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KOMAZA project rescues dryland farmers TBPT does more than multiply cloned eucalypts Diseases of the mukau Forestation through golf ‘Mathenge’ could realise economic benefits

Ksh 250 Ush 7,000 I s s u e N o .8 O c t o b e r - De c e mb er 2010

Is it time to lift the logging ban? The reasons behind it, the effect and the way forward

A tree for all regions

Although primarily grown at the coast, casuarina thrives elsewhere

Born in a timber family

Top Ugandan tree planter has a vision for the wood industry

People power in reclaiming land Experiences from the Western Kenya Integrated Ecosystem Management Project

The Magazine for the Children of Africa


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BINGWA magazine is an educational yet fun magazine with plenty of stories, puzzles and cartoons in English and Swahili languages. There are also competitions in every issue with lots of prizes to be won. BINGWA magazine is targeted at children aged between 10 and 13 years. It is published every term with some copies distributed free of charge to primary schools countrywide. BINGWA is now available for subscription at Ksh 300 per year. It is also available in selected outlets. For more information contact us on 020 434 32 68 , 0719 619 006 or email us at Visit our website



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Thank you all



Readers’ views


Is it time to lift the logging ban?

The reasons behind it, the effect and the way forward


Inching towards lifting the ban

Industry puts its house in order in preparation for a new era


A turn for the better?

Things may be looking up for the timber trade


A tree for all regions Although primarily grown at the coast, casuarina thrives in a wide range of climatic conditions


Diseases of the mukau

The last 10 years have seen isolated symptoms on the species, mainly caused by fungi


Forestry Society addresses climate change

Stakeholders chart the way forward


Embedded in science

Despite his administrative duties, Dr Ben Chikamai, the Director of KEFRI, remains close to his calling


In the footsteps of the father

SOS Vocational Training Centre “off spring” replicate the SOS philosophy


All set for future forestry

The Tree Biotechnology Programme Trust does more than multiply cloned eucalypts


Bringing tree growers together

The Uganda Timber Growers Association looks out for the interests of commercial forestry




Trees to the rescue

KOMAZA project helps Kenya dryland farmers to protect their land and overcome poverty


Born in a timber family

Top Ugandan tree planter’s vision is to provide for the scarcity of timber in the country


A tree with multiple uses

Contrary to its bad reputation, Prosopis (mathenge) can realise economic benefits


Constructing tabias

Some practical guidelines


Water below the sand

Sub-surface dams are built under the sand surface of seasonal riverbeds; how can they supply water?


Involving people in reclaiming the land

Experiences from the Western Kenya Integrated Ecosystem Management Project


A gift for baby Jesus

So, what is this myrrh that the Magi presented to the newborn?


Forestation through golf

KFS launches an initiative to plant 50,000 trees per year Mukau: A Ken with a brig yan drylands tree ht future Yatta farm er makes farming big busines tree s Interview with Uga ndan farm George May er, anja

On the cover: A healthy and good looking pine plantation (Pinus patula) in Wire Hills Forest, Oyugis, Rachuonyo district (Nyanza Conservancy). KFWG assists the local community with drafting of a participatory management plans. (Photo KFWG)

KOMAZA project rescues TBPT doe dryland s more than farmers Diseases multiply of the muk cloned eucalypt au Forestat s ion thro ugh golf ‘Mathen ge’ could realise econ omic ben efits Ksh 250 Ush 7,000

Issu e No.8 Oct obe

Is it ti e to the lom gging libft an?

