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Why do earth dams break? NFA out to improve the management of Uganda’s forests ASAL, the last frontier for tree-planting Kenyan small-holders rescue the country

Subscription only only Sold by subscription I s s u e N o.1 7 J an u ar y- M a r c h 2 0 1 3

Avoiding and fighting forest fires Communities need to be equipped to avert the loss of resources

I have a vision, says tree-grower

Despite challenges, Ugandan planter is determined to succeed

Changing with the times

Kenya’s South Coast farmers embrace commercial forestry

The road to a national forest programme NFP will lead to more tree and forest cover, especially in the arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya

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37 Issue No. 17 January - March 2013




Multiple benefits

Let us plant many trees this year



Tree nurseries provide seedlings, advisory services and employment to Ugandans By Malinga Michael

Hindu Religious and Service Centre members plant trees


The road to a national forest programme


Growing grevillea in Kenya

NFP will lead to more tree and forest cover, especially in the arid and semi-arid areas of the country By Mwangi Gakunga

This popular tree species plays significant socio- economic and environmental roles By Jane Wangu Njuguna


On the road to recovery


Kenya records growth in national tree cover By Mwangi Gakunga

Planting food crops alongside trees Involving communities in forest management has far-reaching economic benefits By Mercyline Khalumba


ASAL, the last frontier

Arid and semi-arid lands present the greatest opportunity for increasing Kenya’s tree cover By Clement Ngoriareng


I have a vision, says tree-grower

Despite challenges, Ugandan planter is determined to succeed in commercial forestry By Diana Ahebwe


Want to produce charcoal legally?

Just follow the Forest (Charcoal) Regulations, 2009 By Jim Lawy Okuto


Farm forestry to the rescue


Shaping the charcoal market

Practical Action Consulting is working to create awareness of new charcoal rules and develop the industry By Hannah Wanjiru and Katie Welford


Avoiding and fighting forest fires

Communities need to be equipped to stop the loss of resources By Daniel Mbithi


Changing with the times

Kenya’s South Coast farmers embrace commercial forestry By Joseph Kibugi


A measure of success amid challenges

NFA needs support to improve the management of Uganda’s national forest resources By Buyinza Mukadasi

Kenyan small-holders have stepped in to grow trees to meet the demand for wood products By Joshua Cheboiwo


The right tree for the right zone

The best indigenous species to plant in your area, for different uses Compiled by the Miti team


Protection under a canopy

The contribution of trees and shrubs to the productivity of bananas By Justine Mwanje and Kenneth Nyombi


And the dam came tumbling down

Why do earth dams break? By Erik Nissen-Petersen

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

Why do earth dams break? NFA out to improve the managem ent of Uganda’s ASAL, the last forests frontier for tree-plan ting Kenyan small-ho lders rescue the country

On the cover: Bamboo forest in Chogoria, Mt Kenya, on fire on March 15, 2012. Accumulation of dry material makes fires hard to stop in non-managed forests, which was the case in this forest because of the Presidential ban on bamboo harvesting. This species of bamboo, African Alpine bamboo or Yushania alpina, matures within 25 years and should be harvested before then. (Photo: KFS)

Subscript Sold by subscripti ion only on only

Issue No.17 January -March

Avoiding and fighting Communitiesforest fires

equipped to need to be of resources avert the loss

I have a vision, says tree Despite challe-grower

planter is deternges, Ugandan mined to succe

Changing with the


Kenya’s Southtimes embrace commCoast farmers ercial forestry

The road to a natio forest prog ramme nal

NFP will lead especially in to more tree and forest cover the arid and semi, arid areas of Kenya



Let us plant many trees this year


fforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no forest, while reforestation is the re-establishment of forest cover. There are specific challenges associated with both activities. In some places, forests need help to re-establish themselves because of environmental factors. For example, in arid zones, once forest cover is destroyed, the land may dry and become inhospitable to new tree growth. Other factors that may lead to desertification include overgrazing by livestock, especially goats and cows, and over-harvesting of forest resources. The extent to which forest cover in Africa has been depleted is dramatic, as according to the late Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, 20 per cent of global warming emissions may be due to deforestation. In large parts of Africa, natural growth of trees is now challenged by lack of water. There are different ways to tackle these fundamental and threatening issues and they involve many stakeholders. In this issue of Miti magazine, we endeavour to highlight the role of the Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) in the fight against this serious threat. We look at KFS’s tree-planting and conservation programmes. For Uganda, Buyinza Makdasi gives a down-to-earth analysis of the successes and challenges NFA faces. Clement Ngoriarang explores the issue of arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) as the last frontier for large-scale tree-planting while Mwangi Gakunga takes us down Kenya forest sector’s road to recovery. Forest fires are a menace. In this issue, Daniel Mbithi provides answers on how to prevent and fight forest fires. As usual, we have other articles from our regular contributors and other well-wishers, all of them extremely interesting. Since Miti is a tree business magazine, tree farmers give their testimonies on the monetary output of their efforts. Finally, Miti would not be the same without the always informative, well documented and precise facts and figures put to us by Joshua Cheboiwo. In this issue, he documents how Kenyan small-holders have stepped in to grow trees to meet the demand for wood products. All of us at Miti wish our readers and all proponents of commercial tree-planting a Happy and Prosperous New Year. We look forward to seeing you all planting many trees in 2013 with the aim of getting profitable returns in years to come. Jean-Paul Deprins

Published by: TQML LTD No. 4, Tabere Crescent, Kileleshwa P.O. Box 823 – 00606 Nairobi, Kenya Tel: + 254 20 434 3435 Mobile: + 254 722 758 745 Email:

Uganda office: MITI MAGAZINE ® Plot 1908/9, Mitala Rd, Kasanga P.O. Box 22232 Kampala, Uganda Mobile: + 256 775 392 597 Email:


Chairman of the Editorial Board:

Technical Editor

Rino Solberg

Jan Vandenabeele

Editorial Committee

Country Director - Uganda Julie Solberg

Joshua Cheboiwo, Francis Gachathi, Keith Harley, Enock Kanyanya, James Kung’u, Rudolph Makhanu, Fridah Mugo, Jackson Mulatya, Mary Njenga, Alex Oduor, Leakey Sonkoyo, Jean-Paul Deprins, Jan Vandenabeele and Wanjiru Ciira

Country Representative - Uganda Diana Ahebwe



Jean-Paul Deprins

Daniel N. Kihara

Managing Editor - Kenya


Wanjiru Ciira

Miti January - March 2013

Payment - Kenya: Cheque payable to: Total Quality Management Leadership Ltd. or bank transfer to Standard Chartered Bank - Ac. No. 010 209 473 8400 Nairobi MPESA: Pay Bill No. 888300 Account: Miti


Payment - Uganda: Cheque payable to: Total Quality Management Ltd. or bank transfer to Crane Bank Ac. No. 45 17 64 74 00 Kabale branch, Kabale Road, Uganda


Hindu Religious and Service Centre members plant trees at Kereita Forest and Ndakaini Dam


or the last eight years, the Hindu Council and the Hindu Religious and Service Centre (HRSC) have planted some 5,000 tree seedlings in different parts of the country. This is partly to increase the tree cover in the country but is also giving back to society. HRSC sees tree planting as an investment and a means to empower people by creating income-generation opportunities, to conserve existing forests and to mitigate against climate change. Kereita Forest In keeping with this commitment, HRSC in November last year planted some 2,100

tree seedlings in the Kereita Forest. HRSC was supported in this venture by Kereita Environmental Volunteers (KENVO), which donated 100 seedlings. HRSC members noted that trees they had planted in the same area in April 2012 were still standing upright and alive. However, the trees need spot weeding, which KENVO staff agreed to do. Ndakaini Dam Then still in November last year, HRSC planted 2,000 trees at Ndakaini Dam in Ndeka Town, near Ruiru. The event was sponsored by Sarova Hotels.

It looks like everybody had a good time planting trees at Kereita Forest.

(All photos: Hindu Religious and Service Centre)

All together now at Kereita Forest.

Doing their bit for Ndakaini Dam.

Young and old - all came out to plant trees at Ndakaini Dam.


Miti January - March 2013

Schoolboys plant trees. (Photo: Ministry of Forestry & Wildlife)

The road to a national forest programme NFP will lead to more tree and forest cover, especially in the arid and semi-arid areas of the country By MWANGI GAKUNGA


enya is set to have an elaborate policy framework upon which future management of forestry development will be based. This follows the successful completion of an all-inclusive sensitisation programme and the formulation of a National Forest Programme (NFP). The development of the NFP began just over a year ago when forestry experts drawn from the public and the private sectors and non-governmental organisations came together to prepare a road map. In that forum, the stakeholders discussed the approach for preparation and formulation of the National Forest Programme, identified key thematic areas and drafted the NFP roadmap involving the government and partners. They agreed on a common approach to be adopted for the NFP in Kenya. Now, the first phase of NFP, focusing on information generation, education and awareness

Miti January - March 2013

and sensitisation, has been completed. The second phase of formulation is now under way. The National Forest Programme is intended to provide “a clear strategy for the implementation of Forest Policy over the coming 10-year period and a framework for development partners and government to align their support, leading to the establishment of a sector-wide approach.� It is the first commonly agreed framework for sustainable forest management which is applicable to all countries and all types of forests. The NFP is also a country-specific process which provides a framework and guidance for country-driven forest sector development, national implementation of internationally agreed concepts such as sustainable forest management, agreed obligations (e.g. UN conventions) and proposals and external support. The NFP has been declared the common frame of reference for forest-related international cooperation by the world’s major organisations

and forums and most bilateral donors. The principles underpinning the NFP are national sovereignty and country leadership, consistency within and integration beyond the forest sector, partnership and participation. The Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has prioritised the development of an NFP in order to provide strategic orientation for the sector, improved planning, implementing and monitoring of forestry and forestry-related activities. The formulation of the National Forest Programme covered a period of over 18 months (ending in December 2012). The NFP is being implemented through the Miti Mingi Maisha Bora Programme which has provided 201,700 euros from the Government of Finland and 11,790 euros from the Government of Kenya. The funds were used in the sensitisation phase of the NFP during the financial year 2010/11. A similar level of financing was available for financial year 2011/12.


Lawrence Mwadime, t he Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, receives a memorandum from the representative of children who attended a national symposium to give their input to the development of the NFP. (Photo: Ministry of Forestry & Wildlife)

The NFP has seven elements that countries need to address to integrate climate change into their national forest programme. The seven elements are: Policies and strategies Legislation Organisational framework Governance mechanisms Research and information Capacity Financial arrangements Since the 1960s, forest sector assistance in the area of policy planning was deemed to rationalise the sector’s performance and provide more strategic orientation towards forest development. In the 1980s, in response to worldwide concern over deforestation in the tropics, a first set of internationally concerted action plans was initiated (including Tropical Forest Action Plans [TFAPs] forestry sector master plans and forestry sector reviews). An example to this initiative was the Kenya Forestry Master Plan (KFMP). At the same time, countries were also approached for similar initiatives with a broader environmental scope (e.g. national conservation strategies and environmental action plans), all of which partly overlapped with the forest-specific


ones. An example in Kenya is the National Environment Action Plan (NEAP) of 1994. Lessons learned from TFAPs and other planning frameworks had a significant impact on the subsequent international forest policy dialogue. The 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) triggered a paradigm change with a holistic, cross-sectoral approach being favoured. Chapter 11 (Combating Deforestation) of Agenda 21, the action plan of UNCED, requested governments to prepare and implement, as appropriate, national forestry action programmes and/or plans for the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests. Furthermore, the participating governments agreed to review and, if necessary, revise measures and programmes relevant to all types of forests and vegetation, inclusive of other related lands and forest based resources, and relating them to other land uses and development policies and legislation. Kenya prepared its first Kenya Forestry Master Plan from 1990 to 1995. The plan had proposed various scenarios for forestry development in the next 15 years. Although some of the recommendations, like reviewing the Forest Act and transforming the Forest

Department to a semi-autonomous organisation, have been achieved, others have been overtaken by events. Fortunately, the national vision on forests and tree cover has also improved tremendously since, and today, the NFP promises to be broader and more inclusive than it could have ever been. The main difference between the formulation of Master Plans and the NFP is the emphasis on participatory processes. Participation in the NFP formulation goes beyond forest sector stakeholders. It begun by giving voice to constituents who are often either not fully consulted or whose views are not fully addressed in discussions about forest policy and programmes. The NFP has placed particular stress on demonstrating the inclusiveness of the approach, and the impact that stakeholder participation has had on the deliberations leading to the formulation. The first three forums in the NFP development process brought together children, youth and women. In the National Children’s Assembly held in January 2012 to obtain their views on the development of the NFP, the young ones warned that it is upon their tender hands that the environmental resources of this country will be bequeathed. Hence they should be involved in

Miti January - March 2013

development of forestry policies. The over 150 children representatives drawn from all corners of the country met in Nairobi. They lamented that their voices are ignored when formulating policies and programmes on forestry. In a memorandum presented to the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Dr Noah Wekesa, they said that the government should introduce environmental subjects in schools and in particular, forestry. They asked to be provided with space and time to plant trees. “We the children of Kenya kindly request you to consider designating a section of forest land in every county for the children assemblies to conduct tree planting activities,” read the children’s memo. The Assembly, which also had a public forum in Karura forest, was the first in a series of symposia that began in January 2012 targeting critical segments of the population and regions. In the youth forum, participants were taken through the opportunities available in forestry to make a living for this age group that constitutes 32 per cent of the population. The youth account for 67 per cent of the unemployed. One employment initiative that has provided opportunities in forestry is the Kazi Kwa Vijana (KKV) project. This is an economic stimulus programme started in 2008 to spur economic growth by engaging young people in productive activities against payment. Since then, seven million tree seedlings have been planted all over the country by the youth through the Trees for Jobs programme initiated by the ministries responsible for forestry and youth affairs. The symposium presented an opportunity for the youth to express themselves on forestry issues (including rights, employment, land access and climate change). The goal was to generate a youth-perspective on forestry issues that have been included in action plans for the NFP. The forum for women, held in March 2012 under the theme “Women’s Leadership in Forestry and Social Change,” gathered leading experts in academia, civil society and community leaders and social entrepreneurs to showcase leadership and gender experiences and perspectives of forestry and social change. The goal was to showcase and celebrate women’s achievements in the forest sector, and to generate a gender-based approach leading to recommendations and action plans for inclusion in the NFP. Two regional stakeholders’ consultative forums have been held so far - in Nyanza and the Coast regions in May 2012 - as the development of the NFP enters the formulation phase. The Kenya NFP was initiated in June 2011 by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife to deliver on its mandate and to address the challenge of

Miti January - March 2013

Participants at the National Forest Policy (NFP) workshop in Mombasa held on May 31, 2012. (Photo: Ministry of Forestry & Wildlife)

The Kikuyu escarpment, on the eastern slopes of the Rift Valley, home to Juniperus procera (the pencil cedar), and a protected area, currently devoid of trees. A national forest programme will lead to more forest cover. (Photo KFWG)

developing sustainable forest management more effectively. Once the NFP is fully operational, it will provide a framework of activities and investments in order to co-ordinate and consolidate national and international efforts to conserve and manage forest resources sustainably. In addition, NFP will address the emerging issues with regard to the Kenya constitution, climate change adaptation and mitigation. An increase in tree and forest cover, especially in the arid and semi-arid areas of the country, is envisioned, besides helping the country to transition to a secure low-carbon economy.

The national vision on forests and tree cover has improved tremendously and the NFP promises to be broader and more inclusive than it could have ever been.

