximately 1 year and 10 months old, mukau on the left, neem on the right


Miti January-March 2009

The plantation BGF started working in Kiambere in November 2006, with preparatory work resulting in the first plantations in December 2006 and January 2007. The tree species planted are Jatropha curcas (physic nut), Azadirachta indica (neem) and Melia volkensii (mukau). Jatropha is planted on 55 hectares, making this the single largest plantation of the species in Kenya. As this is the first time that Jatropha has been planted on a large scale, the tree poses some challenges regarding its silvicultural practices, and Kiambere has proven to be an excellent training ground. Several trials have been executed, including different planting/sowing methods, seedling propagation in nursery, planting density and dry season planting with different watering intensities. Experiences and lessons Planting in ASAL poses special challenges and leaves no room for error. In a high rainfall area, minor mistakes can be allowed, but in a hot dry area, a mistake may mean losing the seedling. It is very important to select seedlings in the nursery before planting, eliminating weak, badly formed and undersized ones. Eliminating 10-20 per cent of the seedlings in the nursery might seem wasteful, but is in fact more profitable as it leads to higher survival rates and better growth and yields. Planting must be done after thoroughly briefing the labour force on best practices. These include planting immediately after transportation (not leaving the polythene bags lying in the sun for hours), minimal exposure of the rooting system to the sun, watering of the seedlings in the nursery before transport, and – very important – mulching of the immediate surroundings of the seedling without the mulch touching the stem. This mulching decreases Miti January-March 2009

evaporation of water and diminishes the soil temperature that can lead to sunburn on the stem resulting even in mortality (see photo above). Anti-erosion measures are very important, if only for maintaining the little soil fertility left, and certainly to conserve the top soil from being washed away and having stones “grow”. Soil work like ripping and ploughing, as well as weeding, should be done along contour lines. In addition, where gullies exist, construction of check-dams has proved very effective in putting a brake on erosion (see photos below). In most of the plantation area, soil erosion has been diminished by

over 90 per cent, after barely two years of intervention. Soil conservation is truly important, as soil quality is more important than rainfall. The point has been driven home by different thriving patterns of Jatropha bushes, depending on the planting site, all receiving the same amount of rain. The bushes do significantly better where soils are slightly more fertile. Weeding and clearing of bushes: The competition was eliminated through weeding and removing of bush. This was done both manually and chemically, with the manual treatment proving superior from a financial point of view and also


giving better results. Mechanical weeding was not used. The chemical used was Glyfos (same as Round-up) with glyfosate as an active ingredient. Concentrations for weeding were 2 per cent as a spray, and 10-15 per cent for killing bush, applied with a brush. Results depended on the bush species. Some were killed, but four species proved to be resistant: Acacia tortilis, Dicrostachys cinerea, Combretum aculeatum and an unknown one. Watering: In these ecological circumstances, Jatropha needs watering to survive the first year. A weekly dose of 5 litres is sufficient, but this can be fine-tuned to a lesser quantity depending on the season. During the dry season, even when watered, Jatropha is prone to stress and sensitive to attacks by a large number of pests and diseases. Once the root system is firmly established during the second and following years, the long dry season will affect the plant. It will defoliate to protect itself, but survive and re-grow immediately after the first rains (see photos above on page 12). Pests and diseases: Contrary to na誰ve expectations, Jatropha is quite sensitive to a range of pests and diseases. This has important consequences for a cost-benefit analysis. BGF has been cooperating with the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) for identifying and managing insects and pests that attack the plant. It is crucial to identify the presence of a pest/disease fast, to avoid contamination over a big area, while limiting the costs of intervention. Ideally, intervention by a stand-by team takes place a few hours after detection. Manual sprayers are effective when spraying small seedlings, while motorised ones work better with bushes. Yield figures on Jatropha are still sketchy, but seemingly, with the right care and management practices, it seems that even on marginal sites like Kiambere, Jatropha might become a profitable crop.


This table gives a summary of our experiences in Kiambere Insect/pest


Active ingredient


Blue shield bug Calidea dregii



Feeds on flowers, affecting yield seriously

Thrips - Heliothrips haemorroidales, Scirtothrips kenyensis



Important agricultural crop pests. On young seedlings. Biomet is effective against sucking pests in general

Striped mealy bugFerrisia virgata



Hosted by coffee, sorghum, millet. Favoured by drought

Sucking bugs like cotton strainer

Lebaycid, Imoxi

Fenthion, Imidacloprid

Lebaycid is a contact chemical; Imoxi is systemic.

Small unidentified caterpillar



Bigger unidentified caterpillar




Ridomil, Antracol, copper

Metalaxyl, mancozeb, propineb

Root rot-Phytophtora

Copper, ridomil

Eats leaves and doubles as a stem borer. Triger is better against caterpillars than Diazinol

On previous agricultural sites (like old bomas)

Left, above and below: An unidentified caterpillar eating the leaves and doubling as a stem borer, on Jatropha curcas. A spraying team with a motorised sprayer.

Miti January-March 2009

Milestones in

forestry in Kenya We need to note that our very survival depends on the survival of our forests


y 1970, forests plantations in Kenya stood at 170,000 hectares while indigenous forests occupied two per cent of the country. The importance of conserving forests had however been recognised by 1905 with forest reserves being set aside by 1908. This was probably due to the immense role that wood played in the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway in the early 1900s. However, things started taking a downturn in the 1980s and by the early 1990s, the forestry sector was characterised by severe depletion. This was due to various factors including unprofessionalism, political interference, an unresponsive forestry policy, restrictive forestry laws and lack or low participation of stakeholders in the management of the country’s forests. The initial steps to salvage the situation started in 1994 with a comprehensive study of Kenya’s forest sector. The analysis, known as the Kenya Forestry Masterplan Project (KFMP) came up with a number of recommendations. Among them was the need for legislative reforms to tackle the restrictive and inhibitive forest laws that existed then. The masterplan also recommended a policy reform to realign it with modern realities, institutional reforms to stem out unprofessional forest management and programme reforms targeted at improving the general status of forests in Kenya. The KFMP also identified securing forest land and securing the supply of wood products as of immediate importance. The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) thus came into being out of the need to enhance conservation and sustainable management of forestry for environmental stability and the country’s socio-economic development.

Miti January-March 2009

Since its inception in February 2007, the Kenya Forest Service has a come a long way despite facing many challenges. To steer the young institution, a 16- member Board of Management was formed soon after the operationalisation of the Forest Act 2005. The Board has continued to guide the Service in its formative stages as it tries to assert its presence and authority in a sector that is trying to transform into a reliable and respectable profession. The Service has also been able to effect a partial recruitment of essential senior and middle level staff to help in the management of the organisation as a semi autonomous institution. Over 5,000 employees of the former Forest Department have been seconded to KFS for an initial period of three years. It is expected that with the availability of funds, most of them will be brought on board. The organisational and administrative structure has been rationalised with a clear delegation of authority right from the top. This has been done in accordance with the new forest legislation, which provides for the formation of regional forest committees to assist the Board in the effective management of the country’s forest estate. The Kenya Forest Service has subdivided the country into 10 ecological zones known as Conservancies, which are run by regional committees or the Forest Conservation Committees (FCC). Their main duty is to oversee the effective and sustainable management and utilisation of forest resources at the regional level and advice the Board on the best strategies to tackle challenges affecting their regions. The organisational structure has sought to share out responsibilities among all levels of administration from the Headquarters, the

Conservancies, the forests divisions, forest stations and the Kenya Forestry College. The KFS has identified four programmes, namely, Farm Forestry, Dryland Forestry Development, Industrial Plantation Development and Natural Forests Conservation programmes as the vital areas in which to concentrate that will in the long run turn the country’s forestry for the better. As far as farm forestry is concerned, Kenya has over 9.3 million hectares of farm forests and agro-forestry systems. These support the agricultural sector as well as the timber and construction industry. Dryland forests on the other hand occupy over 35 million hectares of land. These particular areas potent the greatest opportunity in forestry growth in the country as they are largely unexplored, yet they have immense potential, given the right technologies. There are currently over 125,000 hectares of plantation forests. This will be the main revenue earner for KFS and it is estimated that when fully operationalised, the division could bring about Ksh 3 billion annually. Our natural or indigenous forests cover an estimated 1.4 million hectares and spread from the coastal mangrove to the moorlands of Mt Kenya. These are very important for environmental stability and provision of water, among other important products. Looking to the future, the task ahead may be challenging considering where the sector has come from, but with concerted efforts from all stakeholders including and especially the general populace, no task can be too difficult. This is because our very survival depends on the survival of our forests. The article has been generated by the Corporate Communication Department of the Kenya Forest Service.