The reason s behind and the way forwa it, the effect rd

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Experien ces Ecosystem from the Weste rn Manage ment Pro Kenya Integrated ject


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Thank you all


he end of 2010 coincides with the publication of Miti issue 8. As Miti is a quarterly magazine, it means we can blow two candles on the birthday cake. This has been made possible by the never faltering motivation of the team, the continuous input of the members of the editorial committee and our contributors and the fantastic response of our readers. We thank them all as well as all who have given an input that has allowed us to lift the magazine on its way to total quality. On November 19, 2010, in a speech read on behalf of Kenya’s Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Noah Wekesa, the Permanent Secretary, Mohammed Wa Mwachai, announced the government’s plan to lift the ban on logging imposed in 2000. There were very good reasons for the ban at the time but today, it is largely perceived that the ban has adverse effects on forest conservation, sustainable forest management, the value of timber and wood products, employment and the environment in general, not only in Kenya, but in the larger region. In this issue, Simiyu Wasike gives us the historical background as well as the positive and negative consequences of the logging ban. Rudolf Makhanu looks at what has been done to prepare for the lifting of the ban, and Wanjiru Ciira interviewed officials of the Kenya Timber Manufacturers Association. Dr Ben Chikamai, a very passionate scientist, opens up to Jan Vandenabeele about KEFRI, of which he is the Director. Musingo Mbuvi and Jane Njuguna, researchers at the same institution, write on the research done by KEFRI on casuarina and on diseases that seem to have appeared in mukau in the last decade. However, our magazine is about business and Wanjiru interviewed Cornelius Mbithi, a true entrepreneur in the woodwork sector, who, together with three partners, has taken on high quality furniture making. The forestry sector is in permanent evolution and this means research and the introduction of profitable new techniques. The tree Biotechnology Programme, headed by Benson Kanyi, is an example in this area. Uganda is very active in matters of afforestation and we would like to highlight this more. Jan has done some homework on the workings of the Uganda Timber Growers Association and compiled some valuable information given to him by Robert Nabanyumya, their Executive Director. You will also read from the latter about the galvanised efforts of the timber growers in Uganda. The good and bad of Prosopis, commonly known as Mathenge in Kenya, have been analysed by Simon Choge, a Principal Research Officer in the Drylands Programme of KEFRI. George Ayaga, a researcher at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute looks at the Western Kenya Integrated Ecosystem Management Project while Tevis Howard, Founder and Executive Director of KOMAZA, explains the organisation’s micro-forestry model that allows poor families to profit from tree farming. Finally Francis Gachathi, reveals the origins of myrrh, which, according to the Bible, the Magi offered to the newborn Jesus. I herewith, in name of the whole Miti team, take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2011. Jean-Paul Deprins

Published by:

Chairman of the Editorial Board:

Editorial Coordinator – Uganda

TQML LTD P.O. Box 823 – 00606 Nairobi, Kenya Tel: + 254 20 434 3435 Mobile: + 254 722 758 745 Email:

Rino Solberg

Joshua Ondyer

Editorial Committee

Contributing Editor

Joshua Cheboiwo, Enock Kanyanya, James Kung’u, Fridah Mugo, Jackson Mulatya, Leakey Sonkoyo, Jean-Paul Deprins, Jan Vandenabeele, Mundia Muchiri and Wanjiru Ciira

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Uganda office: MITI MAGAZINE ® P.O. Box 22232 Kampala, Uganda Mobile: + 256 752 896 205 Email:

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Editor-in-chief Jean-Paul Deprins

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Advertising and subscription - Uganda Brandvision Agency Ltd Tel: +256 312 111 854 or +256 414 530 259 COPYRIGHT © BETTER GLOBE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Miti October-December 2010

Miti Inbox Include areas outside ASAL

I have read a number of issues of Miti magazine. I find it educative and appealing, especially in unveiling the potential that exists in the forestry sector. The only shortfall of the magazine is its focus on arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) or marginalised areas. I think the publishers of the magazine do this to stir up the exploitation of the untapped potential. However, this comes at the expense of high potential areas where large populations are languishing in poverty despite the available resources. The magazine should unveil opportunities in high potential areas as well. Please balance the coverage to meet the demand of all and the magazine shall be much more appealing. Isaac B Simiyu Kenya Forest Service Trans Nzoia Zone