The writer is Head of Public Communications, Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife Email:


A listener group in Madiany, Siaya County, gives feedback on the PISCES Radio Programme (see pg 14). Community participation in forestry has grown since the enactment of new laws like the Forest Act and its regulations. (Photo: Practical Action Consulting)

On the road to recovery Kenya records growth in national tree cover as all stakeholders get involved By MWANGI GAKUNGA


he future of the Kenyan forestry sector is bright. Although forest definition may determine the final figures, still, current statistics indicate an impressive growth of national tree cover from 1.7 per cent in 2002 to an estimated 5.9 per cent currently. The figure will be confirmed once the ongoing mapping of Kenya forest is completed. What is not in doubt is that a turnaround has happened in forestry management in the last ten years. In its Status of Forests Worldwide Report for 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) puts Kenya’s forest cover at 4 per cent. The 4 per cent is what the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife had envisioned in its strategic plan for 2008 - 2012. If the FAO report is anything to go by, then the vision of 10 per cent national forest cover required by the Constitution and Vision 2030 may not be a mere dream after all. Even though the turnaround in the forestry sector had begun earlier, and higher market prices for timber and pole products spurred tree planting by private growers, the pace was accelerated with the formation of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife through the Presidential Circular No.1/2008.


Before that, forestry was just one of the many departments in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources competing for attention and funding. Isolating the Forestry Department and placing it together with Wildlife as one Ministry meant that the strategic actions critical to turning around the sector would henceforth receive undivided attention. The mandate of the Ministry has been “to protect, conserve and manage the forestry and wildlife resources in Kenya through sustainable management for posterity.” Even though its primary function is policy-making and legislation, the Ministry is also engaged in resource mobilisation and coordination of the sector players. Its vision is for “an empowered Kenyan community managing and utilising its forestry and wildlife resources.” To deliver on its mandate, the Ministry is structured to comprise the Conservation Directorate that coordinates all matters relating to forestry and wildlife policy and legislation. To implement forestry and wildlife sector programmes and projects are three state corporations - the Kenya Forest Service (KFS),

the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI). The Ministry supports the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, a nongovernmental organisation. KFS was established in February 2007 under the Forest Act No. 7 of 2005. Its mandate is to provide for the establishment and development of sustainable management and utilisation of forests. KEFRI was established in 1986 under the Science and Technology Act (Cap. 250) with the mandate of carrying out research in forestry and allied natural resources. It was informed by the fact that sustainable management, conservation and development of Kenya’s forests depend on application of science to generate improved technologies.

Challenges in forestry The key challenges facing the country previously, and in some cases also currently, were the rapidly declining forest cover; competing land use; increasing demand for forest products; undervaluation of forest resources for their services; unsustainable exploitation practices exacerbated by policy deficiencies, market

Miti January - March 2013

failures, poor regulation, population growth and migration, and rural poverty. The Forests Act (Cap 385), which was replaced by the Forests Act 2005, had allowed the de-gazetting of forests by the Minister without consultation, apart from a 28-day notice. This legislation facilitated the reduction of the forest area in Kenya. Forests were converted to human settlement and to agricultural use since most of the degazetting occurred in critical water catchment areas such as the Mau and Mt Kenya. Political interference was the underlying cause of the de-gazetting, commonly referred to as forest excisions. The excisions gained momentum in the 1990s when they averaged 5,000 hectares annually. In some cases, such as those involving local authority forests, illegal allocations occurred with no excision or resolutions taking place. Today however, the Forests Act 2005 has a framework for addressing the problem of excisions. The strategic focus of the new law that came into effect at the formation of the Ministry was to increase forest and tree cover; increase wood production especially at farm level; conserve and rehabilitate the remaining natural forests and woodlands for environmental protection and biodiversity conservation; enhance participatory forest management and, ensure the forestry sector contributes to poverty reduction. This is within the context of the constitutional obligation to raise the national forest cover to 10 per cent, which is the international benchmark for a country to be considered environmentally stable.

Reclaiming the water towers Special focus has been given to the reclamation, rehabilitation and protection of the five water towers that comprise the Mau Escarpment, Mt Kenya, Aberdare Ranges, Cherangany Hills and Mt Elgon. The aim is to promote sustainable management of these forests to serve as water catchments, biodiversity conservation reservoirs, wildlife habitats and carbon sinks. Indigenous forests provide important economic, environmental, recreational, scientific, social, cultural and spiritual benefits. Managing these resources embraces preservation of religious and cultural sites, traditional medicinal sources, water catchments and habitats for endemic and threatened flora and fauna. The ecosystem approach has been adopted in forest management. This involves joint management with stakeholders, (KFS, KEFRI, local communities, civil societies, KWS, development partners and others). It is done through forest conservation committees around each water tower. Apart from management

Miti January - March 2013

Children plant trees at an official function. (Photo: Ministry of Forestry & Wildlife)

A mother and her child plant trees in Kitui mid last year. (Photo: Ministry of Forestry & Wildlife)

of indigenous forest, the Ministry promotes growing of high-value tree species at farm level to contribute to the targeted forest cover. The initiative involves introduction of commercial tree species in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) to control desertification and improve livelihoods.

Taking strategic steps The gains so far made in the forestry sector have involved four-pronged strategic approaches. These are: institutional, economic, ecological and social approaches. The Institutional Approach seeks to improve the organisational and operational structure of the national forestry administration to enable it to fulfil its mandate. The Ecological Objective aims at improving the management and conservation of forest and wildlife resources in order to contribute to sustainable national and local development, proper use of the land and conservation of biological diversity. The Economic Approach is aimed at realising the full potential of forest resources in economic development, satisfying the needs of people for forest products, and generating and collecting

revenues efficiently to contribute to the national finances. The objective places emphasis on the roles of the community members and private sectors in the sustainable management and use of the forest resources. The Social Objective addresses the role of forest resources in alleviating poverty and aims at enabling local communities to assume greater responsibility for management and sustainable use of the resources. The implementation of forest sector reforms undertaken within the Forest Act 2005 is perhaps one of the greatest achievements underpinning the forestry sector. There has been considerable effort to involve a wide range of stakeholders in the management of forestry. The participatory approach adopted by the Ministry to forestry management has brought on board local communities as co-conservators of forests and in benefits sharing. Today, there are close to 400 community forest associations (CFAs) taking part in forestry conservation nationwide. The writer is Head of Public Communications, Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife Email:


ASAL, the last frontier Arid and semi-arid lands present the greatest opportunity for increasing Kenya’s tree cover By CLEMENT NGORIARENG


rid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) are areas of harsh environmental conditions whose limiting factor is rainfall. ASAL receive an annual rainfall ranging from 250 to 1000 mm. The rainfall pattern is inherently erratic, intense and therefore highly erosive. Evaporation in ASAL is high, which further reduces yield. A number of problems related to population growth adversely affect the economy and environment of ASAL. These are: Sedentary lifestyle: The increased availability of central services such as education, health, water supply, and veterinary care has led to change to a sedentary life for a large number of pastoral societies. The people have tended to settle near relief centres and because they still keep their remaining livestock, the land surrounding the settlements has been severely overgrazed. Water and woody vegetation have been exploited unsustainably, and in general, there has been severe environmental degradation. Displacement of pastoralists: Extensive pastoralism is a proven way of life by which people and livestock can co-exist with vegetation in the harsh environment of the ASAL. Pastoralists, however, are gradually being displaced by such activities as the expansion of cultivation (including irrigation schemes), urbanisation, and the gazetting of land for wildlife conservation or forestry. Conversion to cultivation: Immigrants from mainly agricultural areas have been largely responsible for converting woody vegetation to cultivation, together with a smaller number of pastoralists who have become agropastoralists. Conversion has been common on land which was vital for dry-season grazing. This has reduced the access of livestock and wildlife to such areas during droughts. In irrigation schemes in particular, the settlement of a large number of people has also led to unsustainable use of forest resources and general environmental degradation.


Extensive ASAL of Suguta Valley, in the Samburu forest zone, some 30 km south of Lake Turkana. This is pastoralist territory and sometimes, scene of violent clashes. (Photo: KFS)

Land-use conflicts: Extensive pastoralism is endangered by competing land-uses such as cultivation, wildlife reserves and urban settlements. Conflicts have arisen largely because of the lack of clear national policy guidelines. Without proper guidelines, the interests of the increasingly poor pastoral communities can easily be overlooked, so that they are still further impoverished. Land privatisation: Initially, land adjudication in ASAL was introduced with the development of group ranches. The sole purpose of the exercise was to provide incentives for increased resource conservation. However, some of these ranches were later resold and divided into smaller parcels as individual holdings, or leased to individuals for cultivation.

Some of these individual holdings were fenced, with the result that vital wildlife migration routes and dispersal areas were no longer available. Poor land-use practices: In some cases, pastoralists set fire to grassland in an effort to improve pastures. However, studies have shown that in some circumstances, burning actually produces scrub thickets and eventually less grass. Bush fires can cause ecological disasters, especially if they are initiated during prolonged drought. Influence of land use changes outside ASAL: Intensification of agriculture in the highlands, with insufficient attention to soil conservation, has brought about flooding and heavy siltation by the rivers that run through ASAL.

Table 1: Distribution and percentage land cover of ASAL in Kenya No.



% of Kenyan ASAL

Isiolo, Marsabit, Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, Turkana



Kitui, Tana River, Taita-Taveta, Kajiado, Samburu



Embu , Meru, Machakos, Laikipia, West Pokot, Kilifi, Kwale, Baringo



Lamu, Narok, Elgeyo Marakwet





Miti January - March 2013

Distribution of ASAL in Kenya ASAL constitute over 80 per cent of Kenya’s land area. UNESCO (1997) developed an index of aridity based on the ratio of evapotranspiration to precipitation. The agro ecological zones of Kenya have been defined according to this index. ASAL fall in zone IV (semi-humid), zone V (semiarid), zone VI (arid), and zone VII (very arid). Table 1 shows the districts in which ASAL occupy a significant part of the land area. Forest resources in the drylands Forests in the drylands are poor in density, species diversity and growth rate. However, they form an important source of livelihood to the rural communities. In addition to supplying most of the tree fodder, firewood and charcoal, these forests provide a range of non-wood forest products. Since most of the collection, processing and use of these products is done in the informal sector, the contribution of these forests is not fully accounted for in the national income statistics and as a consequence, receives very little investment. Key challenges in forestry in the ASAL The overall objective of drylands forestry is to promote sustainable management and utilisation of resources for improvement of community livelihoods and to mitigate climate change. The driving key issues in the drylands are summed up into the following four aspects: Diminishing tree cover and biodiversity due to climate change, unsustainable management and utilisation Land tenure and property rights Provision of resources (capital, human, etc) Governance, gender and equity In addition, information generation, dissemination and technology transfer is also an issue. KFS in ASAL Kenya Forest Service (KFS), realising the potential in ASAL, has put in place policies and strategies to expand forest cover there as these areas present the option for future forestry. KFS places a great deal of emphasis on developing forestry in drylands and to this end, the organisation has established a dryland forestry department. Dryland forestry is concerned broadly with the management and establishment of trees and shrubs to improve the livelihoods and quality of life for people in the regions. The objective of drylands forestry programme is to place the woodlands, wooded grasslands and bushlands under effective management. This will contribute to the sustainability of extensive pastoralism; yield an increased sustainable flow of wood and non-timber forest products and facilitate conservation of biodiversity and habitats.

Miti January - March 2013

Various types of gums and resins from ASAL, products of different species of Acacia and Commiphora trees. (Photo: KFS)

KFS has settled on the following three main strategies to address the forest related challenges in the ASAL: 1. Increase and maintain area under tree cover in ASAL to at least 10 per cent for enhanced environmental conservation and livelihood improvement. This is done through promotion of treeplanting through institutional approaches and natural regeneration of protected areas. Awareness-raising campaigns on treeplanting and conservation efforts are carried out by foresters in the drylands. 2. Promote sustainable investments in dryland forest enterprises for enhanced efficiency, value addition and profitability. A number of nature-based enterprises are promoted and non-wood forest products (NWFP) are being developed and promoted. These include bee-keeping, charcoalmaking, fruit tree-growing, wood carvings, tamarind production, gums and resins. 3. Enhance information generation, dissemination and technology transfer within ASAL for improved livelihoods and conservation. Here quite a number of sensitisation campaigns, networking, demonstration, collaborative research and information sharing forums are being run by the officers at grassroots level. Tree species Dryland forestry research has identified fastgrowing indigenous commercial tree species. Some of the species promoted in the drylands are: Acacia species such as A. polyacantha (falcon’s claw acacia, mkengewa, kivovoa, oyongo), A. senegal (gum arabic, mgunga, kiluor, eldekeei), A. xanthophloea (fever tree, kimwea, mwelela) and others.

Terminalia species like T. brownii (baresa, muuuku, manera, haririgo). Tamarindus indica (tamarind, mkwaju, kithumula). Melia volkensii (mukau, maramarui, baba, mkowe). Cassia siamea (Siamese senna, ikegeta, ndekowinu). Casuarina equisetifolia (whistling pine, mvinje). Prosopis juliflora (mathenge, algaroba) for charcoal exploitation. Azadirachta indica (neem tree, mwarobaini, mkilifi). Grevillea robusta (silky oak, mukima, omokabiria, kapkawet) an agroforestry tree. Eucalyptus camaldulensis (red river gum, musanduku, mubau, bao) and other species of eucalypt. Future of forestry While forest cover has declined and most of the forests and woodlands are subject to degradation on account of illegal harvesting, charcoal production, overgrazing and forest fires, there have been very positive developments as regards tree - growing outside state forests, with farmers showing the way to success. The cultivated semi-arid areas are also referred to as tension zones because of resourceuse conflicts occasioned by expansion of farming activities and use for dry season grazing. These areas provide the greatest opportunity for increasing tree cover through commercial treegrowing and as such, ASAL provide an alternative option to tree-planting for the nation. The writer is Head, Drylands Forestry at Kenya Forest Service Email:


KFS has introduced the meko kiln to charcoal producers in Kitui County. (Photo: KFS)

Want to produce charcoal legally? Just follow the Forest (Charcoal) Regulations, 2009 By JIM LAWY OKUTO


ommercial charcoal production was illegal until The Forests Act, 2005 was enacted and put into operation. In the Act, section 59 contains a provision for the Minister in charge of forests to make rules for giving effect to the Act. As a consequence of this, the Minister enacted the Forests (Charcoal) Regulations 2009, and gazetted them. The regulations require that commercial charcoal production is carried out on farms outside government land. The producers are required to form charcoal producer associations and apply for registration with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) through its structures. The applications are taken to the zonal forest managers (ZFMs) who are located within the counties. The ZFMs forward the applications to the licensing sub-committee of the relevant forest conservation committee which then forwards the applications with recommendations to the KFS board in Karura Nairobi.


KFS will license commercial charcoal production if the applicant has fulfilled the requirements provided by the regulations. Individuals wishing to produce charcoal commercially without forming associations are allowed to do so but have to follow the due process of registration with KFS just like the groups. It therefore became imperative that KFS had to sensitise the stakeholders in the charcoal industry on the Forests (Charcoal) Regulations, 2009. The Biomass Energy Department of KFS embarked on a national sensitisation campaign on the Forests (Charcoal) Regulations, 2009, targeting all zonal forest managers, forest county coordinators and heads of forest conservancies. Sensitised zonal forest managers are expected to sensitise the junior staff under their jurisdictions e.g. the district forest officers, forest rangers and other forest extension staff. The frontline forest extension officers are an integral

part of the implementation of the Regulations, given that they visit farmers from time to time and pass on this information and see to its implementation. The zonal forest managers are also expected to sensitise the committees within their jurisdictions e.g. the community forest associations, district environment committees, district development committees, district charcoal steering committees and most importantly, the charcoal producers, transporters, wholesalers and vendors. The heads of conservancies are secretaries to the forest conservation committees (FCCs). Since the licensing sub-committee of the Forest Conservation Committee gives recommendations to the KFS board on issuance of charcoal producer licenses, it is necessary to have the FCC sensitised on the forest charcoal rules so as to appreciate their responsibilities. The Biomass Energy Department of KFS ensures proper

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undertaking of responsibilities of the various structures set by the provisions of the Forests (Charcoal) Regulations, 2009.

innovations have been put in place.

Gains from sensitisation of the regulations

(a) Conversion and utilisation technologies Conversion technologies While applying for a licence to produce charcoal, the Regulations require that charcoal producers declare the charcoal conversion technology they intend to use. Technologies (charcoal kilns) increase efficiency in conversion of wood into charcoal (carbonisation) thereby positively impacting on sustainability. Six KFS staff members drawn from assorted zones were trained as artisans on the application of different types of charcoal kilns. The artisans have in turn been training charcoal producers on the correct application of the same. More artisans need to be trained in order to bring the entire country to the same level of understanding of the dynamics involved in conversion of wood biomass into charcoal and its products.