KEFRI conducts and disseminates forestry research findings


he Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) is a public

research institution established in 1986 under the Science and Technology Act Cap 250 of the Laws of Kenya. Its mandate is to conduct research in forestry and disseminate the research findings. The vision of KEFRI is to be a centre of excellence in forest science through technology development, deployment and dissemination of scientific information and its mission is to conduct research and provide information and technologies for sustainable development of forests and allied natural resources. KEFRI is mandated to: • Conduct research in forestry and allied natural resources • Disseminate research findings • Co-operate with other research bodies within and outside Kenya • Establish partnership with other organisations and institutions of higher learning in training and on matters of forestry research. 16

The core values and principles that KEFRI embraces while carrying out its mandate includes the promotion of Teamwork to enhance collective participation of its staff to achieve its goals. It also conducts all its activities with Integrity in order to uphold fairness, openness, transparency and accountability within the Institute and in provision of services to clients. Building strong synergistic Collaboration linkages with stakeholders and partners and constant sensitivity to costs and benefits of all activities by the institute for Financial justification and Impacts are two more principles. Last, the Institute has the Maintaining of a Clean Environment as a core value. KEFRI has an objective to generate knowledge and technologies for farm forestry natural forests, drylands forestry and forest plantations. It also endeavours to strengthen research and management capacity and to document and disseminate scientific information. Improvement of corporate profile and strengthening of linkages and

partnerships is also a goal. Through farm forestry, KEFRI aims at diversifying the supply of forest products, improving productivity and enhancing environmental conservation in farmlands. The current research priorities in farm forestry focus on developing technologies, generating information to guide policy decision, developing market systems for tree products and improving supply of high quality tree seed. Natural forests are important in the protection of water catchments areas and conservation of biodiversity. The Natural Forests Programme undertakes research to guide conservation and management of natural forests. The main research areas include: Participatory Forest Management (PFM), policy research, determining values of natural forests, improving degraded forest areas and utilisation of non-wood forest products. Dryland forest, woodland and shrub land cover about 80 per cent of Kenya. Dryland forestry research aims at enhancing effective and Miti January-March 2009

sustainable management of forest/woodland resources in arid and semi arid areas. Generating information to improve utilisation of wood and non-wood dry land resources and developing dryland rehabilitation technologies are priority areas. Plantation Forests are important in the production of industrial wood. Forest plantation focuses on research to improve management and productivity of forest plantations to meet industrial demand. Improving the supply of high quality propagation material, reducing loss of plantations due to pests, diseases, human interferences, fires and game damage, determining economic/ financial analysis of silvicultural operations, improving the harvesting and utilisation of wood and non-wood forest products and diversifying plantation species are all priority areas. The Service Programme provides supportive services to the technical programmes. The following units implement its activities: • Information Dissemination and Publications • Social Forestry Training • Wood Production at Muguga • Forest Products Processing and Marketing Workshop The Partnership and Network Programme develops and coordinates networks and enhances effective partnerships with collaborating institutions within and outside the region. The Tree Seed Programme deals with tree seed research. KEFRI has a Tree Seed Centre, which deals with seed collection, testing, packaging and distribution. Miti January-March 2009

The Corporate and Public Relations Office is part of the Director’s office and aims at enhancing, promoting and popularising the image of the Institute. The office also coordinates donor relations, work environment (EIA and EMS), consultancy and intellectual property issues. The Institute has 85 postgraduate scientists, 80 foresters and technologists and has modern research and training facilities, which include catering and hostel facilities. KEFRI has six regional research centres, four sub-centres and six field stations in various ecological zones of Kenya. The headquarters is in Muguga, 25 kilometres from Nairobi, along the Nairobi-Naivasha Road. The regional centres are: • Muguga: Covers the highlands east of the Rift Valley. • Londiani: Covers the highlands west of the Rift Valley. • Maseno: Covers the Lake Basin. • Gede: Covers the coastal lowlands.

• Kitui: Covers the drylands. • Karura: Has a national focus on forest products research to backstop the main research programme. KEFRI has sub centres in Nyeri, Turbo, Turkana and Kibwezi. The parastatal also has field centres in Kuja River, Kitale, Kakamega, Ramogi, Marigat and Bura in Tana River. KEFRI publishes a biannual newsletter jointly with the Forest Department. The publication is distributed free of charge or on an exchange basis. The parastatal also publishes technical and research notes regularly. The Institute’s scientists have published over 500 papers in referred international journals and other scientific publications over the years.

Contacts Director KEFRI P.O. Box 20412 - 00200, Nairobi Tel : 254-20-2010651/2, +254-724-259781/2 Email: Web:


Left: A plus-tree from the KEFRI collection in Mbeere district (2008). Since then, this tree has been cut for timber, a sign that even protected germplasm is not secure. Top: A view of mass production of mukau in the Forest Department nursery in Nuu, Mwingi District, in 2003

A tree species of Kenyan drylands with a bright future


ukau is the Kamba name of the tree Melia volkensii, reflecting the fact that the species grows mostly in Eastern Kenya (where the Kamba live). Small quantities of the tree are also found in northern Tanzania and southern Somalia. Farmers in Kenyan drylands have for long known of the benefits of this tree species, and planted it on their farms for a variety of uses like timber, medicine and as fodder. The species grows in the wild, but is also cultivated on farms, in agro-forestry systems. The latter practice is however 18

hampered by the difficult propagation of the species in the nursery, partly due to the hard woody shell that contains the seed. The wood is first rate, comparable to mahogany, and the species is able to grow in quite dry climates in hot, low-lying areas (400-1600 masl). Combined with the fact that it is a fast grower, mukau is able to produce valuable timber that is resistant to termites in a generally hostile environment. The Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) started recognising the value of the species in the 1980s, among others through the work of a

researcher (P Milimo) on germination in a nursery in 1986. Other researchers like Kidundo (1997) and Mulatya (2000) followed, with work that put mukau more into focus. JICA, the Japanese aid organisation, assisted KEFRI in its Kitui dryland research station, to develop a methodology for nursery propagation, including a “nut cracker� for obtaining the seeds. This happened in the late 1990s. KEFRI had also started laboratory trials to propagate mukau through invitro culture, to circumvent the sexual propagation issue. However, the invitro work hit a technical bottleneck, notably root development, and a Miti January-March 2009

Top: Cracking the hard mukau nuts to obtain the seeds. Top right: Young mukau trees, eight months old, in BGF’s plantation in Kiambere, Mwingi District, Kenya

satisfactory propagation protocol was never achieved. Meanwhile, several people – among them Jan Vandenabeele*, a Belgian forester working in an overseas development assistance programme funded by the Belgian and Kenyan Governments – realised that good mukau specimens in the wild were becoming increasingly rare. They were being poached both on farms and in the dryland woods, leaving inferior trees and shrubs behind, crooked and of poor general form and condition. In 2004, Vandenabeele, through the ODA programme he coordinated with the Kenyan Government, funded a KEFRI survey of the surviving mukau populations in the Eastern and Coast provinces of Kenya. The objective was to select superior or “plus” trees, to preserve their germplasm for future genetic improvement work. In fact, this was the first step towards a systematic genetic improvement ever undertaken on the species. Two years later, KEFRI undertook a second survey, assisted by JICA, to widen the collection. Vandenabeele, working with the Kenyan Forest Department, also took the initiative to propagate mukau *

on a hitherto unseen scale, in two nurseries in the Kenyan drylands where farmers could buy seedlings to establish small-scale plantations on their farms. In itself, the numbers were not enormous, but the presence in 2003 - 2004 of 40,000 seedlings of mukau in the nursery of Nuu alone, in the remote district of Mwingi, was quite a novelty. As such, the idea was launched to grow mukau on an industrial scale, as one of the few available options to make profitable use of extensive dry “wastelands”. This contrasts with the traditional extension approach where farmers were encouraged to plant a few dozen mukau trees on their land. By the end of 2006, when employed by Better Globe Forestry Ltd, Vandenabeele established contacts with the University of Ghent, in Belgium, to restart research on in-vitro propagation of mukau. The research, now in its second year, is steadily making progress towards an effective propagation protocol. It is anticipated that the latter will be available towards the end of 2009, opening the way to clonal forestry based on superior germplasm for high-yielding and fast-growing mukau plantations on an industrial scale.