‘Miti’ is informative

I am an ardent reader of Miti magazine, which I find very informative. My thematic areas of interest have been on tree propagation, value addition on tree by-products, research and development, climate change and entrepreneurship. I would like to see more articles on carbon markets and especially how, as a country and as individuals, we stand to benefit. Finally, please tell the truth about Moringa oleifera (horse radish tree) as an investment crop. Samuel Muema Tree Biotechnology Programme Trust Karura, Nairobi

FOREST DAY 4 Forest Day 4 will be held on December 5, 2010 in Cancun, Mexico, alongside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 16th Conference of the Parties. Forest Day 4 will bring together the world’s leading scientists and thinkers on forests and climate change to inform the global agenda. It aims to build on past Forest Day events and increase global awareness of the role forests play in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Forest Day 4 aims to, among others: > Reinforce and clarify the position of forests as key to the emerging global climate > Provide a forum where a wide range of stakeholders and world leaders can discuss new challenges and issues arising from the implementation of REDD+ and adaptation schemes to alleviate climate change. > Provide a platform for the presentation and discussion of new science relevant to forest and climate policy and practice. > Engage international and local media in issues of forests and climate change.

Article inspired me

Your coverage of mango growing in Miti issue 5 (January to March 2010) really inspired me. As a result, in July I planted 410 Tommy Atkins seedlings on a two-anda-half acre piece of land in Kisumu Rural Constituency. I am planning to inter-crop the same with 1,000 pawpaw plants at the onset of the rains, whilst expanding the mango project by another 600 seedlings. In the meantime, I would appreciate if you could run an article that focuses on the market prices and the dynamics of processing of mangoes and pawpaws for export.


Magazine has helped us We have been reading some interesting facts and articles about deforestation in your magazine, Miti. We have recently finished our resolution writing and your magazine has been a lot of help and an inspirational source. Thank you for your help. Jennifer Kyllergard, Swedish School Nairobi

Onyango Obiero Gulf Africa Bank Nairobi

For more information, visit the Forest Day 4 website

He who plants a tree plants a hope. - Lucy Larcom (1826-1893), Plant a Tree

The views expressed in Miti magazine are the writers’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of Better Globe or TQML. WRITE TO US We welcome feedback on any article you have read in Miti magazine, or on any issue on tree planting, afforestation and related matters. Please include your name, address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for clarity or space. Please send your letters to: The Editor Miti magazine P.O. Box 823 – 00606 Nairobi, Kenya. Email:


Miti magazine P.O. Box 22232 Kampala, Uganda. Email:

Miti October-December 2010

Two blocks of cypress (Cupressus lusitanica) in North Rift Conservancy, one old (and not thinned) and the other one very young (and really densely planted). (Photo KFS)

Is it time to lift the

logging ban?

The reasons behind it, the effect and the way forward

Forest blocks in Kenya. This map gives the location of each gazetted forest and plantation in Kenya. (Source: KFS)

By Simiyu B Wasike


he ban on timber harvesting in Kenya was initially gazetted in October 1999 to last for three months. It was then extended indefinitely in March 2000 through a Cabinet decision. It covered all cutting in the forests including silvicultural thinnings, clear fells and sanitary cuttings to remove the diseased, dying and dead materials from spreading diseases in plantations. The aim of the ban was to control the unsustainable harvesting of exotic plantation forests then prevailing. It also aimed at giving the Forest Department time to take stock of the existing wood resources in the country, and develop and adapt management practices and strategies that would achieve sustainability. The ban initially covered all wood-based industries such as sawmilling, plywood and paper. However, a few companies were later exempted from the ban due to their role in employment, value addition and contribution to the national economy in general. The companies exempted were Pan Paper Mills, Raiplywood, Timsales and Comply. The wood industries in Kenya have largely depended on short-rotation industrial plantation forests established by the Forest Service. The plantations have also acted as a buffer to the natural indigenous forests, which are critical for

Miti October-December 2010

water and biodiversity conservation and other services. The ban has therefore considerably reduced the buffering role and its effects on natural forests, resulting in deteriorating conditions in catchment areas and critical biodiversity hot spots. This article therefore reviews the status of forest management and the measures already undertaken to restore sound sustainable management in Kenya forests.