A total of 47 zonal forest managers and three forest conservation committees (Coast, Eastern and North Eastern) have been sensitised on the rules. The 47 sensitised Forest Zone Managers have in turn sensitised the KFS staff under them and the charcoal producers and transporters operating within their respective jurisdictions. Sensitisation and capacity building has been done within some zones in Eastern, North Eastern, Coast, Nyanza and Western forest conservancies. Many charcoal producer groups (CPGs) and some 160 charcoal producer associations (CPAs) have been formed. A total of 30 CPAs have applied for registration with the Attorney General. Out of these, 14 have been registered. These will start the process of registering with the KFS once their environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports are ready.

Radio programme The Biomass Energy Department and Radio Citizen prepared a radio programme titled “Charcoal production process� on sensitisation of Forest (Charcoal) Rules, 2009. Tree species preference in various ecological zones in the country and the socio-economics of charcoal production were discussed.

Sustainability in charcoal production The rationale of the Forests (Charcoal) Regulations, 2009, is sustainability in commercial charcoal production. To achieve this, the following

Utilisation technologies The Biomass Energy Development Department of KFS, in conjunction with other partners involved in the energy saving campaign, has launched a national sensitisation programme to consumers of biomass energy products (charcoal, briquettes, firewood etc) at household, institutional and commercial levels. The campaign is to use energy saving cook stoves with recommended quality standards in design and material, in order to conserve energy for sustainability. A national committee on appropriate technology has been formed with its secretariat at the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). KFS is represented in the committee by the Head of Biomass: Energy Development Department.

Earth mounds for charcoal production can be quite large, and when improved with pipes for better control of oxygen, obtain a higher conversion than the traditional 10-12 per cent. (Photo: BGF)

The committee develops standards for use by manufacturers of charcoal kilns and biomass cook stoves. This is meant to conserve forests and protect the users of biomass energy from exposure to health hazards as a result of poor conversion of biomass into bioenergy. The committee is also expected to cushion bio-fuel producers and consumers from unscrupulous traders selling sub-standard charcoal kilns and cook stoves. (b) Charcoal Producers Associations (CPAs) The Forest (Charcoal) Rules, 2009, require all commercial charcoal producers to register with KFS, the only competent organisation in the country authorised to do this. This is a control measure to ensure that only those who produce charcoal sustainably are allowed into the business. (c) Reforestation plan For an applicant to be considered for a licence to produce charcoal commercially, he/she must show the reforestation or conservation plan for the area where trees will be managed for charcoal production. (d) Choice of species Restrictions can be imposed on the choice of tree species to be converted into charcoal. This provides an opportunity for sustained production of that species over a period of time, before authority is given to convert it while other unrestricted species continue to be converted. (e) Kenya Forest Service structure The KFS Board, the Director, the Forest Conservation Committee and the Zonal Steering Committee, are the structures involved in processing any charcoal producer licence. This ensures checks and balances at every action point for fairness and compliance. Conclusion When implemented fully, the Forest (Charcoal) Rules, 2009, will help reduce illegal charcoal production in the country, one of the major causes of forest and soil degradation. This in turn contributes to high emission of greenhouse gases, causing global warming. Concerted efforts need to be put in place to curb illegal commercial charcoal production by implementing the Forest (Charcoal) Rules, 2009, including the registration of commercial charcoal producers associations. The writer is Senior Assistant Director, Head Biomass Energy Development Department at the Kenya Forest Service.

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Shaping the charcoal market Practical Action Consulting is working to create awareness of new charcoal rules and develop the industry By HANNAH WANJIRU AND KATIE WELFORD


e use a lot of charcoal because in the villages, we don’t have biogas; we don’t have petroleum products. There is paraffin but it is expensive, so we use a lot of charcoal,” Hezbon Monda, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) officer in Bondo told us. Mr Monda added that residents of this dry area make some money from charcoal, since they do not grow food. “But now we have a situation where the forests are disappearing and people are doing nothing except cutting more and more wood,” he said. In areas of western Kenya, the charcoal industry is affecting the land quality because people cut down shrubs and bushes to make charcoal, and do not replant. Apart from the resulting environmental degradation, the practice also affects the income of charcoal traders because this charcoal is of low quality. Better quality charcoal is imported from Uganda, reducing incomes for local producers. Properly managed woodlands would mean better quality charcoal and more earnings for farmers. It would also slow down the current trend of people moving from woodland to woodland, cutting down trees and not replanting them. Since 2009, Practical Action Consulting (PAC) has been working with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and charcoal traders in Bondo District to support the development of a legal, visible and sustainable charcoal market that can enhance livelihoods and formalise the industry. The successes of this pilot programme can certainly be replicated across the country.

Charcoal policy - a short history In 1999, a Presidential directive banning charcoal burning was enacted, and since then, the charcoal business has been perceived as illegal. Yet charcoal is a key bioenergy resource in Kenya, providing domestic energy for 82 per cent of urban and 34 per cent of rural households in Kenya. The Energy Act and Policy, the Forest Act and Draft Forest Policy recognise charcoal as an important source of household energy and make provisions for its sustainable production,


Natalie Akumu of Masanga Women Group inspects the new meko kiln (Photo: Practical Action Consulting).

commercialisation and utilisation. In 2009, the Forest (Charcoal) Regulations were created, aiming to formalise the charcoal sector and support the sustainable creation of charcoal for sale and use across the country. However, due to lack of knowledge on the regulations, many people involved in the charcoal sector continue to operate just as they did before the policies and legislation came into force.

Simplifying the policy PAC - whose main East Africa office is in Nairobi, with a smaller office in Kisumu - held

a participatory workshop with members of the charcoal trade in Bondo District in 2009. Workshop participants ranged from traders and producers, to KFS staff, local council members and sustainability officers. Using the participatory market systems development (PMSD), PAC’s inclusive approach to market development, the workshop exposed the lack of knowledge on the new charcoal laws among participants. It also found that charcoal traders were still paying many unchecked official taxes as well as bribes, leading to low profitability and making charcoal an unattractive investment option.

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Bags of charcoal imported from Uganda on sale on the shores of Lake Victoria. (Photo: Katie Welford)

To contribute to awareness-raising on the 2009 Forest Act, PAC worked with KFS to create the Kenya Charcoal Policy Handbook, which contains the complete current rules and regulations relating to charcoal production, transportation and sale. To date, over 500 booklets have been distributed to KFS offices nationwide and to other key stakeholders. Those involved in the charcoal industry in Bondo have welcomed the handbook, but some expressed concern that the language and size of the handbook might make it inaccessible to some in the charcoal trade. In response to this, a shorter Swahili version, called the Charcoal Pocketbook, has been produced. Together, these two handbooks can reach the full range of people involved in the charcoal trade, and support increased knowledge of the current laws.

Acacia xanthophloea (at 4½ years) intercropped with sorghum, beans and green grams in Rarieda, Nyanza (Photo: Wairimu Ngugi).

Communicating to the grassroots Using popular communication channels to sensitise market actors to the new Charcoal Regulations has yielded fruit. In July 2012, PAC organised a radio programme with a local community FM radio station, Radio Lake Victoria, run by OSIENALA (Friends of Lake Victoria), a Kisumu-based NGO. The objective of the one-hour interactive radio programme was to sensitise people on the new charcoal regulations and encourage them to obtain more information either through existing local charcoal producer associations (CPAs), or new associations they could set up themselves. “The programme has made us more confident in carrying out our charcoal trade in Aram market,” said John Ojala a member of the RAFDIP Charcoal Producers Association. Other listeners said that while in the past they thought growing acacia trees for charcoal production was a waste of time, the radio show made them realise that it could be a financially rewarding activity.

Formation of CPAs A CPA is a membership group formed to facilitate sustainable charcoal production among charcoal growing communities. KFS is working through CPAs to support farmers in the initial phases of sustainable charcoal production. This is a sixyear process, whereby farmers plant ½ an acre of acacia trees every year. As they wait for the trees to mature, they diversify their incomes by intercropping, selling tree seedlings, coppicing (taking just the branches) and bee-keeping. For example, Natalie Radull Akumu of

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Masanga Women’s Group started her woodlot in 2007, and included a section for bee-keeping. She is able to harvest six litres of honey every two months, which she sells at Ksh 600 per litre, making a significant contribution to her income. Once mature, one 30-cm diameter acacia tree can yield up to seven bags of charcoal. A bag can sell for Ksh 750. New seedlings can then be planted in the original ½-acre piece of land so that farmers have a continuing supply of charcoal after year six. Acacia trees are fast-growing and high in calorific value, making them appropriate for producing charcoal in this manner. Using the half-orange or drum kiln makes a significant difference to the burning efficiency, and helps move farmers away from the traditional earth kiln, which is highly inefficient. It is only when they understand the benefits of changing practices that CPA members will commit to sustainable charcoal production, so practical demonstrations are critical in the move towards a sustainable charcoal future.

About PISCES PISCES is an international research consortium led by the African Centre for Technology Studies in Kenya. Partners are the University of Dar es Salaam, the University of Edinburgh, the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation and Practical Action Consulting East Africa, South Asia and UK. Through action research, the project is contributing to innovation and providing new policy-relevant knowledge on bioenergy, leading to better practices and widening access to energy for the rural poor in East Africa and South Asia. It is the Energy Research Programme Consortium funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). Practical Action Consulting is a partner organisation to PISCES. Visit:

Hannah Wanjiru is Project Assistant – Energy and Environment, Practical Action Consulting – Eastern Africa Regional Office Email: Katie Welford is Project Communications Coordinator, Practical Action Email:


Avoiding and fighting forest fires Communities and other stakeholders need to be equipped to stop the loss of resources By DANIEL MBITHI


hree conditions are needed to initiate fire. These are - oxygen, fuel and a heat source. In a forest situation, the conditions for fire onset are provided for by trees, grasses and bush, while homes provide the heat source. The greater the fuel load, the higher the intensity of the fire. The atmosphere supplies oxygen to ensure burning continues. Drought, dry weather conditions and frost cause vegetation in forests to dry up. The dry forest materials create fire hazards when sufficient heat is provided by a trigger event that is usually human in nature. Strong winds fan the fire once it occurs, making it fierce and difficult to control. Natural forest fires occur rarely. Forest fires are caused by lightning, shine stones focusing light rays on one spot, volcanic eruption, and human action. Some examples of human trigger events are camping fires, cigarettes, fires for clearing land for farming, charcoal burning, arson, actions of pyromaniacs (people who start forest fires for the fun of it), poaching, illegal logging, grazing in the forest and other activities.

Fighting forest fires Fire fighting is based on the removal of conditions suitable for the continuation of the fire. Retardants are used to remove oxygen while dry forest materials are cleared to remove fuel. This can be done through backfiring or early burning. Backfiring is done by identifying and emptying space or clearing vegetation in front of the fire direction and starting a manageable fire that can then be controlled by fire-fighters. This fire burns all the combustible materials, thus removing the fuel that would have sustained the fire. When the forest fire reaches the area of backfiring, it dies as there is no fuel to sustain it. Early burning is burning the drying undergrowth in a forest during dry weather. This removes the fuel wood materials that would support the fire. Heat is removed by use of water. In wet conditions, forest fires are rare as it is not easy to create sufficient heat.

Fire management Forest fires can be very destructive and therefore require to be properly managed. Forest fire

management needs to take the following, among other things, into consideration: Safety: The safety of fire fighters and the public is the first priority. Ecosystem sustainability: A full range of activities is used so as to achieve ecosystem sustainability. This should include interrelated ecological, social and legal consequences of the fire. Response to fire: This should be based on ecological, social and legal consequences of the fire. Use of fire: This should be done according to prescription in forest fire management plan. Emergency stabilisation and rehabilitation: It is necessary to make efforts to protect and sustain the ecosystem, public health, safety and infrastructure. Protection priority: Human life is the single overriding suppression priority. In order of importance, the following should be protected: - human life, community infrastructure, other property and improvement, natural and cultural resources. Planning: Every forest should have an approved fire management plan.

A coastal eucalyptus plantation after a light fire. The trees are not dead and will re-sprout. However, it is doubtful one can get quality timber and poles from these trees. (Photo BGF)


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Preparedness: Organisations should have appropriate planning, staffing, training, equipment and management oversight. Suppression: Fire suppression should be done at minimum cost, considering the safety of fire fighters and the public, the benefits, and all values to be protected. Prevention: It is very important to prevent unauthorised ignition of fire.

Forest fire destruction in Kenya in the last 10 years Kenyan forests have experienced 1,621 forest fires in the last 10 years. This has led to an approximate loss of forest material worth Ksh 10 billion and a suppression cost of approximately Ksh 134 million. In the 2011/2012 fire season alone, Kenyan forests experienced 94 fires, leading to a loss of over Ksh 8 billion and a suppression cost of over Ksh 19 million. The enormous loss registered during that fire season was due to occurrence of fires in indigenous forests, especially bamboo forest, which is a precious water catchment area. Millions of bamboo stems were razed by the raging forest fires. The loss indicated does not include death to wildlife and loss of forest biodiversity. To add to the cost, suppression of forest fires in indigenous forests is complicated, due to the poor road network and difficult terrain.

Technical guidelines on fire management It is necessary to integrate fire management into forest management activities. Technically, it is required that firebreaks be incorporated in the laying out of forest sub-compartments. This is stipulated in the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) Technical Order No 49, a pertinence order that applies to all forest stations. This order states that the area covered by major species in a plantation should not be less than 10 hectares and the area covered by a secondary species in such a plantation should not be less than 5 hectares. Sub-compartments should not exceed 50 hectares except in pulpwood circle compartments where they can be 100 hectares but not more. Sub-compartment boundaries should run along firebreaks and existing or proposed roads and should be as regular as possible. The shape of the compartments should nearly be square. Super firebreaks should be laid to protect plantations of 400 hectares to 800 hectares. Forests can be classified as low or high fire danger areas. Forest blocks in grassland planting, near private farms, near villages and

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KFS staff fighting a forest fire in Marania Forest, in the northern part of Mt Kenya. The fire fighting tools are quite rudimentary though‌ (Photo: KFS)

near sawmills are considered to be high fire danger areas. Roads, rivers and indigenous forests, except cedar (Juniperus procera), can serve as firebreaks in any forest ecosystem. In low fire danger areas, the distance between two parallel firebreaks should never exceed 800 metres and the unit of protection should not exceed 50 hectares. In high fire danger areas, the distance between two parallel firebreaks should not exceed 600 metres and the unit of protection should not exceed 25 hectares. Firebreak alignment should follow ridges, roads and be kept at minimum length. They should be parallel or at right angles to the prevailing dry weather winds. They should serve as sub-compartment boundaries and should be accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles and possible to maintain mechanically. Firebreaks can be classified according to terrain and the direction of dry weather winds. Types of firebreaks All alternate firebreaks at right angles to the dry weather winds on a flat terrain are major firebreaks and the best road running in this direction is the starting point for laying all other firebreaks. All alternate firebreaks at right angles to the ridge in a hilly terrain are major firebreaks. The rest are minor firebreaks. Firebreaks are mapped and planned before plantation establishment. Major firebreaks should be between 40 and 60 metres and minor firebreaks should be 20 to 30 metres wide respectively. Firebreaks should be maintained with the main aim of slowing down fire and providing a fire-fighting base. To ensure their effectiveness in fire-fighting, there is need to maintain forest roads and clear inflammable materials from all firebreaks. Clearing of inflammable materials can

be done through grazing by livestock, controlled burning, ploughing, mechanical maintenance or clearing by hand.