However, such a propagation programme will have to be supported by continuous genetic improvement research to avoid in-breeding and problems related with clonal tree production such as pests and diseases on Populus as occurs in Europe. In the last couple of years, KEFRI has fully realised the potential of growing mukau by smallholders in semi-arid zones of the country, and is funding various research programmes regarding its silviculture, pest and disease management and wood characteristics of the species. Simultaneously, through its network of dryland stations like Kibwezi and Kitui, KEFRI is actively encouraging farmers to plant mukau. At the same time, the Kenya Forest Service is also promoting mukau plantations through its extension services in areas like Mwingi and Kitui. Decidedly, the future looks bright for mukau.

Now employed as Executive Director by Better Globe Forestry Ltd.

Miti January-March 2009


The National Forestry Authority is formed


he Government of Uganda in 1998 adopted a policy to restructure many government departments including the Forestry Department. The government recognised an urgent need for a change in the policy, legal framework and institutions controlling forestry in the country. There was a sense of crisis about the state of the country’s forests and a particular outcry at the state of the forest reserves in the hands of the Forestry Department. The Forestry Department was no longer suited to the task and there was therefore a need for it to be divested. A new institutional arrangement was needed; hence, the Forestry Inspection Division, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and the District Forestry Services were set up. The Government of Uganda has since 1999 worked with DFID, Norway, GTZ, UNDP, FAO and the EU towards this institutional change. Having made the decision to close the Forestry Department, the Ministry pushed for a quick development of, and transition to, an NFA. The NFA therefore came into being in 2003 under section 52 of The National Forestry and Tree 20

responsible for forestry, and is supervised by a Board of Directors.

Planting Act and was launched on the 26th April 2004. The establishment of the National Forestry Authority was preceded by the development of the new Forestry Policy (2001) and the National Forest Plan (2002). These were to provide for a framework for the distribution of roles and responsibilities among sector stakeholders and not just the Forestry Department. Institutional structure and human resources An organisational structure for the National Forestry Authority has been developed. In this organisational structure, the work is divided among NFA employees and there is co-ordination of activities so that they are directed towards achieving business goals. The Authority reports to the government through the Minister

The structure provides for: • economic and efficient use of resources – forest reserves, money, people, physical and biological assets, • accountability for areas of work undertaken by divisions, coordination units, ranges, sectors, beats and individuals,     • co-ordination of different parts of the organisation to ensure they work towards a common goal. The organisational structure translates into 335 employees that are deployed both at the headquarters and in the field. A human resources manual together with administrative policies have been developed to motivate NFA staff. The employees are paid well and are rewarded according to performance. VISION, MISSION AND CORE VALUES OF NFA Vision: To contribute to a sufficiently forested, ecologically stable and economically prosperous Uganda.

Miti January-March 2009

Mission: To manage Central Forest Reserves on a sustainable basis and to supply high quality forestryrelated products and services to government, local communities and the private sector. To guide its operations, the Authority believes in:       • Integrity – being honest, reliable and truthful at all times.      • Excellency – being admirable, outstanding, exceptional and brilliant at work.     • Transparency – openness and non-tolerance to sectarian tendencies and corruption. The National Forestry Authority was set up to achieve specific objectives, which include, among others: •

Improvement of the management of the Central Forest Reserves resulting in the sustainable yield of forest products and income through agreed forest management plans, new investments initiatives and professional forestry management.      Expanding partnership arrangements to substantially increase the size of the Central Forest Reserve area being managed under arrangements with local governments, communities and private investors.       Supply good quality products and services such as timber, technical advice, seeds, seedlings and forestryrelated services to both public and private consumers on a contractual basis.       Attain financial sustainability by the fourth year of operation.     

Miti January-March 2009

Land for tree planting in Uganda With a population of 24 million and a population growth rate of 3.4 per cent, the current estate cannot meet the demand for wood products. There is therefore urgent need to establish plantations to meet the growing demand for wood products like poles, firewood and timber. The market is guaranteed, the growing conditions for trees are appropriate and therefore NFA has decided to attract private sector participation since the Authority alone cannot meet the overwhelming demand. So far, a total of 77,238 hectares have been allocated against set criteria to individuals and companies (local and foreign) for tree plantation development. Of these, 57 per cent were inherited

licences allocated by the Forestry Department. The minimum size allocated in all categories is five hectares and the main species planted include pines, cypress, eucalyptus, musizi, teak and terminalia. NFA will allocate more land once boundaries are opened, encroachers have left and the internal demarcation of the individual plots has been done. The challenge is the identification of serious and progressive investors to avoid land speculation. Another challenge is obtaining long-term funding for private plantation development and a land fee structure that provides incentives for private plantation development as well as generating revenue for NFA to finance land management costs.

Though distance apart my Miti still grows Distance has no boundaries for the appreciation I have for you. I lie down and think of you my Miti. How tall and proud you stand in that far away country. My love and care for you grows stronger and stronger each day that goes by. I thank God that I got to know you. For you have shown me what love for the world is all about. It amazes me to think of all the good you can do to save the world. You give me prosperity with a purpose. You have lifted my hopes and shown me the way to help others. Together, my Miti, we will walk hand in hand. And prove that we can save the world by Making money and doing good. Miti, Miti so tall and proud in the far away country. You belong to the world, you belong to the people. Miti so tall and proud By Julie Solberg 21

Kenya’s forest cover is severely depleted. We need to plant trees on millions of hectares Closed canopy tropical rain forest (Kakamega Forest)


enya’s forest cover is very low. Standing at less than two per cent in comparison to the internationally accepted 10 per cent, it is almost, if not already, a critical case. We have exterminated our forests with careless abandon and it is only a matter of time before we start experiencing the repercussions. Demand for timber and other forest products is of course very high. This has led to the invasion of forests without proper and sustainable mechanisms. Whether we will in due time start “paying” for the unsustainable exploitation of our forests and whether we are in fact already “paying”, is a matter of debate. However, we have to put measures in place at least to mitigate our own mistakes. And this means planting trees. Not just a few hundred acres but millions of hectares. This is not only to recover

what we lost due to our own careless actions but also to cover for the careless actions of other people in far off countries. It is important to know our current stock of forests to appreciate the task at hand. Kenya’s land area is approximately 83 million hectares. This means that 10 per cent of the land area, that is 8.3 million hectares, should be under forests. This is not the case. Our forest cover currently stands at approximately 1.7 million hectares or approximately two per cent of the total land area. This means that we need to plant at least 5.6 million hectares to achieve the minimum required 10 per cent. But while we embark on the task of re-greening our country, it is essential to differentiate between forest cover and tree cover. In Kenya, we are short of the closed canopy forest or the high forest. This is the thick extensive forest cover which constitutes and holds

a wide range of biodiversity and a complete ecosystem. Examples of closed canopy forests are Mt Kenya, Aberdares, Mau and Kakamega forests. Tree cover, on the other hand, is what is found on farms or in arid and semi arid areas. They are essentially individual, spaced out trees growing independent of each other. In Kenya, we have done quite well as far as tree cover is concerned. Tree cover is essential for provision of wood and other products, but we need the closed canopy forests for water catchment and other important ecological processes. The open woodlands are also important for water storage and soil conservation. But just what is Kenya’s forest cover? For a long time, no proper inventory of our forest cover was done. Most of the information available is from inventories done

A billion trees corresponds to a plantation of one million hectares on a spacing of 3x3m.


Miti January-March 2009

a long time ago or done for other purposes. It is only now with the formation of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) that a comprehensive inventory of all the forests in Kenya is being done. As mentioned earlier, the Kenya Forest Service estimates that closed canopy forests occupy about two per cent of the country’s land area. But this is only on gazetted forests or state forests. Several other closed canopy forests have not been included in this tally because they are not gazetted. These include forests in the Maasai Mara, forests under the jurisdiction of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), forests in Transmara that are largely untouched and a few other forests in different places. Kenya has approximately 90,000 hectares of plantation forests under the management of KFS. These forests were established mainly to provide wood for industrial use. Some private companies also have their own plantations which they manage. It is estimated that nine million hectares are under trees on private farms. This is visible in agriculturally high potential areas especially in Central, Nyanza, Western and Rift Valley provinces where farmers practice agro-forestry.

Most of Kenya is either arid or semi arid. These areas hold the highest potential for the afforestation that KFS is embarking on. It is estimated that woodlands in these areas occupy over 36 million hectares. However, these do not qualify as forests and only constitute tree cover. Nonetheless, they are very important as they make up some of the few resources available to the inhabitants of these regions. Overall, it is estimated that Kenya’s closed canopy forest cover is in the region of five per cent, taking into account local authority forests, forests in game parks and national parks and on private farms. This is not good for the country because of the ever-rising demand for forest products. Apart from the obvious demands for forest products, Kenyans now have another reason to plant trees at a faster rate than they are cutting them - climate change. While this might sound like a far-fetched phenomenon that does not require our attention, climate change is affecting the everyday lives of Kenyans. The rainfall patterns have changed, confusing the planting regimes of farmers. This has contributed to food shortages.