Historical background As early as 1902, the British Colonial Forest Service realised that the indigenous tree species which were producing quality timber were slowgrowing and could not meet the rising demand for wood products in the area reserved for forests. They therefore embarked on trials with exotic hardwood species (mainly eucalyptus) and exotic coniferous species (pines and cypress). After the Second World War, the trials had yielded positive results and the establishment of plantations of fast-growing exotic species became the colonial Government Forest Policy. The exotic industrial plantations programme had the following major objectives: • Provide raw materials for poles, fuel wood, timber, plywood, paper and other wood products demanded by the economy on a

sustainable basis.

• Serve as a buffer to protect the indigenous forests, which act as critical catchment areas, biodiversity hot spots, and wildlife, soil and water conservation sites. These plantations would provide all the wood resources that would otherwise be obtained from the indigenous forests. • Provide specialised quality products such as transmission poles, long fibre pulp, resins and other materials not obtainable from indigenous species. The long-term objective was to convert up to 9 per cent of gazetted forests falling outside catchment areas, biodiversity hot spots and fragile ecosystems, into industrial plantations. By 1995, the programme covered 165,000 ha. About 35,000 ha of plantations were excised during the massive excisions of 2001. As a result, today these plantations cover 130,000 ha, consisting of 12 per cent eucalyptus, 25 per cent pines, 52 per cent cypress and 11 per cent mixed species, including indigenous. This is 6 per cent of the total forest area under the management of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS)1. 1 Note of the Technical Editor: This means that the total forest area under management by KFS is 2.16 million ha. Another publication (Forest law enforcement and governance in Kenya, 2007) mentions 1.7 million ha of forests under gazettement.


The remaining 94 per cent is still indigenous forest, comprising 27 per cent wooded grassland and 67 per cent stocked indigenous forest including bamboo forests. The successful establishment of the industrial plantations at reasonably low cost depended on an elaborate agro-forestry system known as the Shamba System where workers grew agricultural crops for two years before and after planting trees. The arrangement reduced the cost of site preparation and early maintenance of the forest crop. To implement the Shamba System, the Forest Department constructed villages, health facilities, schools and markets in the forest for the forest workers. The workers on their part acquired necessary skills for forest operations such as planting, pruning and thinning. The villages and other infrastructure were demolished during 1988 – 1989 and the workers evicted from the forest. The usual budgetary allocation to the forest sector was also slashed, making it impossible to sustain the required forest operations under the plantation programme. All these affected the long-term forest policy of managing the industrial plantation programme on a sustainable basis to supply wood resources to the economy and to protect the indigenous forests for environmental conservation. By 1999 when the logging ban was imposed, there was obvious chaos brought about by briefcase saw-millers, politically influential persons and nepotism in the forest administration.

Reasons for the ban The ban, which has had an adverse effect on forestry practice and management in Kenya, was imposed because of the following concerns: • Breakdown in licensing procedures for executions of thinnings and clear fells. A number of briefcase saw-millers with political connections got allocations, instead of bona-fide millers. Controlling the politically influential Kenyan briefcase sawmillers became a nightmare. • Consistent political interference in the management of forests, which resulted in the breakdown in professionalism, poor governance and encroachment of forests. Appointments to posts to the service became haphazard and no ethics were followed in forestry management. • Overcutting, especially clear fells and thinnings of the larger trees instead of diseased, dead, dying and suppressed trees. Considerable reduction in the planting programme, resulting in a backlog of unplanted forest land, which was later,


Illegal activities in a protected area. Tree felling for charcoal production, Eburu Forest, Kiambogo area (Mau Conservancy). (Photo KFWG)

encroached through political instigation. • Lack of management plans, felling plans and proper inventory of the growing stock to determine how much should be cut on a sustainable basis. The number of professional foresters and technicians was reduced and there were inadequate resources to do the work. • Lack of records on bona-fide wood manufacturers to determine their demands for forest resources and to decide on who should be licensed, and lack of long-term plans to cater for the resources. • Inadequate policy and legal framework governing forestry practice.