How to avoid forest fires Bearing in mind that we use fire daily, fire disasters can occur any time if the fire is not properly managed, controlled and contained within our needs. This fire may not only be a danger to our forests, homes and other infrastructure but could also lead to loss of human life. Therefore any fire that we do not need should be extinguished immediately. This is especially critical in forest environments. The hygiene of all our forests should be maintained through silvicultural operations which include thinning and pruning of plantations, removal of undergrowth and dry fallen forest materials. We should maintain all firebreaks in our forests and each station should have a plan for such maintenance. Fire surveillance structures should be maintained in good condition to ensure monitoring of any possible fire outbreak. Other measures to take to avoid fires include: Ensuring removal of dead and fallen indigenous trees to maintain high forest hygiene in our natural forests. Harvesting mature bamboo stems to reduce fire hazard in the bamboo forest ecosystem and create room for natural regeneration. Forest fire-fighting is a collaborative exercise and there is need to build capacity for communities, forest personnel and other relevant stakeholders to be equipped with the necessary fire-fighting skills and equipment. Each station should have a clear fire management plan. The writer is an Assistant Director, Kenya Forest Service Email:


Changing with the times Kenya’s South Coast farmers embrace commercial forestry in a move that conserves natural forests By JOSEPH KIBUGI


he common notion in Kenya that all natural forests belong to the government is not true. There are pockets of forests under private ownership scattered all over the country, but the owners have not identified or recognised this land as natural forest. However, this is changing at Kenya’s South Coast. The South Coast Forest Owners Association (SCOFOA) was formed against a background of successful integrated forest extension services offered over a period of time in Kwale County. The collaborators of these services included the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI). KFS’s main aim was to produce enough forest products to satisfy domestic requirements at the farm level, while KEFRI sought to demonstrate suitable tree species for various desired end-products, including establishment and management technologies. The other major player in the extension services was WWF (formerly World Wildlife Fund, now renamed World Wide Fund for Nature) an international non-governmental organisation that has been implementing projects aimed at conserving natural forests in the country. To conserve natural forests, be it mangroves or land-based, the project had to provide an alternative source of forest products for domestic use, and income for those who trade in forest products. The project promoted tree-planting in private farms to create this alternative. In 2010, and with the support of a number of institutions, this writer organised farmers who own tree plantations and natural forests to form SCOFOA. The objective was to help farmers move from subsistence tree-growing to commercial forestry. The association was officially registered in October 2011 and has a membership of 50. This is expected to rise as recruitment continues to cover the neighbouring districts in the South Coast. To qualify as a member, one is required to prove ownership of more than two acres of land planted with trees or managed as a natural forest, pay a registration fee of Ksh 500 and an annual subscription of Ksh 2,000 payable not later than March 31 of every year. An inventory carried out in collaboration with KFS staff, with facilitation


A privately owned, fiveyear-old Eucalyptus urophylla plantation. (Photo: KFS)

from WWF, indicated that the 50 members have over 1,500 hectares, either under natural forest or planted with various tree species. The members of the association are sensitised to grow trees as a business that will achieve a sustainable supply of forest products to the market and enhance environmental conservation to justify claims for payment of environmental services. The association is encouraging members to practice non-consumptive exploitation of forests as extra avenues to maximise profits from their investments. Such activities include beekeeping and the complex carbon trade. Other complementary activities are grazing, which has

the additional benefit of reducing competition between the trees and weeds.

Tree species Eucalyptus and Casuarina equisetifolia are the most preferred species due to their fast growth, multiple uses and readily available market for their products. The growth rate of Eucalyptus urophylla at the South Coast equals that of the best selected eucalyptus clone GC 584 (Grandis Camaldulensis) which the farmers are also growing. Eucalyptus species are grown for transmission poles, fuel wood and sawn timber. The association is encouraging members to

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plant fast-growing Gmelina arborea, Azadirachta indica (neem) and Grevillea robusta, for timber and as a way of diversifying species planted.

Araucaria cunninghamia, which is used as a Christmas tree, planted together with Grevillea robusta. (Photo: KFS)

Objectives The association has the following as its objectives; To get direct access to the market; To participate in formulation of laws and regulations related to the forest sector; To increase the tree cover and encourage sustainable use of forest resources; and To organise forums for forest owners to share challenges and experiences. To achieve these objectives, several thematic areas were identified as crucial for intervention strategies. These are: 1. Marketing Tree-growers have been exploited by brokers since the growers do not have direct access to the market. In addition, growers underestimate production costs, leading to inaccurate costing. Often, growers ignore or undervalue labour and other management costs. The association is sensitising members on the importance of book-keeping to enable them to come up with correct calculations of their expenses, including the cost of the labour and time they commit to the production. The liberalised market of forest products works to the disadvantage of members of the association, as they are not equipped with the required business skills. An informal communication network within the association is in place through which members can share day-to-day information on prices. This has to some extent reduced exploitation of the growers by the brokers. 2. Laws and Regulations As major stakeholders in the forestry sector, forest owners should be in the forefront in the formulation of any laws and regulations related to the sector. Forest product processors like sawmillers cannot represent the concerns of treegrowers. The association feels this needs to be rectified to create harmony among players in the forestry sector. SCOFOA intends to represent its members in voicing their views when required, and also engage with enforcing and regulatory institutions in the sector. Where the forums are at a regional or national level, the association’s contributions shall be channelled

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Local innovations Some members in the association have come up with innovations like establishing mixed stands with different species of different rotation according to their management objectives. For example, some members have established mixed stands of i. Araucaria cunninghamia and Grevillea robusta, and ii. Casuarina equisetifolia with Grevillea robusta. Araucaria is used as Christmas trees and the maturity age for this is short. Casuarinas are also harvested early for poles, leaving the grevilleas to continue until they produce timber at a much later stage.


through respective umbrella associations. SCOFOA is a founder member of both the National Farm Forestry Smallholder Forest Producer Association and the Kenya Coastal Forest Forum. It is anticipated that at one stage, private forest owners shall be allocated a slot at the KFS management board as they are major players in the sector. 3. Sharing of Experiences The association has been organising meetings for its members according to their ecological zones, to share their experiences and to come up with logical solutions to their problems. In such meetings, some members have identified forest products in high demand and tree species they need to grow according to the prevailing conditions in their various zones. 4. Technology Transfer The association organises forums where the members not only interact among themselves, but with other stakeholders in the forestry sector. This creates opportunities for farmers to share experiences, and for dissemination of technologies by extension officers. KEFRI has been carrying out establishment of demonstration plots on technologies, and surveys on various forest pests.

Tree-growers face a number of challenges. These include: Non-equitable distribution of benefits from forest products. The producer who invests capital and time receives relatively few benefits because of having no direct access to the market. Producers also underestimate production costs, leading to undervaluation of the product. The regulations in the sector discourage investment in forestry as there is much unnecessary bureaucracy in harvesting and marketing of the products. The reasoning behind the requirement that a planter must apply for authorisation to harvest trees that were planted precisely for commercial exploitation remains unclear. Lack of suitable credit facilities. Tree-growing requires long-term loans on relatively low interest rates, which are not available. As we warm up to have our forests registered, it is hoped that private forest owners will be able to access funding from the Consolided Fund mentioned in the Forest Act 2005. Low commitment of the members. They had high expectations of getting financial support to undertake their forestry activities. This, despite efforts to make them understand this was their own business and like any other, they should be ready to invest some capital. All in all, progress has been made, and we can look forward to better business in tree-growing and conservation by members of SCOFOA. The writer is a senior forester at the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) Coast Conservancy Email:


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number one one choice. choice. This This proven performance performance number the number one choice. Thisproven proven performance allows an assured service life against the the allowsananassured assured service life against allows service life against the threat threat of decay or insect attack of up to 50 threat ofor decay or insect of upontonew 50 of decayon insect attack of upattack towith 50 years years new treated poles, a likely long years on new treated poles, with a likely long treated poles, with a likely longthis. termWithin performance term performance performance beyond most term beyond this. Within most beyond this. Within most African markets there African markets markets there there is is now now aa choice choice of African of isTANALITH now a choice of TANALITH preservative water-based water-based TANALITH water-based preservative preservative protect utility poles. CC products to toproducts protect to utility poles. TANALITH products protect utility poles. TANALITH is the traditional CCA (chromated copper is the traditional CCA (chromated copper arsenate) product. It is restricted in its use in in TANALITH C is the traditional CCA (chromated arsenate) product. It is restricted in its use certain African markets, as well as for exports copper arsenate) product. It is restricted in its certain African markets, as well as for exports to Europe. Europe. TANAPOLE products treated with use in certain African markets, astreated well aswith for to TANAPOLE products TANALITH C are readily available throughout exports to Europe. TANAPOLE products treated TANALITH C are readily available throughout and TANALITH TANALITH C can can beavailable supplied to pole pole and TANALITH C be supplied to with C are readily throughout treatment companies. TANALITH E is a treatment companies. TANALITH E is a new Africa and TANALITH C can be supplied to new pole generation wood wood preservative from from Lonza, generation treatment companies.preservative TANALITH E is aLonza, new copper and and triazole based on on innovative innovative copper based generation wood preservative from Lonza,triazole based technology, providing a performance to match match technology, a performance to on innovativeproviding copper and triazole technology, TANALITH C C preservative. preservative. First First introduced introduced in in TANALITH providing a1990s, performance to match TANALITH C the early TANALISED E treated timbers the early 1990s, TANALISED E treated timbers preservative. introduced in the early 1990s,a now have have aaFirst proven performance across now proven performance across a TANALISED E treated timbers now have a wide range range of of markets markets and and end end proven uses, wide uses, performance across a wide range of markets and including utility utility poles. including poles. end uses, including utility poles. Lonza Wood Wood Protection Protection does does not not just just Lonza specialise in one product but covers every specialise in one product butjust covers every Lonza Wood Protection does not specialise in aspect of of timber timber protection protection including including organic organic aspect one product but covers every aspect of timber for long long and inorganic inorganic wood wood preservatives preservatives for and protection including organic and inorganic term protection, prophylactic products to term protection, prophylactic products to wood preservatives for long term protection, prevent staining of timber and fire retardants, prevent staining of timber and fire retardants, prophylactic products to prevent technology staining of together with with the application application together the technology timber and fire retardants, together with the required for each. The application technology required for each. The application technology to utilise these products is constantly application technology required for each. The to utilise these products is constantly developing. Lonza Wood Protection has application technology to utilise these products developing. Lonza Wood Protection has aa is constantly developing. Lonza Wood Protection A typical typical A Tanalith high high Tanalith pressure pressure treatment treatment plant. plant.

TANAPOLE treated treated telecommunication telecommunication TANAPOLE poles are readily available from treaters treaters poles are readily available from throughout Africa. Africa. throughout range of of engineering engineering and and training training services services range which will ensure that treatment companies has a range of engineering and training services which will ensure that treatment companies have will access to the latestcompanies technology which ensure to that the treatment have have access latest technology promise to provide provideavailable. the tools toolsWe to available. We access to We the promise latest technology to the to available. ensure a professional, responsible and cost promise the tools responsible to ensure a professional, ensuretoa provide professional, and cost effective treatment treatment servicetreatment to the the timber timber effective service to responsible and cost effective service industry. Treatment plants supplied by Lonza industry. Treatment plants supplied by Lonza to the timber industry. Treatment plants supplied Wood Protection Protection are are designed designed with with each Wood by Lonza Wood Protection are designed with each each specific business business in in mind. mind. We We have have industry industry specific specific business in mind. We have industry leading leading services services to to train train personnel personnel and and can can leading services to train personnel and can provide a fast provide a fast spare parts service to ensure provide a fast spare partstreatment service to ensure spare parts service to ensure operations treatment operations operations are are being being run run safely safely and and treatment are being run safely and efficiently. We can also and even reefficiently. We can also upgrade and even efficiently. We also existing upgrade upgrade and evencan relocate facilities to relocate existing facilities to locate existing facilities to suit customers’ suitourour our customers’ suit customers’ exact exactrequirements. requirements. exact requirements.

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The TANALITH range of wood preservatives is The TANALITH range ofmedium wood preservatives is designed to protect to high hazard designed to protect medium to high hazard end uses timbers - ground and water contact end uses timbers - ground and water contact timbers, agricultural and engineering timbers, timbers, agricultural and engineering timbers, external building timbers. external building timbers.

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Wheldon Road +44+44 1977 714000 Wheldon Road Tel:Tel: 1977 714000 Castleford, West Yorkshire, Tel: +44 1977 714001 Castleford, West Yorkshire, Tel: +44 1977 714001 WF10 2JT, UK Web: WF10 2JT, UK Web: Email: Email:

A young (less than three years old) plantation of Terminalia superba (Limba, FrakĂŠ), in Malube, Mpigi district, Uganda. (Photo: BGF)

A measure of success amid challenges NFA needs support to improve the management of Uganda’s national forest resource By BUYINZA MUKADASI


he Scientific and Forestry Department of Uganda was established in 1898 to explore the potential for the utilisation of existing forest resources. Plantations were also established to meet the projected future demand for firewood, poles, timber and rubber. The department was changed to Botanical and Scientific Department in 1907 and Botanical, Forestry and Scientific Department in 1908. Then in 1917, a separate Forestry Department was created. In 1999, the government started restructuring the Forest Department with a view of meeting the emerging challenges of the forestry sector. This process culminated in the establishment of a National Forest Policy, 2001 (Annex I), a National Forest Plan, 2002 and a National Forestry and Tree Planting Act, 2003 (Annex II). The National Forestry and Tree Planting Act, 2003, established the National Forestry Authority (NFA) which became operational on April 26, 2004, as a corporate body to operate as a business entity. Similarly, the District Forest


Service was established to manage the forest resource on private land and local forest reserves. In addition to these two, a Forest Sector Support Department was retained as a Department within the Ministry of Water and Environment to monitor the activities of the District Forest Services and NFA and to advise the minister on forestry matters.

Mandate of NFA From available records, forests and woodlands cover only 4.9 million hectares (about 24 per cent of Uganda’s total land area). Thirty per cent of forests are in protected areas (forest reserves, national parks and wildlife reserves) and 70 per cent are on private land. Central forest reserves (CFRs) cover only about 1,265,742 hectares. However, 50 per cent of the tropical forests outside protected areas are degraded, while 17 per cent of those in the national parks and wildlife reserves are degraded though presumed inaccessible for provision of forest products. Given the accelerated loss of forests on

private land and high pressure on protected areas, it is necessary to protect the forest reserves. This will be the only forestland available in the foreseeable future for a variety of forestry uses and functions. The activities of NFA are implemented under the following four broad objectives: 1. Improve management of CFRs Under NFA management, plantations have been developed on CFR land. To date, a total of 20,000 hectares has been planted. Also, protection work for the Tropical High Forests is carried out on a day-to-day basis. Other activities include enrichment planting in open or degraded areas of natural forests, opening and maintenance of boundaries and investment in the forestry infrastructure like roads. 2. Expand partnership arrangements Under this objective, NFA seeks to co-opt other actors and build synergies that are necessary for developing a robust forestry sector. NFA

Miti January - March 2013

has entered into memoranda of understanding with several entities such as World Vision, Mpigi District Administration, Uganda Timber, Charcoal and Firewood Dealers Association and training institutions like Nyabyeya Forestry College, among others. Also, 26 collaborative forest management agreements have been signed with communities in Mabira, Budongo and other CFRs. Under these agreements, NFA has improved incomes of forest-adjacent communities through profitable projects like bee-keeping, tree-planting and support for agro-forestry. 3. Supply high quality products and services Currently, NFA produces about four million high quality tree and fruit tree seedlings annually, some of which are sold to the private sector for plantation development and fruit farming. Given enough advance notice, NFA has the capacity to supply more than this number of seedlings. The National Tree Seed Centre, run by NFA at Namanve along the Kampala - Jinja highway, also has quality seedlings for sale to the public. For the benefit of tree-planters in other parts of the country, NFA has established regional nurseries in Jinja, Mbarara, Gulu, Mbale, Masindi and Nakasongola. Efforts are currently under way to open more nurseries in other areas. NFA also sells good quality timber from sustainable plantations established to meet the timber needs of the country. Species currently on sale include pine, cypress and eucalyptus from plantations in Lendu, Mbarara, Mwenge and Katugo. Other products available from NFA include high quality seeds for indigenous and exotic trees as well as construction and power transmission poles. A total of 15,673.81 kg of seeds and 6,859,092 seedlings were sold over the last four years. NFA has been innovative and is currently producing the most up-to-date maps suitable for institutions of learning and development planning. On request, these maps can be produced to show development infrastructure, administrative units like districts and constituencies and can be customised to carry the sponsor’s logo, colours and slogan. Other services available from NFA include biomass monitoring, environmental impact assessment (EIA), ecotourism and technical advisory services on plantation establishment and forest management planning, among others. NFA is currently spearheading prospects for the multi-billion dollar trade in carbon and exploring possibilities for Ugandans to benefit from the carbon finance arrangements such as the Reduction of Deforestation and Forest

Miti January - March 2013

A roadside sign at Kifu Central Forest Reserve, some 15km north east of Kampala, illustrating cooperation between a European Union project (the predecessor to SPGS) and NFA. (Photo: BGF)

Degradation (REDD). In partnership with the Ministry of Water and Environment, NFA is steering the following treeplanting programmes: Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) for the private sector Farm Income Enhancement and Forest Conservation Programme (FIEFOC) Northern Uganda Reforestation Programme Community Tree Planting Programme New forest plantations and re-planting of harvested reserves Carbon Forest Initiates 4. Attain financial sustainability At its inception in 2004, NFA was given a target of being financially self-sustaining by the fourth year of its operation i.e. by July 2008. NFA generates revenue from the sale of the above mentioned products and services. NFA’s internally generated revenue covered 90 per cent of its operating expenses of the 2011/12 financial year.