Kenyans are also aware of the prolonged and severe droughts that hit the country from time to time. All this is due to climate change that scientists are blaming on our over-exploitation of scarce natural resources. And there is only one practical way of reversing and mitigating the pollution that the environment has suffered over the years, planting trees. Article submitted by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS)

Did you know that… According to the Forests Bill (2005) • “Forest” refers to any land containing a vegetation association dominated by trees of any size, whether exploitable or not, capable of producing wood or other products, potentially capable of influencing climate, exercising an influence on the soil, water regime, and providing habitat for wildlife, and includes woodlands. • “Indigenous forest” means a forest which has come about by natural regeneration of trees primarily native to Kenya, and includes mangrove and bamboo forests. • “Woodland” means an open stand of trees less than 10m tall which has come about by natural regeneration. • “Plantation forest” means a forest that has been established through afforestation or reforestation for commercial purposes.

Open canopy Acacia-commiphora woodland in eastern Mwingi district

Miti January-March 2009


Scaling new heights

Kakuzi takes to agro-forestry with vigour

View of the yard of the treatment plant, where eucalypt poles of different sizes are stored

By Kimathi Njoka


riving down the highway past Thika town on the way to Embu or Nyeri, it is impossible not to notice the well-patterned trees that line up both sides of the road. The discerning road user will also notice various signboards announcing the sale of poles, pineapples, breeding cattle and manure, all part of Kakuzi’s agro-forestry operations, a project started well over 15 years ago. Paul Epsom, Kakuzi Limited’s General Manager for Forestry and Livestock, says the first trees planted in 1992 were intended to occupy low-yielding land that 24

was deemed unsuitable for coffee, pineapples or the other crops that occupied the pride of place in Kakuzi’s extensive farm in Makuyu. Today, the agro-forestry operations are a central part of the company’s business. “On forestry, we’re now focusing on the long term value of the tree species. We are treating forestry like any other crop to ensure we get favourable returns,” Mr Epsom told Miti recently. When the company launched the forestry project, the target was to plant 200 hectares of trees a year. However, these targets were affected by climatic conditions and during some years, the targets were not achieved. Many on the

initial planting were not on prime site. This meant that other, hardier eucalyptus species, mainly E. camaldulensis and E. teretricornis sp, were used. These species do not yield high quality poles and are much slower growing. “The tree species initially planted were not fast maturing thus not suitable for pole production,” says Mr Epsom. “This left the option of charcoal or short posts whose prices were not very good. More recently, the emphasis has been on planting on high potential sites using E. grandis.” According to Mr Epsom, tree planting gained momentum in 1995/6 when much larger acreages of forestry were planted. Many indigenous species were also Miti January-March 2009

planted within the same period. Today, some 1,500 hectares are under the forestry project at Makuyu. The trees planted are mainly Eucalyptus grandis, (fast growing for good site), and E. camaldulensis (slower growing for poorer sites). The fast maturing eucalypt is normally planted for its long poles and timber. These trees are planted on good soils, some of which was previously occupied by coffee. Sammy Chege, the Forestry Manager, describes how the company has adopted various value-addition techniques as a way of maximising returns. The most elaborate feature of the valueaddition is the wood treatment plant, which produces what are arguably the country’s most durable poles and timber, using the Tanalith system, described as providing “excellent resistance to oxidation, corrosion, fatigue and spoiling”, making them “the number one choice for Africa”. Indeed, this is one lesson from Kakuzi that everyone entering the forestry business would want to learn. Nothing is allowed to go to waste; while the long, straight poles are sold to the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, and for domestic power and horticultural lighting at a premium, the smaller ones are sold for construction, fencing, and even as props in the flower-growing sector. The bigger trees are hewed for timber – which again is treated and sold at a premium. In addition, whatever is unsuitable for all of the above is made into charcoal or wood fuel, making Kakuzi one of the very few formal establishments to dabble into the charcoal business, which in Kenya has been in the hands of an informal cartel, blamed for the extensive felling of trees, particularly in the semi-arid areas. “We also sell all our sawdust to flower farms and bark is used in a Miti January-March 2009

kuni booster for showers for our staff,” says Mr Epsom. He sees the company going even further in finding ways of adding value to their forestry products. Even though he will not yet disclose the details, he hints that the company could start making certain types of furniture, targeting various market segments – the high end as well as the mass market. Currently, Kakuzi manufactures and treats its own doors and doorframes and has plans to expand to similar treated products in the near future. Listening to Mr Chege, you easily understand why the company has perfected the art of holistic – or integrated - farming. Kakuzi has forestry plantations in the high lying areas up in the hills, which are unsuitable for horticultural crops such as avocados and pineapples. These crops require regular watering, and it is expensive to pump water up there. Now with the forestry plantations, the Kakuzi hills are an impressively treed topographical feature, so beautiful you can stare at it for hours. The hills were denuded of trees by the mid 1980s and this is a welcome improvement within Thika district. Below the forestry plantations are macadamia plantations, a crop that the company has started planting extensively to cover some of the areas more recently occupied by coffee. Indeed, besides forestry, pineapples, livestock (Kakuzi has more than 4,300 head of beef cattle) and macadamia, the company also has extensive plantings of Hass avocado. Avocado is the major incomeearner for the company, with

Kakuzi being among the leading producers of top quality Hass avocado in the country, exporting about 200 containers every year. As well as treating wood from its own trees, Kakuzi’s wood treatment plant also treats wood for clients seeking to take advantage of the advanced treatment methods. Kakuzi offers a 12-year quality guarantee on all its treated poles. To maintain the high quality, the company sends its samples to the UK regularly for testing to ensure that international standards are maintained. “Our ethos as a company is on delivering high quality,” says Mr Epsom. And this is well substantiated. Two years ago, the company attained the Diamond Mark of Quality of the Kenya Bureau of Standards. This quality assurance standard provides customer confidence. Kakuzi Ltd has been in the agricultural business for close to a century, having started operations way back in the 1920s and is today unique in that it is quoted at both the Nairobi and the London stock exchanges. The company is majority owned by a UK conglomerate, Camelia plc. It operates in Makuyu near Thika town, and in Nandi Hills, where the main operations are in tea production. 25

A safe food Acacia senegal is a dry land tree species with many industrial uses By Jan Vandenabeele


ut of the 43 Acacia species known to grow in Kenya, Acacia senegal is of particular importance as the producer of gum arabic. As a tree, its shape is not very impressive, as it usually grows like a big bush, less than 10 metres high. However, it possesses numerous thorns growing in “threes� (the centre one curving downward and the side ones pointing downward) which make for an unpleasant encounter at close range. The tree is superbly adapted to a very dry environment, and the thorns are part of its defence against browsers. It has an extensively developed root system, with a taproot that has been proven to go as deep as 32 metres in search of water. In fact, it is a typical species of the African Sahel, the transitional zone between the Sahara desert and the savannahs to the south, as is shown in the map below.


As can be expected from a species growing in such an extensive area, several subspecies have developed. In Kenya, this is mostly the Acacia senegal variety, Kerensis, while in the Sudan, the main gum arabic producing country, it is the typical species Acacia senegal variety, Senegal. The species belongs to the botanical family of leguminous trees (Mimosoideae), producing pods with seeds like beans. The seeds are edible, rich in protein and browsed by domestic animals, while people dry and ground it. The wood is hard and dense, and is used for poles and agricultural tools, fuel

wood and charcoal. Even the root fibres are used for ropes and fishing nets. However, the tree’s sap constitutes its economically most attractive product. This is the famous gum arabic, a sticky substance harvested from the stem, and traded for centuries. The harvesting process is similar to the tapping of resin, or rubber, and consists of making a cut in the bark and the outer stem tissues, so that the gum oozes out. It becomes hard on contact with air, and while harvesting, care must be taken that pieces do not fall to the ground and collect dirt. Chemically speaking, gum arabic is a natural polysaccharide, hence a kind of sugar, belonging to the complex arabinogalactan family. All the same, it does not have a sugary taste; in fact, it has no taste at all and dissolves in water completely. In recent times, gum arabic has been used as a major component in artificial blood serum. In fact, as a natural and organic substance, gum arabic is one of the safest food additives available, and is used in beverages (Coca Cola, beers), dairy products (yoghurts, ice creams), dry packaged products (instant drinks, soup bases etc) and many more products. Annually, gum production fluctuates between 50,000 and to 60,000 tonnes, with an upward trend in the last few years, of which over 50 per cent is from the Sudan. The fluctuation has a lot to do with climatic conditions (droughts) and Miti January-March 2009

A three-year-old Ficus sycomorus, mukuyu, propagated vegetatively through a cutting

Fig tree

Did you know? Properties that make gum arabic useful in industrial applications: • emulsifier for oil in water emulsions (soft drinks) • carrier for encapsulation (pharmaceutical industry, carbonless photocopying paper, laundry detergents, baking mixes) • stabiliser for colloidal systems (e.g. stabilising foam for beer, protection of wines against destabilisation) • texturiser in sugar and polyols* medium (candies, confectionary) • a film former avoiding fat, water and gas migration • a binder for sugar and polyols compressed products * Polyols a chemical components important in the food industry.