Impact of the ban on forest management Despite its inappropriateness in forestry practice, the ban has had some positive as well as negative consequences. These can be outlined as follows: Positive consequences • Provided an opportunity to inventory the resource (growing stock) which will form the basis for developing felling plans, planting programmes and management plans. Already, most of the plantation forests have been inventoried and the next phase will cover indigenous forests. • Provided time to reduce the backlog in areas cleared and not yet re-forested. • It has offered farmers an opportunity to market their forest produce at high prices, thereby promoting tree growing in farms as a commercial enterprise. • In the absence of the normal species used for timber, Kenyans have turned to other species hitherto regarded as non-commercial. This has led to more prudent use of available wood resources. • In the absence of timber as the major source of revenue, the ban has forced the Kenya Forest Service KFS to look for other sources of revenue such as ecotourism, non-wood forest products and other services provided by forests.

Negative consequences • Accumulation of 38,000 hectares of overmature and mature plantations valued at over Ksh 36 billion. Most of the timber is undergoing deterioration due to heart rot and windfalls. In addition, there are approximately 18,000 hectares of forest plantations between ages 10 and 22 years that are due for commercial thinning. The value of these thinning is estimated at about Ksh 3.5 billion.2 • Closure of over 300 Kenyan sawmills, leading to loss of employment for 50,000 direct and 300,000 indirect employees of the timber industry. When tertiary services associated with the industry are considered, the loss assumes even wider social and economic impacts. • Failure to apply technical principles of sustainable forest plantation management operations like pruning, re-spacing, coppice reduction, silvicultural/commercial thinning and treatment of seed stands. • Game damage has resulted in destruction of forest plantations, leading to deterioration through insect and fungal attack, leading to fire risk. • Scarcity of timber has lead to a lucrative black market. This has created an incentive for illegal logging, leading to further destruction of forests. • Increased constraint on KFS’s limited resources as it has been shifting priorities from plantation establishment, conservation and management to policing and law enforcement to protect sensitive catchment areas from further deterioration. • Loss of foreign exchange due to importation of timber to close the demand gap. In 2006, the import figure included 85,106 m3 of softwood, 21,277 m3 of hardwood and 2 Note of the Technical Editor: “Before the ban in year 1999, it was estimated that the forestry sector contributed about Ksh 320 million per year to Kenya’s GDP or approximately 1% of the monetary economy and 13% of non-monetary economy. Direct use values in terms of timber, fuel wood and poles are estimated at Ksh 3.64 billion.” (World Bank (2000): Unpublished mission report. Third Forestry Project, in “Forest Law Enforcement and Governance in Kenya,” 2007, KFS).

Miti October-December 2010

150,000 pieces of power transmission poles all valued at Ksh 3.6 billion. Before 1988, Kenya was a net exporter of timber and other wood products to neighbouring countries. • Risk of introduction of pests and diseases through importation. • Risk of over-harvesting of on-farm trees to meet market shortfall, which exposes the environment to soil erosion risk. • Encroachment into indigenous forests to obtain goods and services hitherto obtainable from the plantation forests. This has had a negative impact on the catchment areas and biodiversity hot spots.