Key opportunities NFA has benefited from the support of development partners particularly the European

Union, the Norwegian government and the World Bank, among others. NFA has also strategically positioned itself to tap into the emerging carbon trade which is part of the global efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. The National Forestry Authority Start-up Fund, whose objective was to provide capital expenditure and start-up operational costs to help establish the NFA, has provided significant support towards the management of 506 central forest reserves covering 1,265,742 hectares. With support from this fund, NFA registered improvement in forest plantations with a total forest area of 36,464 hectares (from 13,000 hectares) being added between 2004/05 and 2007/08. In addition, 148,500 hectares of CFRs were recovered from encroachment. Despite the presidential ban on evictions of existing encroachers in May 2005 and February 2006, NFA has maintained vigilance throughout the period to control fresh encroachment on forest reserves. The major forms of encroachment are livestock grazing, cultivation and settlements. A survey carried out in 2005 by NFA in 90 per cent of the CFRs showed that about 56,000 hectares of CFR land had been converted into

Uganda has very favourable conditions for growing trees. This Eucalyptus grandis plantation in Mnama Village, Mpigi district, is barely three and a half years old‌ (Photo: BGF)


cropland, while 70 government schools and 11 government health centres were constructed in the CFRs. More than 180,000 people had encroached on various CFRs, grazing about 134,000 livestock units. The number of encroachers has since increased so that today, it is estimated that more than 270,000 people are living, cultivating and grazing in CFRs illegally. On private lands, nearly 1.3 million hectares have been lost over the last 15 years, showing that forests on private lands are fast disappearing; while 91,000 hectares have been lost in CFRs. The main investment by NFA is the establishment and maintenance of plantations. Apart from the addition of 23,464 hectares of new plantations, 2,043.8 kilometres of forest roads have opened in natural forests and plantations to facilitate plantation establishment and harvesting. Also, 7,456 kilometres of forest boundary have been opened and maintained with clear boundary markings established. NFA has maintained a good sustainable yield through control of harvesting to ensure that off-take does not exceed planting, especially in plantation areas. Partnerships have been developed with the private sector to provide incentives for tree-growing. Eco-tourism infrastructure has improved; for example modern tourist cabins at Kaniyo-Pabidi site have been constructed, while Mabira and Mpanga eco-tourism sites have been refurbished. NFA managed to achieve 64.5 per cent sustainability of its total budget by June 2008. Revenue from NFA’s own products and services registered Ush 9.6 billion in the 2010/11 financial year, compared with Ush 5.3 billion in the 2004/05 financial year.

Constraints Despite these achievements, NFA continues to face a number of challenges such as the increasing conversion of forestland into agricultural land, resistance from local governments in curbing illegal activities around CFRs and illegal timber transactions. The main challenge lies in eliminating forest crime (especially encroachment) and effective protection of the currently intact forest cover. Information collected by NFA over the last 15 years shows that Uganda’s forest cover has dropped from 4.9 million hectares in 1990 to 3.6 million in 2005. This represents a 1.9 per cent deforestation rate, which is quite high compared to other countries in the region whose rate is below 1 per cent. Other challenges include the unpredictable weather, resulting in unexpected fires given that


The scourge of both NFA and private growers in Uganda - invasion of forest land by squatters. This is in Bukaleba Central Forest Reserve. (Photo: BGF)

NFA has limited field equipment and materials to respond. Delays in procurement of imported seed results in late seedling production, and hence delays in supplying seedlings to farmers. Also, there is political interference, especially during boundary re-opening as many communities claim NFA is grabbing land for the government. NFA has developed capacity to generate revenue from directly tradable forest products. However, with about 85 per cent of the forestland being managed for ecological purposes, a lot remains to be done in the area of tapping revenue from Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES). Furthermore, while donor support declined, NFA’s internally generated revenue continued improving and enabled the institution to plug up some of the emerging funding gaps. However, the financial needs of NFA for the management of natural forests in the reserves are considerably higher than the available income, due to past mismanagement of the CFRs. Thus NFA is likely to experience a funding gap if more resources are not mobilised in time to uphold its current level of operations. Although significant steps were taken between 2004 and 2006 to overcome illegal activities particularly encroachment and felling of timber, forest based illegalities are again on the increase. According to a memorandum dated December 31, 2007, presented by the Minister of Water and Environment, the magnitude of encroachment has since escalated by about 30 per cent. There is overwhelming evidence of loss of standing trees, other forest products and forest land in a number of forest reserves. As a result, encroachers are increasingly becoming hostile to NFA, destroying vehicles, assaulting staff and clearing some of the newly established tree plantations for fresh settlements and farming.

Delays by NFA to open up all the forest boundaries have continued to facilitate encroachment. According to a report of the investigation committee in the management of the forest sector, the field staff do not have detailed maps of the reserves. This makes the work of forest supervisors difficult and hinders NFA from authoritatively defending forest reserves from encroachers.

Conclusion The establishment of NFA created hope that the integrity of the forest estate would be restored. However, the performance of NFA has suffered some setbacks recently. First, there is increased occurrence of illegal activities in CFRs, perpetrated by organised criminals assisted by state agents, and complicity of high ranking government officials. Second, there is complacency and failure to take action on the part of NFA, leading to loss of forestland and produce and associated mismanagement of the affairs of the authority. Third, complicity of NFA staff in the appropriation of forestry land by individuals and corporate entities is perhaps the biggest undoing that could reverse the gains registered in the last four years of government and donor investment in NFA. NFA is tasked to perform numerous functions, several of which do not generate revenue. In addition, forest reserves remain under siege and NFA officers are faced with an immense risk particularly from dangerous illegal timber loggers and hostile encroachers. NFA needs support to address these challenges so as to improve the management of the national forest resource. The writer is the Chairperson, Board of Directors, Uganda National Forestry Authority Email:

Miti January - March 2013

Multiple benefits Tree nurseries provide seedlings, advisory services and employment to Ugandans By MALINGA MICHAEL


he National Tree Seed Centre was set up in 1992 under the then Forestry Department, with funds from the government of Uganda, the United Nations Sahelian Office for Africa (UNSO/UNDP) (UNSO), the government of the Kingdom of Norway and technical support from the Danish Development Agency (DANIDA). The centre was formed to provide, promote and conserve genetically suitable tree seeds and other reproductive materials of good quality to meet present and future needs of tree-planting activities in Uganda. However, the centre was not able to meet its objectives due to the poor performance of the forestry sector. To improve on the performance, forest sector reforms were instituted between 1998 and 2003. The reforms constituted a new Forestry Policy (2001), a National Forest Plan (2002), a National Forestry and Tree Planting Act (2003) and the establishment of new institutional arrangements for the management of the sector. One of the institutions was the National Forestry Authority (NFA), launched in April 2004, which was given the mandate to manage the Tree Seed Centre (TSC). The TSC was in turn given a mandate to supply, promote and conserve genetically suitable tree seeds and seedlings of good physiological quality to meet present and future needs for tree-planting activities in Uganda. Since its inception, the TSC has grown into a reputable source of quality tree seeds and seedlings in Uganda. TSC is administered by the Plantations Division of the National Forestry Authority. Seedling production at TSC has been increasing steadily, with demand rising from 70,000 in 2004 to 4.9 million in 2011/2012. TSC has met this demand by expanding the nursery infrastructure and establishing an annex at Banda Central Forest Reserve. Revenue collection from seedling sales has also increased from Ush 230.928 million in 2005/2006, 351.092 million in 2006/2007, 651.971 million in 2008/2009, 952.549 million in 2009/10, 780.2904 million in 2010/11 and Ushs.1.329 billion 1 in 2011/12 . The TSC has also diversified seedling production from 11 species in 2004/2005 to 147 species to date. The categories of species include timber,

fruit trees, trees for agroforestry and ornamentals. TSC offers advisory services to clients before they take the seedlings. This includes matching the species to site, the right spacing for the species and the number of seedlings required in the land area that the client plans to plant, and plantation management. In order to take services closer to the clients, NFA has also established 12 other regional tree nurseries located in strategic places around the country. They are centrally administered by the TSC so as to maintain the same standards of seedling production. Table 1: The locations of 12 regional tree nurseries run by Tree Seed Centre

Tree Nursery



Capacity (seedlings per year)



Katuugo CFR




Masindi Plantation




Barifa Plantation




Gulu CFR




Soroti CFR




Namatele CFR




Kimaka CFR




Kumbu CFR




Rwemitongole CFR




Bugonji CFR




Kagorra CFR




Kasenyi CFR




The TSC is planning to establish a clonal eucalyptus production line so as to tap into the growing market of clones in Uganda. TSC is also on the verge of being admitted to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Forest Seed and Plant Scheme. This will be a positive development since NFA will be able to trade internationally in forest tree germ plasm. In addition to commercial seedlings, TSC also produces seedlings for distribution to communities under the government-funded National Community Tree Planting Programme. The Tree Seed Centre also produces seedlings for the Farm Income Enhancement and Forest Conservation Project, which is funded by the Ugandan government and other development partners. The TSC tree nurseries employ 10 technical staff and 100 permanent workers in addition to 100 semi-permanent workers, most of whom are female. The tree nursery is a source of livelihood for communities neighbouring the seedling nurseries. The writer is a Tree Improvement Specialist, Tree Seed Centre, NFA Email:


Approximately 490,000 euros (Ksh 4.375 million)

Miti January - March 2013


Growing grevillea in Kenya This popular species plays significant socio-economic and environmental roles By JANE WANGU NJUGUNA


revillea robusta (silky oak) belongs to the family Proteaceae and is locally known as mukima (Kikuyu), omakabiria (Kisii), wakhuisi (Luhya), bolebolea (Luo), kapkawet (Nandi), among others. In its native range of south eastern Australia, it is found in a restricted zone at latitude 22oS to 30oS with mean annual temperatures of 15 25°C and mean annual rainfall of 700 – 2000mm. G. robusta is a fast-growing tree and performs best on welldrained fertile soils. However, it also grows moderately well on medium textured soils (loam, clay-loam to light sandy). On suitable sites, the species has recorded a yearly growth of 2 metres in the early years of growth. It does not tolerate heavy clays and water-logged soils, thus performing poorly in very wet areas where annual rainfall exceeds 2000mm and in tropical lowland environments where mean annual temperature exceeds 23°C. The stems are dark grey, rough and vertically divided while the leaves are fernlike, divided and Figure 1: A healthy grevillea tree. slivery grey, thus the name silky and wildings from natural regeneration. It is oak. The species provides timber, poles, posts, a prolific seeder and a single mature tree can fuel wood, shade, fodder during drought periods, produce about 2 kilograms of clean seed. A soil erosion control and soil fertility improvement. kilogram of seed may contain 70,000 - 120,000 The bright yellow to orange flowering parts seeds. The seeds are viable for about three make grevillea a beautiful ornamental tree months but viability can be extended by storage o (Figure 1) and the leaves are used in cut flower under sub-zero to 4 C temperatures. According to Kalinganire (1999), the species arrangements. In Kenya, G. robusta is popular among is self-incompatible and out-crossing and there is small-scale farmers due to its fast growth and a very short period of two to three days between ability to tolerate heavy pollarding and pruning maturity and dispersal by wind. As such, most of of branches. Its deep rooting characteristics the seed is lost before it is collected, resulting show that it mixes well with other crops. Since in an ever acute shortage of seed for raising the 1990s, G. robusta has been a contributor to seedlings. Seed maturity must therefore be closely monitored and collection must be timely. household incomes. Two-winged seeds are borne in small dark pods which vary in size from 1 to 1.5cm and are Propagation of G. robusta G. robusta is mainly propagated through seeds easily blown away by winds. Seed germination


is relatively good. The seeds do not require much pre-treatment but soaking in cold water enhances germination.

Planting lay-outs and tree management A recent study that surveyed 18,000 trees on 95 farms in Kenya’s central highlands found that boundary planting was still the most popular at 55 per cent, 17 per cent were planted as woodlots, 15 per cent as terraces/ alleys and 13 per cent were scattered among crops such as tea, coffee, maize, bananas and beans, among others. Planting along farm boundaries is usually done in single rows at 2 to 2.5 metres spacing. However, in small farms, especially in the central highlands, it is common to find the tree planted at a spacing of less than 1.5 metres. Closely spaced trees grow slowly and achieve smaller diameters compared to those planted at wider spacing. The Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) recommends a spacing of 2.5 x 2.5 metres for plantations and woodlots. Pollarding (removing the whole crown), as is commonly done in many farms (Figure 2) is popular because it reduces shade on the crops under the trees. However, pollarding was reported to reduce tree diameter growth and is therefore not encouraged if the primary product expected is timber. Nevertheless, moderate tree pruning (removing one third or half the crown) was found to improve tree form and increase the value of the tree. Grevillea is pruned regularly to provide stakes, firewood and leaves for various uses. Its ability to coppice easily makes it ideal for the provision of the said products.

Timber yield Grevillea trees can be harvested for wood and poles at 4 - 5 years on good sites. Trees over 30 years produce good amounts of durable timber. A

Miti January - March 2013

Table 1: Yield of grevillea trees with age on a 20 year rotation cycle Age Class (years)

Mean trees per ha

Mean dbh (cm)

Mean height (m)

Volume (m2/ha)


























Source: Muchiri et al 2002. *The data is based on very low stand density of 53 trees per hectare. The yield would be higher at high stand densities. The trees show significant increment in wood volume from year 8. was recorded to increase by approximately 1.2cm per year and 1.1 metres per year in diameter at breast height (dbh) and height respectively between 1 to 30 years. The total volume of wood produced increases with age (see Table 1 below).

Diseases and pests

Figure 2: Sprouts on a pollarded tree.

stand density of 200 trees per hectare is reported to optimise wood production (Muchiriet al 2001). However, due to the current shortage of timber in the Kenyan market, it is common to find trees as young as 10 years or less being used for timber. Such immature timber is susceptible to attacks by pests such as wood borers and rot fungi. When grown in competition with other crops in an agro-forestry setting, grevillea trees were found to yield satisfactorily as compared to trees under no competition. Under such conditions, the species

A p

G. robusta has for a long time been believed to be free of serious attacks from pests or diseases. However, a recent survey showed that the species is now under threat from a canker and dieback disease in all regions where the species is cultivated. The disease is characterised by dieback of young shoots, branches and branch tips, leaving naked shoots and branches, stem cankers and rotten heart wood (Figures 3A and B). The disease is mild in the humid-sub humid zones and severe in the semi-humid to the semiarid areas. The cankers vary in size from small lesions and small cracks of a few millimetres, to large open wounds sometimes extending over 1 metre, along the stem on severely infected trees. Internally, the fungus causes disruption of the vessels through which resin oozes (Figure 3C).

B e

Figure 3, (A) Severe dieback and death (B), Resinous stem cankers, (C) Internal destruction of wood.