Miti January-March 2009

Acacia senegal bush in eastern Mwingi district

sometimes political factors (war and unrest). Other major producers are Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Chad and the Central African Republic. Processing is almost exclusively done in Europe, with major players being France, Germany and the UK. Better Globe Forestry Ltd intends to develop extensive plantations of Acacia senegal, and has already started the groundwork regarding land acquisition, technical feasibility studies and the preparation of a pilot plantation where appropriate management techniques can be studied.

• In Kenya, there are 32 different species of fig trees. They can grow into enormous sizes, or can be smaller and grow on other trees for support, in which case they can strangle the host tree. • Some of them, like Ficus sycomorus, are excellent indicators of ground water or grow close to streams. • Their fruits are figs, mostly of small diameter, varying from some millimetres to several centimetres, and are eaten by animals, mostly monkeys, and birds. • Figs are excellent providers of shade and have a powerful root system. A number of species are used for their medicinal value.


Top left: Melia volkensii (mukau): from Kenya’s dryland to a glass vessel and back Top right: Jatropha clones produced in-vitro

By Stefaan Werbrouck*


Seeds versus clones ost trees propagate through seeds. Unlike crops like pea, bean or lettuce, trees are heterozygous1. Trees preferentially cross-pollinate and their offspring vary greatly. We all experience what it means to be heterozygous. Every child is unique and has a different mix of traits that can be recognised in its parents and grandparents. Some trees prefer to propagate themselves vegetatively. For instance, in the American Rocky Mountains, nearly all aspen reproduce asexually through root suckering - new shoots sprout from horizontal roots and grow into trees that are genetically identical to their neighbours. The largest known aspen clone - nicknamed Pando - contains 47,000 trees on about 40 hectares.. Other trees, like willow, initiate roots in every branch or twig. When the branch breaks off, it can easily and readily make roots. 1


Heterozygous: when an individual has two different alleles (or coding sequences of a gene) for one single treat, inherited from the organism’s two parents.

Ficus bengalensis, a remarkable tree found in India and tropical Africa, sends down from its branches a great number of shoots, which take root and become new trunks. A single tree thus may spread over a large area and look like a small forest. The largest specimen grows in Sri Lanka. It has 350 large trunks and over 3,000 small ones. Ages ago, men recognised the benefit of vegetative propagating plants - a clone preserves the selected characteristics of the mother plant. Nowadays, layering, cutting and grafting are common practices in horticulture practice. A number of fruit crops, vegetables and ornamentals can be cloned easily this way. Nevertheless, this is not so evident in forestry. Forest productivity can be increased by planting tree farms with fast-growing high-value trees that produce more wood, fruits, energy or chemicals. But a number of problems arise when a forester wants to plant clones of a super tree, meaning an exceptionally good individual from a certain species, either because of vigour, shape or other characteristics.

Which super tree? When there is no breeding programme in a particular tree species, super trees have to be selected by mass selection. By walking through a wood and by judging good and bad trees, a good forester can select a super tree. But what he sees is the phenotype of the plant: the result of its genes and its environment. A good-looking tree just could have a lot of luck, by growing on a very fertile soil with good water supplies. Clones from super trees have to be tested in different places. After several years, only a few of them will prove to be outstanding. Old trees’ cuttings root badly A tree that is too young to bloom is called “juvenile”. When a tree is recognised and selected as a super tree, it is mostly an old, flowering, “adult” tree. By every cell division in their growing points, trees gradually lose a number of juvenile characteristics. They may lose thorns or change leaf shape. What is more important, they become very recalcitrant to vegetative propagation by cuttings. These tree species that Miti January-March 2009

are already difficult to propagate by root cuttings, fail to make a taproot and produce trees that are easily uprooted by storms or hurricanes. Grafted trees are not uniform Nearly all trees can be grafted on seedlings of the same or a related species. Such a tree is in fact a “half clone”. The genetic variable rootstock can have a considerable effect on the growth characteristics of the graft. In rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) for instance, the consequence is a large variation in latex yield per tree. Tissue culture or in-vitro culture2 Clonal propagation through tissue culture offers an alternative to classical vegetative propagation and has the potential to provide high multiplication rates. Essentially, micro-propagation is the culture of miniaturised shoots on an artificial, gelled medium. Stimulated by added plant hormones, the shoots produce new side shoots that constitute the basis of a new subculture. This technique is also called micro cutting and allows the production of an exponentially growing number of “full’” clones. Extensive in-vitro research and success have been achieved for a number of forest trees, including Pinus, Eucalyptus and Acacia species. Nevertheless, in-vitro cloning of mature elite trees is still a challenge for a great number of tree species. Maybe the adult characteristics of the mother material constitute one of the largest problems: the initiated shoots refuse to grow in-vitro and are unable to make new roots. Young seedlings, which are juvenile by definition, often do not show this problem in-vitro. Research Our research team took up the challenge to clone recalcitrant 2

In-vitro is Latin and means: in glass. This is because the cultures are done in a lot of small glass recipients and dishes.

Miti January-March 2009

tropical trees and shrubs. Inspired by Better Globe, we are optimising the cloning procedure of Jatropha curcas and Melia volkensii. Since cloning of mature elite woody plants is usually much more difficult than the multiplication of plants with juvenile characteristics, techniques have to be developed to rejuvenate mature plants. In this regard, somatic embryogenesis is an interesting strategy. Stimulated by suitable plant growth regulators, plant tissue such as leaves or anther filaments can produce in-vitro embryos that are identical to the mother plant. Large-scale production of somatic embryos in bioreactors is feasible but this technique still shows some serious problems. Often, the embryos germinate abnormally and the plants might show mutations. Anyhow, somatic embryogenesis can be used to rejuvenate old trees. Once somatic embryos are obtained, we try to germinate them in-vitro, in order to get a normally growing in-vitro mother plant. We are investigating whether these plants are really fully rejuvenated, and whether these elite clones will react on plant hormones just like a seedling. Can they be multiplied by micro cutting? Will they form a tap root system? Will they grow vigorously in the field after an acclimatisation period? It’s evident that finding the answer on the last question will take several years. Jatropha grows readily from seeds or cuttings. However, trees propagated by cuttings possess a lower drought resistance than those propagated by seeds because they lack a real taproot. As already indicated, the disadvantage of seedlings is their general heterogeneity in the field. An elite Jatropha should be drought and disease resistant and yield a

maximum of seeds with optimal oil content. In the future, such super Jatropha plants will be rejuvenated and micro propagated in large quantities in a cost effective way. Melia volkensii is a popular fast-growing timber species for most of the drylands of Kenya. Despite its importance, it is a difficult tree to propagate. The fragile seeds shelter in a hardwood fruit which is difficult to open. When clonal selection will reveal elite individuals, techniques should be ready for in-vitro cloning. It should be emphasised that the risk for pests and diseases in a clonal plantation is real. This problem can only be solved by planting a clonal mix, with different clones that possess a different genetic background. As demand for biodiesel and hardwood grows, and the available land shrinks, it will become necessary to increase productivity in forestry by planting a mix of elite clones. In-vitro techniques can be applied to produce large quantities of planting material in an economic way. In the next issue, we shall review the successes already achieved in forestry.