Measures undertaken to enhance sustainable forest management The Forests Act, 2005 The Act commits Kenya to sustainable use of forest resources and international conventions to promote sustainable management of forests and biological diversity. The Act therefore; • Involves communities in forest management • Creates the Kenya Forest Service, and • Creates the Forest Board Since its creation in 2006, KFS has created the basic structure necessary for sustainable management. Concern on planting of eucalyptus A policy paper to guide planting of eucalyptus has been prepared by a joint team comprising the Forestry, Environment, Agriculture, Water and Energy ministries. KFS has already issued a technical paper governing the growing of eucalyptus in Kenya to its staff. Protection measures against forest destruction KFS, in partnership with other stakeholders has: • Strengthened protection and surveillance services to ensure forests and allied resources are adequately protected from encroachment, illegal loggers, fires, pests and diseases. • Recruited additional 1,200 forest guards into KFS since 2001. For these new recruits, a comprehensive re-training programme is being rolled out. • Established a rapid response team, strengthened the field units and dedicated a hotline through which illegal activities can be reported for further action. Forest management efficiency A five-year Strategic Plan (2009 – 2013) has been developed to guide efficient forest management and administration. The preparation of this Strategic Plan is largely informed by other

Miti October-December 2010

Castle Forest in the Central Highlands, a gazetted area under management of KFS, is under threat. (Photo KFS)

government policy documents including Vision 2030 and the new Forest Law. The new policy direction expands the scope of forest management to include all forest types and elaborates institutional arrangements accordingly. Forest Rules and Regulations KFS has prepared subsidiary legislation (Rules and Regulations) • To provide the operational framework for authorising forestry activities, including timber harvesting. • The Service has pre-qualified suitable sawmillers to bid for timber in state forests per the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. • The Service has developed regulations for production, transportation and trade in charcoal, to be gazetted. Sustainable harvesting levels KFS has prepared district-based five-year felling plans to ensure sustainable forest harvesting. These plans are based on annual planting programmes and plantation growth rates while ensuring that conservation functions are not compromised. The entire process of forest resource disposal and licensing has been reviewed and will be based on standard technical and financial criteria. The KFS Board of Management will vet all applications before any approvals are granted. Clearing of planting backlogs KFS has developed a 7,500 ha annual planting programme to clear the planting backlogs. This is in addition to the normal annual planting programme of 3,000 ha. With the introduction of Plantation Establishment Livelihood Improvement Scheme (PELIS), future planting and survival will be enhanced. PELIS is currently contributing to livelihood and food security to subsistence farmers around the country. To promote partnership with stakeholders, elaborate arrangements have been developed where those participating in forest operations can be compensated. Monitoring Forest Plantations Planting Programme KFS has established a plantation planting

programme monitoring unit to oversee the harvesting and planting programmes in all the plantation districts. The unit will institute an effective system of managing existing plantations. Building up an information base KFS has developed a comprehensive database for plantation development covering site classification, plantation sizes and age, mean annual increments and species site matching. Establishing a Forest Enterprise Centre As a key component of the forest sector reforms, in the new Service organisational set-up, KFS is establishing a commercially oriented unit to oversee plantation development functions. Upholding of professional ethics by employees The KFS Board will ensure that personnel adhere to established professional norms and ethics. A transparent recruitment process has already started. Initial efforts are focusing on the Senior Management Team, and a subsequent phased recruitment process.

Envisaged direct benefits of lifting the ban • Provision of equity and sustainable management of forests. Lifting of the ban will enhance fair distribution of forest products across the large and small wood industries. • Generation of revenue to increase income to the society, which in turn contributes to alleviation of poverty. • Forest operations are labour-intensive and will contribute to employment through job creation. • Saving foreign exchange now being used to import timber from neighbouring countries. • Lowering of prices of timber and other wood products used in construction industry, thereby making Kenyans pay less for building their houses.

Implementation strategies Stakeholders tree planting mobilisation strategies • KFS, in partnership with other stakeholders, (Continued on pg 9)


Illegal logging in an indigenous forest, Eburu Forest, Kiambogo area (Mau Conservancy). This has taken place on a massive scale in the whole of the Mau Complex, removing most of the high-value trees like cedar (Juniperus procera) and other species. (Photo KFWG)