Miti January - March 2013

Four disease-causing fungi were isolated from the cankers and dieback symptoms. These fungi are associated with stressed trees whose growth vigour is compromised by extreme environmental conditions (normally drought) and lack of nutrients (Slippers and Wingfield 2007). The fungi infect the young shoots and leaves first and spread to the mature parts of the stems. Wounds from pruning branches provide direct entry to fungi into the wood of the trees, and they destroy the timber and hence the commercial value of the trees. To manage dieback, it is recommended that infected branches be removed as soon as cankers or dieback symptoms are noticed. Under unfavourable conditions such as semiarid lands, termite damage accelerates the death of infected trees. Poor germination has also been reported due to infection of seeds by fungi mostly in the genus Fusarium and other seed-borne fungi such as Lasiodiplodia theobromae which also causes the canker and dieback disease. These fungi cause seed rots (Figure 4A) and damping off, stem collar rots, seedling blights, tip dieback and deaths.

C e


A p

B e

C e

Figure 4(A), Clean seeds (B) Grevillea seeds infected by fungi, (C) Mineral deficiencies on grevillea seedlings.

Surveys show that most seedlings in Kenyan Table 2: Comparative commercial prices of one board foot of various tree species in Nairobi nurseries exhibit poor growth due to a variety and surrounding peri-urban areas Price (Ksh) per board foot (6�x 2�) in Nairobi and peri-urban areas of factors, including poor nutrition (Figure 4B), poor seedling management, such as excessive Species Kikuyu Kawangware Gikomba Kariobangi watering, and disease-causing fungi. Grevillea robusta 46 50 60 60 Disease management is easier at the Eucalyptus species 50 56 70 70 seed and seedling stages. Farmers and other Pinus species 65 62 75 60 stakeholders should use certified tree seeds, Cupressus species 70 65 80 70 or treat seeds before storage and before Mahogany 200 180 200 200 sowing to reduce contamination by fungi. Treating seeds also protects the emerging Grevillea wood is clearly competitive among the locally grown tree species. seedlings from infection by surface diseasecausing agents. Kenya. Its performance and yield, as well as Strict nursery hygiene and regular spraying Grevillea grows best on to diseases and pests, depend with systemic fungicides should be observed. moderately fertile to fertile, susceptibility to a high degree on site, competition and Addition of organic and inorganic fertilisers to well drained soils such as management methods. Grevillea grows best on improve the immunity of young seedlings is moderately fertile to fertile, well drained soils such those found in the medium also recommended. When plants are infected as those found in the medium to high potential after the nursery stage, pruning of infected to high potential zones in zones in Kenya. Planting the species outside branches and removing infected trees are the Kenya. these areas will compromise its performance and best options to reduce and stop further spread consequently, the products expected. of infection. Due to its susceptibility to attack by canker pathogens and termites in ASAL, the species should not be planted beyond agro-ecological Commercial value of grevillea timber zone 3. Therefore, site characteristics should Grevillea produces a hard timber with beautiful be assessed for suitability before planting. grain structure. The timber makes attractive furniture. Prices of timber vary from merchant to merchant and from region to region. Available information shows that farmers sell large quantities of grevillea tree products. However, farm level prices are low and vary from place to place. Information from timber merchants in Nairobi and the peri-urban areas around the city shows that on average, the price of G. robusta wood compares favourably with other locally grown species (see Table 2). The demand for firewood by tea-


processing factories has pushed prices for the commodity upwards. The factories buy a stack (1 cubic metre) of firewood at between Ksh 1,200 - 1,800 in central Kenya but the same sells for over Ksh 3,000 in Nairobi.

Conclusions Grevillea robusta continues to play significant socio-economic and environmental roles in

(A list of references for this article is available at the Miti offices) The writer is Principal Forest Pathologist / Deputy Regional Director, Central Highlands Eco-Regional Research Programme, KEFRI. Email:; wangunjuna@;

Miti January - March 2013

Growing food crops alongside trees

Involving communities in forest management has far-reaching economic benefits By MERCYLINE KHALUMBA


articipatory forest management (PFM) represents a revolution of sorts in forest management. It is a completely different way of managing forests. It involves a multi-stakeholders approach where the private sector, institutions and forest-adjacent communities are involved in the management of forests. The aim is to improve the condition of forests and ensure sustainable flow of tangible and intangible benefits to local, national and international communities. PFM is still new in Africa although already well-spread and is recognised as a significant route towards securing and sustaining forests. In Kenya, PFM is a relatively new concept that arose from the government’s recognition of the crucial role stakeholders can play in sustainable forest management. The country has put up a supportive forest policy and Forest Act (No 7 of 2005), and participation in sustainable forest management rules (2009) that apply PFM principles in forest management. Most forest-adjacent communities have formed community forest associations (CFAs) and 19 participatory forest management plans have been presented to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to collaborate in the management of forests. Forty nine participatory forest management plans

are complete and ready to be signed. Initially, to control forest destruction, KFS had applied force in the form of armed Forest Rangers, but this did not work. KFS followed this with the use of physical fences (buffer zones), but this still did not work and now the new approach is the use of a social fence (PFM), which is still new. Benefits to the local, national and international communities go beyond the cost, efficiency and equity such as improved livelihoods with long term perspectives. The process goes beyond forest conservation into issues of more inclusion and effective management of society itself, leading to social transformation. Preliminary results of the social fence show some positive results as elaborated below.

Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement System (PELIS) The shamba system has been in use in Kenya since 1910. The system underwent several changes, until 2007 when it was re-branded Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement System (PELIS) with the devolution of forest management to inclusion of other stakeholders, particularly the forest-adjacent communities. Now the system seems to have

A young Cupressus lusitanica plantation at Dundori Forest Station in Nakuru district. Note the stalks of harvested maize; it had been intercropped with the trees. (Photo: KFS)

Miti January - March 2013

stabilised and its impact is felt countrywide. PELIS has a positive effect on tree establishment cost and survival. Tree establishment has increased from planting 2,000 hectares per year with less than 20 per cent survival to 6,000 hectares per year with a mean of 80 per cent survival rate. From 2007 to date, 20,000 hectares of industrial forest plantations have been established through PELIS in gazetted forests all over Kenya. During the financial year 2011/2012, KFS had 16,281 hectares of forest plantation under PELIS. The higher survival rate (from 20 to 80 per cent), was due to better care for tree seedlings by the PELIS farmers and improved forest governance by KFS. The improved tree cover has contributed towards achieving Vision 2030’s target of 10 per cent forest cover. The CFAs helped in tree nursery operations and raised some 10.5 million tree seedlings during 2011/2012, compared to 5.8 million seedlings raised by KFS alone per year. The young trees are from certified seeds, grow at a high rate, fixing an average of 2.7m3 carbon per hectare from age 1 to age 4. This leads to a clean environment and reduction of global warming as stipulated in the millennium development goals (MDG). KFS was able to make a cost saving of Ksh 213 million in plantation establishment in 2011/2012. The country managed to raise 375,916 bags of maize, 119,271 bags of beans weighing 90 kg each, 1,071,426 bags of potatoes weighing 110 kg each and several other food crops like cabbages, carrots, coriander (dhania), peas, onions, and others, from the forest. Maize production from the forest reduced the country’s maize deficit by 2.2 per cent. Through PELIS, Kenya was able to feed 1.2 million people who relied entirely on food from the forest, and provide employment to 240,000 families, equivalent to Ksh 2.8 billion. The community members who cultivated in the forest realised a net benefit of Ksh 1.5 billion. The writer is an Assistant Director, Kenya Forest Service.


I have a vision, says tree-grower Despite challenges, Ugandan planter is determined to succeed in commercial forestry.


ree-grower Richard Bakojja spoke to Diana Ahebwe, the Miti magazine Country Representative for Uganda. Below are excerpts from the interview:

Who is Richard Bakojja? I am an economist who has worked with a number of organisations in East Africa. For example, I was a director of Land o’ Lakes, an organisation incorporated by USAID in Uganda, and later became the regional coordinator of the same organisation in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. I was appointed as the Presidential Assistant in charge of monitoring the Manifesto1 implementation in Uganda. Currently, I am one of the directors in the President’s Office in charge of implementation of the Manifesto. I am also a registered member of the Uganda Investment Authority, under the name Bakojja Wood County, as a bona-fide investor with an investment licence. What motivated you to turn to tree-growing? I have a passion for trees. I started tree-planting a long time ago in my compound, just for beautification and to fulfil my desire. When I was introduced to the commercial aspect of treeplanting, I easily took it up and started investing in it as an enterprise up to now. How did you begin commercial tree-planting? I first planted trees on my 50-hectare land in Entebbe for my own benefit, with no specifications of spacing because I didn’t know much about forestry. I started by planting tree species like Eucalyptus grandis, Pinus caribaea, Maesopsis eminii (musizi) and mahogany. I also planted some ornamentals on my compound which is about 10 acres. Then, through the Forestry Department, I learnt of a government initiative to lease mainly degraded land in forest reserves for commercial tree-planting. So I applied and A national document which incorporates the government’s plans for the people of Uganda.



Richard Bakojja talks about his tree-growing experiences. (Photo: Miti magazine)

was offered a lease of 50 years, renewable, on 1,450 hectares in Kasanda Kasambya Central Forest Reserve, Mubende District, and I started commercial tree-planting. How old are your trees, what species have you planted and why the particular species? My trees are about nine years and 6 months for Pinus caribaea and three months for Eucalyptus grandis. I started with pine because I realised it had marketable timber. I first grew it on my compound as an ornamental. When roofing my

workers’ quarters, I was asked to pay 2.6 million (Uganda shillings) for timber but I realised that my pine tree in the compound had matured so I felled it and transformed it into timber. To my surprise, I got 72 pieces of timber for roofing the house and even had a surplus. So I was inspired to begin my tree-planting business with pine. However, as I ventured into tree-planting, I realised that eucalyptus was very fast-growing. So I started planting both pine and eucalyptus for commercial purposes.

Miti January - March 2013

What are the ecological details of your planting area? I have planted on a hilly area of a degraded forest; it experiences rain throughout the year, the heaviest being in March - April and September - November. The average rainfall is 1000 - 1250mm annually and the medium annual temperature ranges from 17.2 to 290C. How many hectares have you planted? Besides the 50 hectares that I planted on my own land, I have planted 700 hectares. That is, 200 hectares of Eucalyptus grandis and 500 hectares of Pinus caribaea and I am still continuing. From where do you get seedlings? I import my own seeds from Australia, Brazil and South Africa. I have two well established nurseries in Kasanda Kasambya CFR (Kitenga sub-county, Mubende district), so I raise my own seedlings for planting. I got this idea after being trained by SPGS2. My nursery can hold up to 100,000 seedlings of different species per season, including Pinus caribaea, Eucalyptus grandis, Terminalia superba, Khaya anthotheca, mahogany from Gulu, and other indigenous species. The seedlings raised are usually for my own consumption; I do not raise seedlings for sale, and this has simplified my work. How many people do you employ and what do they do? It is hard to know the specific number of people employed in my plantation because they come to work and go but I can classify them into casual, contractors and permanent workers. On average, I employ 200 casual labourers, 120 contractors and their teams, and seven people permanently on-site.

seasons. After getting some training from SPGS, I make sure I plan accordingly and plant on time. Due to the timing, I am able to achieve 80 – 90 per cent survival per season.

were sprayed with glyphosate. Despite all the challenges, I have a vision; I have remained focused on my vision in order to achieve my set goals. I have not let anything hold me back.

What has made you succeed in commercial forestry? Determination, patience and commitment have made me achieve my goals though I am still striving to achieve more. In addition, SPGS has contributed a lot to my success through providing technical and financial support. Their strictness has made me succeed because I have always struggled to achieve the minimum standards required by SPGS.

What advice do you give to other investors, especially those who have just started or yet to start? The investment is worthwhile; it is challenging but one has to be patient and know what they want. There are no quick returns in forestry so to succeed, we have to be determined. Many individuals have joined the forestry industry – with or without support - because they have realised the benefits of tree-planting to us and to the nation.

What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them? Lack of sufficient funds is a challenge. Forestry as an investment requires a high capital outlay regardless of the support we receive from SPGS. The cost of labour and seedlings fluctuates a lot from time to time but on average, I spend 2.4 to 3 million Uganda shillings3 per hectare, from establishment up to four years when I stop tendering. Another major challenge is lack of reliable workers as most of them do not share the vision of the investor, while others do not give their best yet want to be paid regardless of whether or not they have completed the work. I once lost over 30,000 eucalyptus seedlings because they 3

Do you have anything else to add? I hope we continue getting support from the Uganda government and from those who have been funding us, in order to develop the industry and meet the demand for wood products. Through the Uganda Timber Growers Association, of which I am a member, security for our plantations should be provided to stop people stealing the trees when they mature. We also need entrepreneurial initiatives to enable us to get products from trees other than timber. For example, we could be trained on how to get paper, resin and other products from trees.

Equivalent to about Ksh 92,300 - 115,000; or 880 -1,100

What do you want to do with mature trees? Do you have plans to increase acreage or to process the raw timber? I have a big vision in commercial forestry. I have not given up on planting trees; I am still planting more trees especially eucalyptus and I have 800 more hectares to plant. After finishing up my land, I will acquire more land and proceed with the business. I have a plan of purchasing my own sawmill so that when my trees mature, I can process timber which will earn me more money. What is your planting regime? In Uganda, we have two rainy seasons a year – March to April and October to November. Each year, I plant 80 - 100 hectares of trees in the two 2

Sawlog Production Grant Scheme

Miti January - March 2013

3 Equivalent to about Ksh 92,300 - 115,000; or 880 -1,100 Euros; or US$ 1,090 - 1,350


Loading of industrial firewood in Kericho. Prices are good, as the demand by tea factories is growing and they do not produce enough for themselves. (Photo BGF)

Farm forestry to the rescue Kenyan small-holders have stepped in to grow trees to meet the demand for wood products By JOSHUA CHEBOIWO


ree-growing on farms in Kenya has a long history. It has evolved through several stages within the last 60 years in terms of planting patterns, species mix, density, utilisation, markets and marketing. KEFRI has undertaken studies on development of farm forestry in Kenya within the last 25 years that have shown regional patterns in terms of species. Grevillea robusta and Cupressus lusitanica are mostly grown in central Kenya; Casuarina equisitifolia at the coastal strip and Acacia mearnsii and Eucalyptus species in western Kenya. However, most farmers grow a mixture of these species in their agricultural land for various purposes such as fencing, timber, posts, fodder, food, poles, fuel wood and bark. Farm forestry also provides vital environmental goods and services to households and the society, such as windbreaks/shelter belts, water catchment protection, shade, soil conservation, boundary markers and enhancement of scenery. The farm forestry development is traced to various policy initiatives. One of these, The White Paper on Forest Policy of 1968, resulted in the formation of Rural Afforestation and Extension Services Division (RAES) in 1971 to facilitate its implementation through training of farmers, establishment of tree nurseries countrywide and deployment of extension staff to offer technical services to rural farmers.