* Stefaan Werbrouck (Stefaan.werbrouck@ is professor in Horticulture & Biotechnology and runs the Laboratory of Plant Biotechnology at the University College Ghent, Association University Ghent, Belgium. In a joint effort with the Laboratory of In-vitro Biotechnology of the University Ghent, his team studies the in-vitro propagation of trees. The research is sponsored by private companies like Better Globe Forestry Ltd and the Flemish Government (IWT).


f o s t c e p s a l a r Gene water management in the

drylands By Herman Verlodt*

W * Herman Verlodt ( is a former professor of the University of Tunis (Tunisia) and researcher specialised in horticulture and irrigation techniques. Currently, he is the official representative of the Belgian Technical Cooperation in Algeria, overseeing Belgian government assistance, a position he previously held in Kenya.


ater is not only the source of life, but also the engine of human development, especially for agriculture, but also for other activities. In the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), water constitutes the main limiting factor for development and therefore its management is of utmost importance. Mankind has tried to adapt his life to the aridity by developing different techniques concerning the research for water resources and the use of water. These techniques are the fruit of milleniums of experience and observation, and often enriched by the exchanges between peoples and cultures. Most of these traditional techniques were rationalised by the development of the scientific knowledge of natural processes (climate, hydrology, hydrogeology) and new technologies (engines, pumping, etc) and materials (cement, plastics etc.). Water management must be able to take into account the accumulated traditional experience, and rationalise it with regards to the

specific conditions, considering the technological and economical levels of the concerned populations and countries. If water exists all around the world (seas and oceans, rainfall, rivers, superficial and deep watertables), even in the desert, non saline and non polluted (thus useful) water becomes more and more rare, and especially more and more expensive, even in wet regions. In the drylands, costs for mobilisation are high, and low availability of water of pluvial origin imposes to introduce the notion of water use economy and water use efficiency. The management of water concerns the management of the offer and the demand. The management of the offer concerns mobilisation, storage and transfer of water from different origins and qualities, and is also called “integrated resources management� for different users. The management of the demand concerns all techniques of the water economy and the Miti January-March 2009

efficiency of the use of all water resources by different sectors like agriculture, domestic consumption and industrial use. Aridity Aridity may be defined as the deficit between the disponibility of water in the soil and the evaporative demand of environment natural climatic evaporation of the soils and vegetation transpiration called evapotranspiration (ETP). In the Mediterranean region (Tunisia), the evapotranspiration in the ASAL varies between 1,200 to 1,900 millimetres a year from the north to the south, while in the tropical zone (Kenya) it varies between 2,300- 2,500 millimetres a year. In the Mediterranean and West African zones with unimodal pattern of rainfall distribution, the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) cover areas with less than 400 millimetres of annual rainfall and cover for instance about 90 per cent of the total surface of Tunisia. In the East African zone with bimodal pattern distribution of rainfall, ASAL are defined as areas with less than 800 millimetres of annual rainfall and cover about 80 per cent of the total land mass in Kenya. The similarity between these two zones is the low and poorly distributed rainfall and the difference is in the distribution of rainy seasons, the temperatures and evapotranspiration rate during the calendar year. These physical data determine the growth and vegetative cycles for agriculture. In the Mediterranean zone, there is one active period, starting from autumn to the end of the spring, with a stop of growth during the winter because of the cold and during the summer because the very hot and dry conditions. In the East African zone, there are two active periods of vegetation Miti January-March 2009

determined by water disponsibility and not limited by temperatures. There are two rainy seasons and two dry seasons during a calendar year. For this reason, the comparison of the annual amount of rainfall is not correct for the two zones. It is more correct to compare the amount of water needed by natural vegetation and culture to grow and finish their vegetative cycle. Both regions are rather similar with regards to the vegetation. They both have the same hydric potential with less than 400 millimetres of rainfall by active vegetative period. The natural vegetation has adapted its morphology and physiology to this aridity. Commiphora and baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) react by dropping their leaves and by storing water reserves in their trunk and roots. Other species, such as olive trees and acacias, have adapted their leaves to resist the drought. Some annual (seasonal) crops have a very quick development cycle in order to finish their cycle by the time the water reserve in the soil is finished. In the arid regions, trees are more adapted to the climatic conditions than grass (steppe) vegetation. Trees manage this because of their deep and strong root systems and the favourable micro climate created around their trunk because of shade and organic litter. Nevetheless, the trees remain in a

fragile equilibrium. When the original forest or vegetation is destroyed and organic litter burned, soils are directly exposed to sunshine and evaporation, and the aridity is more accentuated. The difference between the Mediterranean and tropical type of aridity is essentially in the low temperatures and the low rate of evapotranspiration during the winter in the Mediterranean zone and the relatively continuous high temperatures and evaporation of the air in the sub-Saharian zone. The annual mean temperatures and the annual evaporation level are nevertheless closely related to elevation. In the dry lands, even in desertic zones, water exists, but in low quantities, and use of different techniques of water integrated management of the offer (all resources) and demand exist in order to avoid or reduce loss of water. The water demand management completes the water offer management, and integrated water management of offer and demand is an objective in arid lands. In the next issue of Miti, we shall examine these general considerations on aridity in Africa more critically and offer some recommendations in relation to water offer management and water demand management in African arid lands.


Reaping in

semi-arid areas

With proper soil conservation efforts and irrigation, dry lands can be made productive


By Miti Writer

verall, Kenyan farmers depend on rain. To most farmers, rain dictates the yield they get from their land. When the rains fail, then farmers lose their crop. However, experts hold a different view. While they acknowledge that rain is an important component in crop production, they blame the reliance on rain-fed farming for the current low agricultural production in semiarid areas. They argue that overemphasis on rain has relegated soil improvement initiatives to the back burner. Over three quarters of Kenyan land can be classified as arid and semi-arid. This translates into over 62 million hectares that is perceived


to be of little value. However, that should not be the case. Possibilities of water capture and storage should be pursued more actively. Different kind of dams, boreholes, water harvesting from run-off offer

perspectives to use this land far more productively than is currently the case. According to Jan Vandenabeele, the executive director of Better Globe Forestry Ltd, reliance on rain has seen many farmers in arid areas shying away from crop production. They look for forested patches to clear so that they can extract some yield. “Soil fertility is more important for crop yields than rains as it dictates the yield levels that farmers can fetch from their farms,� says Mr Vandenabeele. He argues that with proper soil conservation efforts, farmers in arid and semi-arid areas can still engage in meaningful agricultural production with success. A trained forestry engineer/agronomist and farmer, Mr Vandenabeele advises farmers in semi-arid areas to adopt an integrated farming systems to reap maximum yields from their farms. Miti January-March 2009

Top left: A young mango tree orchard under drip irrigation Top right: Green grams, a typical dryland crop, with some pawpaw and neem trees in the background Bottom: Dorper sheep under neem trees, inside an enclosure

Integrated farming system entails practising both crop and animal husbandry on the same piece of land to allow farmers to reap from symbiotic benefits of the different crops and animal species. For instance, a farmer can have neem trees (Azadirachta indica), mangoes, bees, goats, sheep and vegetables on the same piece of land. The animals will provide dung for mixing with fall-offs from trees and shrubs for making compost manure to enrich the soils with nutrients. Neem trees would serve as windbreakers while still keeping the crops cool by preventing excessive evaporation of water from the soil. Besides its medicinal value, neem tree seeds can be pressed and used in the preparation of sprays to protect vegetables from pests. At his 20-hectare Kibwezi Mukuyu Farm, Mr Vandenabeele uses indigenous trees like mukau Miti January-March 2009

(Melia volkensii), Acacia mellifera, Jatropha curcas and others as hedges and windbreaks. Although farming in semi-arid areas has its challenges, experts contend that with proper farming practices, one can reap enormous benefits. Mr Vandenabeele roots for drip irrigation in semi-arid areas. The crops use a minimum of water for a maximum output, and farmers reap the benefits in terms of increased yields. “Drip irrigation is a suitable option for farmers in semi-arid areas. It requires capital and with the availability of micro credit, it can be a viable option for farmers in such areas,� he says. In these times of expensive fuel, diesel and petrol pumps are expensive to maintain and run if trench irrigation is practised. Drip irrigation cuts down on the amount of water used, and hence, on the fuel consumption.