Timber production in an agroforestry set-up: Melia volkensii (mukau) in Mbeere district. This exceptional tree was selected as a superior specimen by KEFRI genetists, but two years later, the owner felled it when he needed money. (Photo BGF)

Through the Local Afforestation Programmes (LAP), an estimated 370 Local Chiefs Nurseries (LCN) were established (GOK, 1989). The output of public nurseries and farmers’ backyard nurseries was over 200 million seedlings per annum by 1989; reflecting an equivalent area of between 106,000 and 168,000 hectares. The presence of trees on farms was already

significant by the 1980s in highly populated medium and high potential areas. Reports showed that woody biomass occupied 21.9 per cent of land area in Kakamega, 20.0 per cent in Kisii and 20.8 per cent in Murang’a (KWDP, 1985). Further, by 1995, reports showed that trees on farms and settlements in these areas contained an average of 9.3 cubic metres per

Miti January - March 2013

A eucalyptus (E. grandis) woodlot in Eldoret, one of the many that today supply the bulk of Kenya’s wood products needs. (Photo BGF)

hectare that was projected to increase to 27 cubic metres per hectare by 2020. This would expand annual roundwood production from 11.5 million cubic metres in 1995 to 22.2 million cubic metres and its share of national output from 65 per cent to 80 per cent. The sector was projected to grow from 690,000 hectares in 1994 to 830,000 hectares by 2020, to occupy roughly 10 per cent of the total prime agricultural land in the country. The forestry products generated from farm forestry in the form of firewood, pole wood, sawn wood, saw logs and charcoal for subsistence consumption and traded in markets was predicted to expand to Ksh 31.6 billion by 2020. Studies by KEFRI have shown that as public forests decline as major suppliers of wood products, farm forestry has filled the widening gap between demand and supply of wood products. Recent reports indicate that farm forests are producing between 300,000 and 400,000 cubic metres of saw logs and between 100,000 and 150,000 cubic metres of pulpwood annually. In its State of the World Forests, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicates that Kenya’s forests contribute at least 19 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP). On the other hand, Kenya’s Economic Surveys estimate the contribution of forests to the GDP at 1.1 per cent, a figure that has remained constant for years. This could be attributed to failure to take into account the contribution of farm forestry products, mostly consumed at household level, and small-scale enterprises and environmental goods and services. The national demand for products such as firewood, charcoal, construction timber, fencing poles, furniture and constituted products has been increasing with population growth rate, currently estimated at 2.8 per cent per year (GOK, 2009).

Key farm forestry development in Kenya Farm Forestry Productivity Efforts by KEFRI to develop high-yielding commercial tree species and intensive management techniques (mostly in the Rift Valley and central Kenya) have seen expansion of biomass production for Eucalyptus grandis from 45 to 65 cubic metres per hectare per year in high-potential areas and 16 to 35 cubic metres per hectare in low-potential areas. However, studies by KEFRI indicate that the average growth ranged from 19.8 cubic metres per hectare for poorly managed stands to 63 cubic metres per hectare for improved stands due to better germplasm selection and silvicultural management. On-going improvement work on pines and cypress will see farmers getting higher yields from commercial trees in the future.

Miti January - March 2013

Profitability of growing eucalyptus A study by KEFRI on the viability of improved Eucalyptus grandis in Kericho and Uasin Gishu shows that an eight-year-old plantation for transmission poles can generate undiscounted net revenue of over Ksh 1 million per hectare, as compared to Ksh 540,000 for E. grandis firewood and Ksh 400,000 for well-managed maize. The undiscounted gross margin for eucalyptus pole wood is Ksh 1.07million and NPV (net present value) ranges between Ksh 280,000 and Ksh 570,000. This represents an expected annual equivalent income of Ksh 57,000 to Ksh 100,000. These figures translate into perpetual income streams of between Ksh 360,000 and Ksh 1.24 million at varied discount rates. Based on the findings under the current assumptions and conditions, growing eucalyptus for production of semi-processed transmission poles in mediumpotential areas is very attractive. This explains why across the country, the number of farmers planting eucalyptus as a commercial enterprise is growing. Tree species preferences and planting patterns Although the choice of species planted on farms varies depending on ecological conditions, the dominant species are grevillea (Grevillea robusta), cypress (Cupressus lusitanica) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus saligna). Indigenous timber tree species common on farms include Meru oak (Vitex keniensis) and Cordia africana, many of which had been planted in colonial times. For example, in North Nandi Rift Valley highlands, 66 per cent of farmers plant Eucalyptus grandis, 72 per cent Cupressus lusitanica, and 35 per cent Grevillea robusta, while in the Mt Kenya region, Grevillea robusta (mukima) is the most abundant species. In Uasin Gishu, 55 per cent of trees on the farms were Acacia mearnsii (black wattle), 30 per cent cypress and 14 per cent eucalyptus, whereas in Vihiga in Western Kenya, eucalyptus was dominant at 88 per cent. In the Mt Kenya region, trees were predominantly planted on

boundaries, accounting for 49 per cent of the total planted and 37 per cent in Uasin Gishu.

Tree product supply and demand Timber - sawn wood It is estimated that consumption of timber in Kenya is approximately 12 million cubic metres per year. Of this, 2.8 to 3 million cubic metres supports key economic sectors of construction and woodworks while the rest is consumed within the production areas by households and small enterprises. The banning of roundwood harvesting in public forests in 1999 ensured there were minimal supplies of forest products from public forests; leaving farm forests to supply the bulk of marketed and local consumption. Studies by KEFRI show that between 1999 and 2012, sawn wood prices rose from Ksh 8,000 to Ksh 35,000 per tonne, with farmers and importers being the main beneficiaries. By 2005 the bulk of the trade in timber was between the farmers (62 per cent), merchants (24 per cent), and industry (12 per cent). Many regions in the country have become key suppliers of timber into the sawn wood market as shown by findings from a few selected districts in the Rift Valley (Table 1). The same is repeated in most areas in Central, Western and Nyanza provinces that are the major producers of farm forestry products in the country. Table 1: Timber movement records (tonnes) from selected districts in Rift Valley 2005 - 2009


Uasin Gishu





























Charcoal trade The Ministry of Energy estimates that the annual domestic demand for charcoal in 2005 was 2.4 million tonnes, at current prices equivalent to Ksh 48 billion. KEFRI studies show that between 1999 and 2012, farm gate prices rose from Ksh 130 to


Ksh 500 and retail outlets from Ksh 220 to Ksh 800 per bag. Most of the charcoal is produced from farms across the country - from drylands to high-potential regions - hence farmers are the major players in the charcoal value chain trade. Construction poles The national demand for construction and fencing poles was estimated at 7.23 million and was valued at Ksh 12 billion in 2005, mostly in domestic construction of houses, farm and business structures in rural and informal settlements in periurban areas. The sector is currently estimated to be worth in excess of Ksh 23 billion. The vibrant modern housing construction activities in major towns consume huge amounts of construction poles, mostly for scaffolding. Prices for construction poles have recorded a steady rise at both farm and retail levels, due to rising demand from housing developments in major towns.

Transmission poles from eucalyptus. Such poles are increasingly supplied by private farmers, in this case around Jinja in Uganda. (Photo: BGF)

Industrial firewood The Ministry of Energy estimates that 70 per cent of Kenyans use firewood for their domestic energy needs. Firewood demand is estimated at approximately 47 million tonnes per year at Ksh 94 billion. The industrial sector that comprises tea processing, food and textile industries, has switched to firewood to cut costs on expensive electricity and heavy furnace oils. Other large consumers include institutions, mostly schools and hospitals, hotels and restaurants. Non-domestic firewood demand is estimated at 20 million tonnes, valued at Ksh 40 billion. The factory gate prices of firewood rose from Ksh 600 in 1999 to Ksh 2,000 per tonne by 2012, due to stiff competition from several firewood consuming industries. The major suppliers and beneficiaries in the firewood sector are farmers. Treated transmission poles By 2010, there were 12 registered commercial treatment plants with an installed capacity of 834.1 cubic metres of wood or 580,800 poles per year, and more were under construction. The imports from Tanzania, South Africa, Brazil and Finland have reduced to a minimum with this increased local production. In 2012, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) projected demand for treated poles at Ksh 6.4 billion. Farm gate prices rose from Ksh 400 to Ksh 2,200 between 1999 and 2012 and factory gate prices from Ksh 750 to Ksh 3,800. KEFRI surveys indicate that farmers receive between 14 and 23 per cent of the KPLC transmission pole prices of between Ksh 11,000 and Ksh 15,000 per piece, with the rest being shared between logging, transport and treatment costs and merchants. Farms and private tea


Growing eucalyptus (E. saligna) and sugarcane together in an unlikely place – a few kilometres north of Kitui town. The area is known for production of construction poles that are marketed as far as Nairobi. (Photo: BGF)

estates are the major suppliers of poles for the treatment plants and most of the recent private commercial investment in the forest sector is targeted at transmission pole production. The future of farm forestry Studies by Cheboiwo and Langat (2008) indicate that farmers in high potential areas of North Rift Valley planted 38,000 hectares of trees between 2000 and 2005. The species planted were – in order of preference - Eucalyptus grandis, Cupressus lusitanica, Acacia mearnsii and Grevillea robusta. Tree-planting has been shifting from subsistence to commercial. Another survey involving 448 households in Western Kenya showed that 95 per cent of farmers planned to plant more trees on their farms. Of those, 66 per cent indicated that the purpose was commercial and 48 per cent were setting aside between 0.4 to 2 hectares for tree-planting.

Conclusions and recommendations Farm forestry has increasingly become an important economic activity in the country and trade in its various products is a multibillion business and growing. The prices of various tree products have risen in line with global trends. Farm forestry in Kenya has great potential to transform livelihoods of millions of smallholder tree-growers through diversification of on-farm incomes. Thus policy and legal reforms to support the sector will enable tree growers to tap the vast income opportunities in the forestry sector. (A list of references for this article is available at the Miti offices) The writer is Principal Research Officer, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Londiani Regional Research Centre. Email:

Miti January - March 2013

The right tree for the right zone Know the best indigenous species to plant in your area, for different uses


n this issue, we continue with the guide on the right indigenous trees to plant for the different ecological zones. Miti compiled the guide from information provided by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) Seed Centre1 with additional information from other literature2. Brun H., Albrecht J. and Kamondo B.M. 1993. The Forest Seed Zones of Kenya (Forest Ecological Zones). GTZ Forestry Seed Centre Muguga. Nairobi. Kenya. 2 Najma Dharani, Field guide to Acacias of East Africa, Struik Publishers, South Africa, 2006. Beentje, H, Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas, National Museums 1

The KEFRI guide identifies 22 forest seed zones. These are defined according to altitude, rainfall and temperature, and vegetation type. As availability of water is the most decisive factor for tree growth, the seed zones have been ranged according to humidity. Altitude is often related to rainfall, and is also very important. Soil characteristics have not been considered in the

definition of the seed zones. Tree-growers should consider this, depending on the species. The list of indigenous names is not exhaustive. Information on the more humid seed zones was carried in Miti issue 16, while the drier zones will be described in this, and the next issue.

of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, 1994. Maundu P and Bo Tengnäs B (Eds). Useful trees and shrubs for Kenya, 2005.Technical handbook no 35.Nairobi, Kenya, World Agroforestry Centre.

Seed zone


Mean annual rainfall (mm)

Mean annual temp (oC)

Mean max temp(oC)

Mean min temp (oC)

Absolute min temp (oC)

Altitude (m)

Vegetation type


Sub-humid Warm temperate to fairly warm

1000 - 1600

18 - 22

24 - 28

12 - 16


1200 - 1800

Moist and dry forest (Upper Midlands)


Acacia abyssinica (flat top acacia, mugaa, sirtuet, eyesurura, munyenya, ogongo, marambajet) A large flattopped acacia. Leaves and pods used as fodder, wood as timber, fuel and poles. Acacia polyacantha (falcon’s claw acacia, mkengewa, kivovoa, ogongo, kumukokwe) A big (18m) fast-growing acacia with durable wood, easily recognisable through its flowers (white spikes) and black curved thorns. Acacia seyal (white thorn, iddado, mweya, mugaa, mugurit, okulu, olerai, murigat) A medium-sized acacia producing edible gum and many other products. Used as medicine, fodder, and dye). Albizia gummifera (kisya, mukurue, seet, mukhonzuli) Large, flat-topped tree, fairly fast-growing, with multiple uses, including medicinal. Calodendrum capense (Cape chestnut, yangu, muraracii, kipkaria, ocharasliit) For timber, construction, but also ornamental. Slow-growing. Cordia africana (mukumari, muvutu, muringa, mukobokobo, muzigio, samut) Moderately fast-growing. Multiple uses including timber and also ornamental. Croton megalocarpus (musine, muthulu, mukinduri, masineitet, mukigara, ortuet) Large, spreading tree. Uses include timber, firewood and seeds contain good quality oil. Dombeya torrida (boloet, mukeu, kumukusa, monde, sibukuet) Important timber tree, multi-branched. Erythrina abyssinica (red-hot poker tree, mbamba ngoma, muvuti, muhuti, kumurembe, karkar) Slowgrowing. For timber, tools, ornamental, medicine.

Miti January - March 2013

Juniperus procera (pencil cedar, mukuu, mutarakwa) For timber, it is termite resistant, fairly fast-growing. Markhamia lutea (siala, muu, lusiola, mobet, kumusoola) Fast-growing and well coppicing; its wood is hard, tough and mostly termite resistant. Can grow on heavy clay. Good for poles. Milicia excelsa (mvule, iroko, kitanguri, murumba, olua, mururi, murie) A big tree; producing excellent timber. Overexploited; slow growth. Olea europaea (wild olive, muthata, mutamaiyu, emitiot, kumunyubuti, kang’o, emidit) Slow-growing but very valuable. Heavy wood. Its Mediterranean subspecies is the commercial olive tree for oil and olives. Prunus africana (red stinkwood, mueri, muiru, kiburabura, mwiritsa, tenduet, kumuturu) Large, fairly slow-growing, excellent timber tree also used for medicinal purposes - bark for prostate medicine. Sesbania sesban (sesbania, osaosao, munyongo, loiyangalani, musungiri) A very fast-growing shrub with soft wood, used for firewood (poles) and agroforestry. Terminalia brownii (muuku, manera, haririgo, mbarao, mururuku, koloswo) Fairly fast-growing, good coppicing, hard durable timber. Also for poles, good charcoal, medicinal. Warburgia ugandensis (East African greenheart, muthaiga, moissot, omenyakige, abaki, osokonoi, soget) Fairly fast-growing, coppicing, important medicinal tree. Wood good for timber and building, but not termite resistant.


Seed zone


Mean annual rainfall (mm)

Mean annual temp (oC)

Mean max temp(oC)

Mean min temp (oC)

Absolute min temp (oC)

Altitude (m)

Vegetation type


Sub-humid Warm to very hot

1000 - 1600

22 - 30

28 - 36

16 - 24

8 - 16

0 - 1200

Moist and dry forest (Lower Midlands, Lowlands)



Semi-humid Fairly cool

Tamarindus indica (tamarind, mkwadju, kithumula, Hyphaene compressa (doum palm, mkoma, irara, kone, muruguyu, iparwa) Slow-growing, branching palm tree with kumukhuwa, lemaiyua, mkwachu, muthithi, epeduru) A multiple uses. Produces hard and valuable timber, also for food, very hardy fruit tree, slow-growing, easy to establish. palm wine, baskets and mats, etc. 800 - 1400

14 - 16

20 - 22

8 - 10


2150 - 2450

Dry forest and moist woodland (Lower Highlands)

Species Acacia abyssinica (flat top acacia, mugaa, sirtuet, eyesurura, munyenya, ogongo, marambajet) A large, flattopped acacia. Leaves and pods used as fodder, wood as timber, fuel and poles. Acacia gerrardii (muthi, chepitet, akurukuru, chesams) A flat-topped acacia, fast-growing with high groundwater. For timber, fuel and poles. Acacia lahai (red thorn, mugaa, chepitet, alaktar, kumunyenya, ketetia, oldebesi) A flat-topped acacia up to 15m high, timber used in construction. Acacia seyal (white thorn, iddado, mweya, mugaa, mugurit, okulu, olerai, murigat) A medium-sized acacia producing edible gum and many other products. A drink is made from the bark. Used for medicine, fodder and dye. Acacia nilotica (mgunga, mtetewe, musemei, chepitet, ol-kiloriti, chalabdo, munga) A medium-sized umbrella tree, fast-growing. Has multiple uses including medicine, fuel, dye, tanning, for drinking, poles. Calodendrum capense (Cape chestnut, yangu, muraracii, kipkaria, ocharasliit) For timber, construction, but also ornamental. Slow growing. Cassipourea malosana (pillar wood, muthaguta, muthaithi, muangaita, martit) A tall tree with very hard wood. For timber but attacked by borers. Celtis africana (camdeboo stinkwood, akasinga, murundu, chepkeleliet, mweyu, olmositet) Produces strong timber though prone to rotting. For building, furniture and tool handles. Combretum molle (rokess, kiama, murema, kemeliet, ol-mororoi, kemelet) A small, slow- growing tree, producing excellent charcoal and bee forage. Also for poles, timber, medicinal. Cordia africana (mukumari, muvutu, muringa, mukobokobo, muzigio, samut) Moderately fast- growing tree. Multiple uses including timber, and also ornamental.