Kibwezi Mukuyu Farm relies fully on low-pressure drip irrigation to water mangoes and vegetables that are produced on the farm for both the local and the export markets. Drip irrigation allows crops to mature earlier than those relying on rains and farmers are thus able to sell their products all year round at higher prices. To reap maximum benefits in semi-arid areas, farmers also need to improve the soils in such areas as they are normally depleted of nutrients. This requires embracing soil conservation measures among other things. According to Mr Vandenabeele, soil fertility could be enhanced through adding organic materials into the soil through composting. Organic matter is rich in carbon for fixing nitrogen and other essential nutrients such as phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other elements. 33

The way forward for increased yields in semi-arid areas By Miti Writer


ertiliser prices in Kenya have spiralled in the last four years, making the commodity unaffordable to many farmers. The situation is worse for farmers in semi-arid areas, who are forced to shoulder extra costs trying to improve the soil fertility as soils are depleted of their nutrients by soil erosion. Compost manure offers a cheaper option for farmers in such areas. Compost manure helps increase the organic matter, thus keeping the soils fertile. It also improves the water retention capacity of the soils in arid areas, keeping the crops cool for some time. Compared to fertilisers, compost manure is cheap to make and is rich in nutrients that can enrich the depleted soils in the arid areas. Kibwezi Mukuyu Farm demonstrates how compost manure application and effective soil conservation measures can turn the fortunes of farmers in semi-arid areas. The Director of the farm, Jan Vandenabeele says compost manure is rich in carbon chains for fixing crucial nutrients such as nitrogen, calcium, potassium, magnesium and other minerals required by crops for guaranteed higher yields. “Soils in arid lands are depleted of nutrients due to massive erosion as a result of lack of proper soil conservation initiatives,” says Mr Vandenabeele. Adding organic matter to the soils through composting helps enrich the soils. According to Mr Vandenabeele, proper soil conservation and enrichment could improve farm yield levels. 34

Mr Vandenabeele’s farm has been selected by a Norwegian firm, Better Globe Forestry Limited (BGFL), as a test and training centre for integrated management of natural resources in semi-arid areas. “BGFL is committed to extensive commercial tree planting as part of its overall environmental and social mission,” says Mr Vandenabeele. Supported by top experts in agro-forestry, BGFL is currently undertaking consultancy, implementation and training services

in different fields related to agroforestry and agriculture at Kibwezi Mukuyu Farm. The farm has excelled in integrated farming techniques for dry lands with emphasis on treeplanting, water management and enriching the soil for increased productivity. Efficient and effective water management is demonstrated through a variety of techniques including low-pressure drip irrigation for fruits and vegetables. Low-pressure drip irrigation is Miti January-March 2009

inexpensive, making it suitable for arid areas. Drip irrigation is also used in fertigation (application of fertilisers via drip) of fruit trees such as mangoes. This ensures early maturity of fruits, fetching higher process for farmers. At Kibwezi Mukuyu Farm, compost manure is made in pits where plant and animal waste are mixed at the ratio of 10 donkey carts for each component. Water and effective micro-organisms (fungi and yeast) are added into the mixture and turned every two weeks to check on the moisture levels. Fertilisers can also be added into the compost manure for better yields. Compost is normally ready for farm application after six months of preparation. Besides being rich in nutrients, it is also free of some crop destroying pests. For instance, nematodes and fungi that normally

H ow to make com p ost in drylan d s • •

• •

• • •

Dig a pit of suitable dimensions e.g. 10m long by 1m wide and 1m deep. Fill the pit with a mixture of 80% farm waste of vegetative origin and 20% livestock manure. Make sure the pit is more than full as composing decreases the volume of the mixture. Soak with water and cover with a plastic sheet against drying out. Sprinkle EM (100 litres extended solution) and add cheap liquid fertiliser like nitric and phosphoric acid (e.g. 100 litres of water with 1 ml of each acid per litre of water) Repeat soaking every 10-14 days depending on drought conditions. Mix content after 3 weeks and again after 6-8 weeks. Add more nitric acid (same quantity) at each mixing and turning.

The composting is OK if the compost is hot inside. After 4-6 months, the compost has cooled down and is ready, recognisable by the smell of fresh forest soil.

cause root rot in vegetable crops are killed by the high temperatures during decomposition of the compost. During decomposition, temperatures can go as high as 60oC, killing worms and the seeds of weeds that can destroy crops.

BGFL focuses on poverty eradication through promoting massive tree planting and sustainable agricultural programmes through microfinance schemes, building schools and other educational programmes.

The tree that never had to fight, for sun and sky and air and light. But stood out in the open plain, and always got its share of rain. Never became a forest king, but lived and died a scrubby thing. The man who never had to toil, to gain and farm his patch of soil. Who never had to win his share, of sun and sky and light and air. Never became a manly man, but lived and died as he began. Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees. The further sky, the greater the length, the more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, in trees and men good timbers grow. Where thickest lies the forest growth, we find the patriarchs of both. And they hold counsel with the stars, whose broken branches show the scars Of many winds and much of strife, this is the common law of life. Miti January-March 2009


Yatta farmer makes tree farming big business By Miti Reporter


iving in a semi-arid area does not deter one from engaging in successful agricultural production as one tree farmer, Peter Nzioki Mangusa proves. A visit to his 30-acre farm in the semi-arid Yatta District attests to the huge potential of arid lands. The fact that such areas enjoy a relatively low rainfall of about 600 millimetres annually and an altitude of between 700-800 metres above sea level means that they fit the bill for a hot tropical climate where evaporation exceeds rainfall by far. Rainfall is in most cases erratic, rendering the area too dry for normal production of maize, beans, coffee and tea bushes. However, Mr Mangusa has ventured into tree farming as a commercial venture and is getting a good return. While many know trees only as a source of wood fuel and building materials such as timber, 36

Mr Mangusa and some farmers have taken tree farming a notch higher. Mr Mangusa, a farmer in Mamba sub-location, Ndalani location has defied the harsh ecological conditions in the area to become a successful commercial tree farmer. He traces his success to childhood ambitions he harboured while growing up in Kangundo. His father had a two-acre farm and was among the first coffee farmers in the area. On leaving school, Mr Mangusa realised that his father’s piece of land would not accommodate all of his siblings. With a burning interest to engage in farming, Mr Mangusa acquired a 30-acre piece of land in Yatta in the 1980s and has not looked back since. He initially planted mango and orange trees and grew French beans and tomatoes, as did most farmers in the area then. His breakthrough however came in 1987 when he acquired a

Sh 500,000 loan from OPEC, which he used to install an irrigation system on his farm from the Yatta canal. He then made a big plunge into tree farming as a commercial venture, planting many orange trees. The Yatta canal is the only source of water in the entire Yatta District. In the late 1990s, Mr Mangusa became the first farmer in the district to acquire a fruit tree nursery grower licence from the Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA) and the rest, as they say, is history. He later diversified into other tree ventures such as grafted mangoes and orange trees with resounding success. His efforts saw him named among the top farmers in the district and in the entire Eastern Province. Last year, Mr Mangusa bagged the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Farmer of the Year Award in Eastern Province. With the tree nursery emerging tops in the district, Mr Mangusa has Miti January-March 2009

since diversified into new tree farming frontiers specialising in medicinal trees species, which he supplies to herbalists. He also keeps bees and processes honey in his farm for sale. He currently supplies tree seedlings to Mwingi, Machakos and Kitui districts. Apart from Eucalypts, grafted mangoes and improved paw paws, Mr Mangusa grows the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), aloe species (Aloe secundiflora and Aloe latifolia), moringa (Moringa oleifera) and muthaiga (Warburgia ugandensis). The last is for medicinal purposes and doing surprisingly well on the farm. The Aloe latifolia and A. secundiflora have cosmetic and medicinal value and Mr Mangusa has installed a machine for extracting the sap for making body lotions and soaps. Extension officers have selected his farm as a model for farm visits and training. Farmers are taken through training practices on seed planting, care and harvesting techniques. Although he has achieved much, Mr Mangusa is not yet done yet. He is planning give mango farming for the export market a fresh look. He is also planning to take a plunge into the mango juice processing business soon. He has also diversified into eucalyptus tree farming (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) to reap from the booming construction business in the area. Already, he has over 3,000 mature eucalyptus trees and several thousand seedlings in the nursery, which he sells in the entire Ukambani region. His Eucalypt plantation is entirely rain-fed, and occupies a patch of infertile murram soil. Despite this, it is producing sizeable poles for commercial sale. The eucalypts are not from clonal origin, but originate from seeds that were originally imported from Zimbabwe through a Kenyan-Belgian government assisted development programme within the Forest Department. Miti January-March 2009

Peter Mangusa at his nursery, with Aloe seedlings in the background

Peter Mangusa and his wife in the tree nursery and in their Eucalypt woodlot. Mrs Mangusa takes an active part in the daily management of the farm

Mr Mangusa has faced a number of challenges on his venture. “The market is not big as not many people know the benefits of tree farming. It’s relatively new in this area,” he says. He calls on the government to intervene by giving subsidies to farmers as incentives to engage in tree farming. “Tree farming is big business, considering eucalyptus trees do not

require any special care and mature between six and 10 years. At the age of 10 years, one tree can fetch an average of Sh 6,000. Isn’t this good money?” he asks with a smile. Mr Mangusa’s success seems to be reverberating across the district and more farmers are getting into tree farming.


The e-book can b e downloaded FREE at this website: www.betterglobegro

C a n a n e w F REE e - b o o k c h a n g e A f r i c a ’s c o r r u p t i o n p r o b l e m ? The author, Rino Solberg from Norway, has been frequenting Africa since 1979. He first came as a tourist and over the last 15 years, as a businessman. He believes that in order to fight corruption in Africa, the poor have to be able to get out of poverty. He says that poverty and corruption are closely linked and that only through first helping the poor people make more money will any country in Africa manage to get rid of corruption.


t is vital that first, the Governments in Africa take the necessary steps to fight poverty through helping smallholder farmers to increase their income, as they represent approximately 70-80 per cent of the population. After that, the farmers must be given access to small loans (microfinance) so they can buy better farm equipment and fertilisers. Then they need to be educated in new farming techniques and water management, among other things. What about the book and why integrity? When poor people, or anyone else for that matter, have been able to make a living the “magic of integrity” can start working because Integrity is going to make anyone who uses the principles in the book grow rich much faster than without it. You will understand why when you read the book. You see, even a poor farmer with integrity will produce much better products and make more money than a poor farmer without integrity. The book also explains why this is a fact. 38

What is Integrity? Integrity is your mental possession and has something to do with your ATTITUDE towards MORALS and ETHICAL PRINCIPLES. The word INTEGRITY comes from the Latin word integer, which, freely translated, means “wholeness” or a whole person, which again tells you that the person with integrity is more like a total and great person in every way. Most people have heard about integrity but I am not sure they really know what it is, even when they have heard about it many times. I think this is also proven by the fact that it has been said that only five per cent of people are really successful. I believe these are the same five per cent that have integrity. You see, when you are talking about integrity you are also talking about a way of thinking and a way of living as well as being (wholeness). Integrity is hardest when it seems like you are the only one practising it. Integrity is to do the right thing because you know it is right. Many people know they are doing wrong and still argue and try to justify their mistakes and have

no intention of changing for the better, because they simply don’t understand the consequences of what they are doing and the fact that they have a choice. However, the good news is: Everybody can change his or her attitude and start living by high morals and ethical principles if they want to. And when they understand the benefits of having integrity, they will. The first thing you have to do is to make a decision that you want to change your attitude – that is the biggest problem you will ever have. However, to live a life of integrity is so much better in so many ways, that I hope you can see this before finishing the book and that you will find a better way to do many different things for the rest of your life. When you see the many obvious benefits there are to have integrity, I am sure you will also find a way to change your attitude rather quickly.

Miti January-March 2009

An interview with

GEORGE WILLIAM MUKASA MAYANJA, a farmer in Uganda, East Africa Mr Mayanja, please tell us about yourself I am a very hard working man. I worked very hard during my youthful days to prepare for this time. I did what was necessary and what was available to maximise the benefits. Of course, I invested heavily in young people - my children. They are educated and innovative with the necessary values and realities at heart to fit in the challenges of this generation.

and conservation purposes. Some of them provide fruits, timber and firewood, others (I plant) for herbal medicine and as a democrat. These trees provide shade for vulnerable crops, for animals and people like you who sit under them for your comfort and relaxation. They also purify the environment and beautify my compound.

I hear you are a farming politician What kind of politics are you talking about? ... Once a politician you die a politician but politics has a cost. Politicians ask for a finger, another finger and then the arm but they never realise that they want the whole arm at the beginning ... Never, never, never could one conceive what politics is, beforehand, never! I have now retired to my farm and I am doing a lot of politics in the agriculture field and conserving a clean natural environment. Here I practice organic farming. By the way, I am a professional Agricultural Economist and an experienced farmer. I have a large banana and pineapple plantation and I grow a variety of fruits, vanilla and vegetables on a commercial scale. I have also been rearing cows, pigs, goats and poultry for many years. Under the umbrella organisation - Advisory Centre for Development and Sustainable Agriculture (ACEDISA), we offer advisory services to the community on sustainable agriculture and how to use resources like organic manure and dead plants for mulching, to get enough yields. These days we are totally against the use of inorganic fertilisers and pesticides.

Tell us about organic farming Agriculture is instrumental in supporting life and sustaining livelihoods. Organic farming is a formidable and strategic approach to sustainable agriculture and conservation of natural resources. Transforming agriculture from subsistence farming to commercial farming at any scale, whether extensive or intensive, can be a realistic and sure way to poverty eradication. If we set ourselves in motion on that road, the government work towards modernisation of agriculture would be simplified. You know actions speak louder than words. With organic farming practices, we will surely be able to conserve our soil and get profitable yields from our gardens for a long time. Organic products are free from toxins; they are natural and delicious, fresh and attractive. We believe in the world around us and are committed to the protection and preservation of our precious natural environment. By combining our local knowledge and efforts with the guidance from policy makers and professionals – who should always give us technical but practical skills that can help farmers to advance in organic agriculture as we sustainably manage our environment – we can hopefully make a difference ...

What can you tell us about tree planting? I plant trees for democracy, for health, for culture, for beauty, for commercial 40

Can we manage the environment through organic agriculture? I am sure we can. We can effectively ensure sustainable management of our natural resources. These days we hear things like global warming and climate change ... Seasons have changed and our planning has to change to catch up with the speed of climate change. Because the entire world is one global village, it is important that world citizens everywhere gain knowledge and experience of what is taking place in other parts of the world. Questions of sustainable use of land resources, forests and wetlands have engaged the minds of different people for many years, but have recently gained a sense of urgency because of population increase and economic pressures ... We need to come out with workable guidelines for the sustainable use of natural resources around us. Our land is now so degraded you can’t yield a reasonable harvest without applying organic manure. Here I have made some advances and improvements in the sustainable management of my land and other natural resources. What appeal you would like to put out there? I would like to take this opportunity to ask any international partners and donors who might be interested in ACEDISA to come in so that together we can make East Africa an agricultural hub. For more information, visit our website:

Miti January-March 2009

Keep the memories alive Plant a tree to mark family events

By Rino Solberg


ost people today know that trees are important in many ways. They clean the environment, capture water, revitalise the earth in which they are planted and because they also capture carbon dioxide, they help fight global warming, one of the biggest threats in our world today. But trees are useful for a lot more. Man has used trees for building houses and making furniture and weapons since the beginning of time. As the world has developed, so have the uses for trees. Since trees are so useful, tree growing is a viable business that more people should get into. Trees are known as “the African electricity” because 70-80 per cent of the people use wood for cooking. Today, forests are being cut down at the rate of approximately 15 million hectares per year and in Africa, desertification of large tracks of previously productive areas has rendered them uninhabitable. We therefore need to PLANT MORE TREES in Africa, and there is no time to waste. Tree planting should be encouraged everywhere and more people should come up with ideas for planting trees. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a major worldwide tree-planting campaign. Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people, communities, business and industry, civil society organisations and governments are encouraged to enter tree-planting pledges online with the objective of planting at least one billion trees worldwide each year. Kenya’s Wangari Maathai is fronting the campaign. More information on the campaign is found in the website: African governments should prioritise and reward tree-planters, whether individuals, companies or organisations, as everyone benefits from it directly or indirectly.

Miti January-March 2009

Here is my idea for every family to start tree planting right now: • There is a reason to celebrate every time a baby is born in a family. Not everyone can afford to buy something special to celebrate this event. However, everyone, including the poorest, can find a tree seedling to plant in memory of this great event. The new baby then becomes the “owner” of the new tree as they both have the same “birthdates”. The child should learn to take care of the tree in all the years to come. I think the child will even “fall in love” with the tree if the parents tell him or her that they planted the tree because they love the child and wanted to remember the day it was born. With all the babies born in Africa every day, this will lead to the planting of a huge number of trees. • When a person dies, it is not the time to celebrate but to mourn. When people die, they are buried in the ground. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if you planted a tree in memory of a loved one? You can then take care of the tree that grows from the ground in which your loved one was buried. Even though the tree can never replace the person who died, it can help to keep the memory alive. Every time you water, nourish or even see the tree, you will think of the person you loved.

My hope for the future: • Every time a child is born into a family – PLANT A TREE in memory of the day. • Every time someone dies in the family – PLANT A TREE in memory of that person.



Miti January-March 2009

MITI 1  

The billion tree race From Mukau: A Kenyan drylands tree with a bright future Yatta farmer makes tree farming big business Interview with Ug...

MITI 1  

The billion tree race From Mukau: A Kenyan drylands tree with a bright future Yatta farmer makes tree farming big business Interview with Ug...