Diospyros abyssinica (Abyssinian diospiros, lusui, mdaa-mwitu, muiruthi, cheptuiyet, ochol) A big, slowgrowing tree. It coppices, producing hard and tough wood; almost termite resistant. Dombeya torrida (boloet, mukeu, kumukusa, monde, sibukuet) Important timber tree, multibranched. Ekebergia capensis (ekebergia, teldet, mpoto wa ndovu mkuu, mukongu, mununga, kumusilisisi) Medium-sized to large tree, fairly fast-growing; for timber and other uses. Erythrina abyssinica (red-hot poker tree, mbamba ngoma, muvuti, muhuti, kumurembe, karkar) Slowgrowing; for timber, tools, ornamental and medicine. Juniperus procera (pencil cedar, mukuu, mutarakwa) For timber; termite-resistant, fairly fastgrowing. Olea europaea (wild olive, muthata, mutamaiyu, emitiot, kumunyubuti, kang’o, emidit) Slow-growing but produces very valuable, heavy wood. Its Mediterranean subspecies is the commercial olive tree for oil and olives. Podocarpus falcatus (podo, benet, muthengera, saptet, pirripirriet) This has smaller leaves, and can stand drier areas than P. latifolius. It produces general utility yellow softwood. Prunus africana (red stinkwood, mueri, muiru, kiburabura, mwiritsa, tenduet, kumuturu) A large, fairly slow-growing, excellent timber tree; also medicinal (bark for prostate medicine). Syzygium guinense (Guinea waterberry, mshiwi, kivuena, mukoe, lamaiyat, obusitole/omusitole, lomaiwo) A large, strong forest tree with strong, brown timber.

Miti January - March 2013

A common sight in the Ugandan countryside. Innovative and efficient transportation of bananas. Note the bags of charcoal to the left. (Photo BGF)

Protection under a canopy The contribution of trees and shrubs to the productivity of bananas in Uganda By JUSTINE MWANJE AND KENNETH NYOMBI


ananas and plantains (family Musaceae) are perennial herbs grown in the tropics and sub-tropics, and perform best at altitudes below 1,800 metres above sea level. They require deep, rich, well-drained soils and an average temperature range of 17−24°C. The annual rainfall should be 1,500−2,000mm, evenly distributed throughout the year, and a water table not higher than 1 metre below the surface. However, most banana-growing areas in Uganda receive sub-optimal rainfall ranging from 900 to 1,300mm per annum, with dry spells from June to July and from December to February. Varieties include the cooking, apple, dessert (Cavendish and FHIA) bananas and plantains. Optimum air temperatures of about 25 - 27 °C are important for favourable growth. A banana plant consists of the corm (true stem) from which fibrous roots (primary, secondary and tertiary), the pseudo-stem and the leaves grow. The plant grows to a height of 2 to 6 metres, depending on the cultivar, and each stem dies away after bearing fruit once. Side shoots usually sprout from the base of the plant (stool) and bear fruit in 8 to 15 months.

Miti January - March 2013

Bananas are sensitive to environmental factors such as temperature, drought and wind because they are shallow-rooted. Due to the height of the canopy, other crops can be planted underneath the bananas. Bananas can be grown alone, or mixed with trees.

Trees in banana plantations In agro-forestry, trees or shrubs are grown alongside agricultural crops, pastures or livestock. Agro-forestry systems have been practised for ages by farmers in Africa, with obvious benefits. Trees may be scattered or distributed randomly in banana plantations. This works because bananas are shade-tolerant. Nevertheless, it is necessary to cut some or all the branches of the trees, to enhance nutrient recycling, and to allow radiation penetrate deeper into the banana canopy. Tree species should be selected carefully based on the canopy characteristics, growth rates, ease of litter to decompose and competition with crops for nutrients and water. Examples include Albizia species (peacock flower, mugavu, musita, musisa), Senna siamea

(mjohoro), Grevillea robusta (silky oak, mukima, omakabiria, wakhuisi, bolebolea, kapkawet), Sesbania sesban (sesbania, osaosao, munyongo, loiyangalani, musungiri), Cordia abyssinica (C. africana or mukumari, muvutu, muringa, mukobokobo, muzigio, samut), Markhamia lutea (siala, muu, lusiola, mobet, kumusoola) among others. Trees can be planted on the land boundaries, but this sometimes needs to be agreed between neighbouring farmers. Two rows of trees may be planted, one for each farmer. However, one needs to bear in mind that this occupies a lot of space. For a single row, the farmers can agree on how to own the trees, or the line of trees on each section of the boundary. Species selection should also be done with care, but Cordia abyssinica, Croton megalocarpus (musine, muthulu, mukinduri, masineitet, mukigara, ortuet) and Grevillea robusta are common on boundaries. Trees can also be planted for soil and water conservation; either alone or in combination with grasses. On slopes that are less than 8 per cent, trees should be planted with grasses. The tree roots stabilise the soil as the weight of the


tree exerts pressure on the soil. Terraces can be created on slopes, and trees planted thereon. Trees can also be planted on other soil and water conservation structures such as the Fanya Juu and Fanya Chini structures. Fanya Juu is made by digging soil and depositing it uphill, to form a ridge and a trench. In the case of Fanya Chini, the soil is deposited downhill, to form a ridge on the lower part. Alley-cropping is the growing of bananas and other crops between lines of trees or shrubs managed and spaced at regular intervals. This is suitable for areas with declining soil fertility and where farmers cannot afford inorganic fertiliser and animal manure. The system is prevalent in areas with higher rainfall – more than 1,000mm per annum - with small landholdings and high population density. To reduce shading on flat land, the rows of trees or shrubs should be in an east-west direction to allow radiation penetration. Rows on sloping land should be oriented along the contours. Species such as Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena), Calliandra calothyrsus, Gliricidia sepium (mother of cocoa) and Senna siamea are appropriate. Trees and shrubs are normally planted as windbreaks in large banana plantations. Nonetheless, boundary planting and live fences are also useful in small-scale farming. The windbreaks should be planted at right angles to the usual direction of the wind. Management involves weeding and replanting of dead seedlings, protection from livestock and fire. To maintain density and minimise shading, the trees should be cut regularly. Examples of trees include Albizia species, Grevillea robusta, Cordia abyssinica and Markhamia lutea. Home gardens are usually located at or close to the home. In addition to providing products and services, the gardens are easy and convenient to manage and enable re-use of household water. Home gardens consist of bananas, vegetables, fruit trees, medicinal plants, fodder, grasses and shrubs which are intensively cultivated.

Interaction between trees and bananas during the dry season A myriad of benefits accrue from planting carefully selected trees with bananas, in an agro-forestry system. If this is planned well, agricultural production and productivity can be increased tremendously. During the lifetime of a tree, leaves, twigs and branches fall to the ground as litter. Trees


not only reduces wind speeds but also settles dust. This is especially valuable because bananas are shallow-rooted and thus susceptible to strong winds. Trees can strengthen and stabilise soil and water conservation structures in banana plantations. Alley cropping with Leucaena Trees planted on terrace edges leucocephala, a nitrogen-fixing stabilise the structure and maximise small tree. (Photo: Justine Mwanje) land use, reducing soil erosion almost by half. This is vitally important during can also be managed and the biomass cut and the dry season when the structures used as mulch or for nutrient transfer. Mulch and are vulnerable to cracking and crumbling. litter reduce wind erosion. When litter and mulch Bananas can be planted just below the terrace decompose, the organic matter content of the edge, and thus benefit from the moisture that soil increases. Soil rich in organic matter absorbs accumulates in the wet season, and is available and retains more water and is less susceptible to for some time during the dry season. wind erosion. The shade provided by trees reduces stress Organic matter improves the cation caused by dry winds or storms. In addition, shaded exchange capacity (CEC) of the soil, meaning it bananas consume less moisture and this ensures makes it more fertile. Weeds on the ground are good yields during the dry season. As trees suppressed by the presence of litter and mulch, consume moisture from the soil and transpire reducing competition for water and minerals. to cool the leaves, this raises humidity and the The organic inputs into soil enrich its species shading lowers leaf temperatures. Reduced diversity (flora and fauna), which through their radiation reaching the soil surface results into activities influence the physical and chemical slower organic matter decomposition, improved properties of the soil. The overall impact on structure and water-holding capacity of the soil. production and productivity depends on the tree Planting various species of trees and shrubs species, management practices and the site. in a banana plantation diversifies the landscape. Some trees turn atmospheric nitrogen The flowers of certain trees and shrubs attract into soil nitrogen, through a process known as bees, which also pollinate the bananas. Banana nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen fixation increases and honey production could increase. However, soil fertility and is very important to smallholder bees may transmit banana bacterial wilt – BBW. farmers in Uganda. When part of the tree above Trees and shrubs make the environment the ground is cut, the nitrogen-rich roots die-back pleasant to look at. Bird nests in the trees may and release nutrients into the soil. However, the enrich the environment, thus increasing the amount of phosphorus, iron and molybdenum in potential for agro-ecotourism. the soil needs to be enough to enhance nitrogen fixation. Conclusion Trees are more efficient than bananas at Because of their effect on the soil, microabsorbing nutrients deep in the soil, because tree climate and species diversity, trees and shrubs roots penetrate deeper into the soil. Tree roots are crucial in the quest to achieve sustainable absorb nutrients from the deeper soil strata and banana systems. Optimal yields can only be deposit most of them on the soil surface in litter. achieved if careful planning is done by the Thus, nutrients that have been leached from farmer, with technical advice. Farmers should the top-soil are recycled and made available to adopt agro-forestry on a commercial scale (agrithe bananas. In this way, trees act as “nutrient business) for improved production, productivity pumps”. Nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen, and poverty eradication. calcium, magnesium and many micro-nutrients that are needed by bananas are thus made Justine Mwanje is a Forestry Consultant at available by the trees. Banana production can Uganda Forestry Association double in an alley-cropping system. Trees reduce wind speeds and enhance settling of dust during the dry season. Kenneth Nyombi is a lecturer at the Atmospheric nutrients are conveyed to the soil College of Agricultural and Environmental when they settle with dust (e.g. about 20 kg of Sciences,Makerere University nitrogen per hectare) thus improving soil fertility. Email: Planting a belt of trees at specific locations in a banana plantation results into a barrier, which

Miti January - March 2013

And the dam came tumbling down Why do earth dams break? By ERIK NISSEN-PETERSEN


What are the rules of thumb for a safe freeboard and safe spillway? This writer constructed a small earth dam manually in 1976 with two spillways having a combined width equal to 1/3 of the length of the dam wall and a freeboard of 1m in a catchment area of 4 km2. The small earth dam is still functioning after these 36 years, although the reservoir is now shallow due to siltation. Again, the convex crest has sunk to become a concave crest, which has reduced the freeboard, thereby exposing the dam wall to a wash-out.

Wanza Dam at Kathyaka, Kibwezi, built in 1976 and still functioning.

The middle section washed out of a new earth dam. The earth dam in the photo below lasted only until the first rain washed the middle section down the valley. The failure was due to one small spillway and a concave crest.

Dam wall with convex crest

Spillway (All photos: Erik Nissen-Petersen)


here are several reasons why pans, ponds and small earth dams break and become useless structures. Who or what is to blame? The weather is the first to be blamed because it can rain as never before and the rainwater breaks a dam wall. Yes, the unusual weather with longer droughts and short-lived but higher intensity rainfall has broken many dams – and will break many more as the global warming increases. Although engineers routinely use the highest rainfall intensity in the previous 50 years to draw safe designs of earth dams, such dams are still washed away. Perhaps it is now time to use rain data for the last 100 years instead of 50 years, or to build in an extra safety factor. Also, with disappearing vegetation and compaction by livestock and by the rain itself, infiltration rates in catchment areas have gone down, and run-off has increased, as well as its speed. All ponds and earth dams should have three safety features that prevent damage to the dam walls, namely - 1) the spillways, 2) the freeboard and 3) a convex crest. The first safety feature is that ponds and earth dams should have two wide spillways, one at each side of the dam wall, to discharge surplus water quickly when the dam reservoir has filled up with rainwater. It is risky for a dam to have only one spillway because floating debris, such as tree branches and scrubs, can block the spillway, thereby raise the water level above the other safety feature; the freeboard. When that happens, a large part of the dam wall will be washed away within minutes. The freeboard is the height from the maximum water level (MWL) to the height of two ends of the dam wall, as shown by the broken line in the sketch. The height of a freeboard depends on the volume and intensity of rainwater running in its catchment, as well as the capacity of the two spillways to discharge surplus water quickly, which depends on their width. Many earth dams have broken because farmers do not like to see all that surplus water going “down the drain” over the spillways. So what to do? “Easy, we raise the height of the spillways so that more water can be stored in the dam reservoir.” However, by doing so, the height of the freeboard is reduced and water will flow over the dam wall, while taking a large amount of soil with it and leaving the dam reservoir without any water at all.

The freeboard is the height between the floor of the spillways and the end of the dam wall.

Miti January - March 2013


The rate of “settlement” of soil in a newly-built dam depends on the compaction method applied. Less or no compaction is compensated for by increasing the height of the convex crest as shown on the sketch. Even old dams may require heightening the middle of the crest.

A valley dam lacking a convex crest and two wide spillways. Siltation of dam reservoir reduces the storage capacity of water in earth dams. Silt traps made of stones and vegetation, across the inflow channel of water, prevent siltation, if the fertile silt is regularly removed from the silt traps. Height of a convex crest depending on compaction method. If the slopes (batter) of a dam wall are eroded like the one shown in the photo below, it is just a matter of time before that section of the dam wall is washed out. Do not let livestock graze on dam walls because that causes erosion, followed by breakage of dam walls.

A silt trap made of stones inter-planted with vegetation. Seepage loss of water through the floor of earth dams is a common problem for new dams, especially, when built on sandy soil. Seepage can be reduced by compacting the floor with a tractor or a herd of livestock.

An eroded dam wall exposed to disaster. The spillways of this beautiful new valley dam below appear to be too small as they cannot be seen. Another risky feature is that the crest is straight instead of being convex.

A newly constructed earth dam with seepage losses. The writer is the Managing Director, ASAL Consultants Ltd. Email:

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Mukau: A Kenyan drylands tree with a bright future

George Mayanja

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Miti January - March 2013

Better Globe Forestry Ltd

Making Africa greener

Making Africa greener Better Globe Forestry (BGF) is part of The Better Globe Group from Norway, which focuses on the need to fight poverty through promoting massive tree planting and sustainable agricultural programmes. BGF’s vision is to create secure commercial projects with vital humanitarian and environmental activities and as a result become the biggest tree planting company in the world within 20 years.

Land in Kiambere before planting. Note the omnipresent soil erosion

The mission of BGF is to make Africa a greener, healthier place in which to live and eradicate poverty by focusing on the development of profitable, commercial tree plantations that will deliver environmental as well as humanitarian benefits. Miti magazine is a publication of Better Globe. It is the policy of BGF to, among other things: • Create attractive financial opportunities for present and future investors, Continuously identify and address the needs of employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders, the community at large and any other stakeholders, • Focus on the need to help fight poverty, through promoting massive tree planting • Create and sustain motivation throughout the organisation for meeting its business objectives, • Continuously maintain and review an effective and efficient Quality System which as a minimum satisfies the requirements of the appropriate Quality System standard(s), • Continuously improve the performance of all aspects of the organisation.

Workers clearing a thicket in Nyangoro in preparation for tree planting

Our nursery at Kiambere

A two-year-old plantation of Melia volkensii in Kiambere

Workers in BGF’s plantation in Kiambere, after receiving a food donation

A Melia volkensii plus -tree part of our genetic improved programme

Preparing for planting in Kiambere

The committee of Witu Nyongoro ranch with Rino Solberg and Jean-Paul Deprins

MITI 17  

The tree business magazine for Africa, MITI ISSUES 17, the road to national forest programme in Kenya

MITI 17  

The tree business magazine for Africa, MITI ISSUES 17, the road to national forest programme in Kenya