Inching towards lifting the ban Forestry industry puts its house in order in preparation for a new era of plantation management in Kenya By Rudolf Makhanu


s the plantation system goes through the logging ban, a chronic timber shortage has hit the country, forcing Kenya to turn to expensive imports from neighbouring countries. The latest statistics indicate that the country spends more than Ksh 3 billion (US$ 37.5 million) annually on timber imports, compared with Ksh4.9 million (US$ 61,250) in 1999, to meet a rising demand that now stands at 38 million cubic metres per year. Industry players blame the huge cost gap on the increased timber prices — from Ksh 8,000 (US$ 100) to more than Ksh 30,000 (US$ 375) per tonne. Since the government imposed a logging ban in March 2000, Kenya has been importing timber for the construction, furniture and other wood-based activities. Initially, the imports were from Tanzania, but later on, chiefly from Malawi. This has resulted in overexploitation of those resources in those countries. However, matters should change soon. In a speech read on his behalf by the Forestry and Wildlife Permanent Secretary, Mohammed Wa


Mwachai at the Kenya Forestry College on August 20, 2010, Minister Noah Wekesa assured the country that the partial logging ban imposed in October 1999 would soon be lifted. He repeated the same assurance on November 3, during the inauguration of Miti Mingi Maisha Bora Project. In fact, the partial ban has given rise to a lucrative black market for timber, creating an incentive for illegal logging. This has considerably increased the cost of forest policing and enforcement, depriving other forest management practices, like conservation and forest establishment, of scarce resources. The ban has stifled the take-off of participatory forest management (PFM) with most of KFS’s budget going to forest enforcement. This was ably confirmed by Minister Wekesa, during the launch

of Miti Mingi Maisha Bora Project, where he appealed for more funds for investment in forest policing. However, given the focus of the Forests Act 2005 on PFM, partnership building should be a key investment priority. Due to the partial ban, 95,000 acres (38,000 ha) of over-mature industrial plantations, valued at over Ksh 36 billion, are undergoing a value deterioration due to heart rot and windfalls. At the same time, there are approximately 45,000 acres (18,000 ha) of forest plantations between ages 10 and 22 due for commercial thinning with a potential to generate Ksh 3.5 billion. Simultaneously, the backlog in planting stands at 25,000 ha spread across the country. It is not difficult to conclude that more could be planted if more resources were available. Currently, the forest plantation estate is 312,500 acres (125,000 ha). At the same time, as preparations for lifting the harvest ban go on, two major activities are taking place.

Inventory of plantations The first one is the inventory of the gazetted forest plantations, which has been going on for the last three years. So far, the inventory (undertaken by KFS) has covered approximately 80 per cent of the country’s gazetted plantations. It is important that this data be shared with other stakeholders.

Summary of the facts Area(ha) 38,000 18,000 125,000

Status Over-mature, occurrence of heartrot and windfalls Aged 10-22 years, lack of thinnings Total plantations estate

Value (Ksh) 36,000,000,000 3,500,000,000

Miti October-December 2010

Continued from pg 7

One area that has been poorly managed and has elicited strong comments from communities / stakeholders, is management of plantations. While a few companies have been harvesting timber from the plantations, involvement of a wider range of stakeholders in allocation is important in sustainable future management of plantations. Where the few harvesting companies have been involved in planting clear-cut areas, no management goes on. This issue needs to be addressed so that KFS sells plantations at market value and manages replanting and other silvicultural operations in a transparent and professional manner. Community forest associations (CFAs) intend to benefit from this.


Secondly, KFS has been striving to establish plantation afforestation through the Plantation Establishment and Livelihood System (PELIS), another name for the much-vilified non-residential cultivation (NRC). Several sites have been identified so far, and PELIS is going on in 31 forest stations. Performance differs from area to area but PELIS is bound to provide important lessons on plantation management and community involvement in the country. However, there are certain pitfalls. These are: Irregularities in allocation of plots Cultivation on non-designated areas such as water catchments and riverbanks Poor seedling care These could lead to closure of residential cultivation and NRC, an outcome to be avoided at all cost. Therefore, close participatory monitoring is important. How well this is happening is still debatable, particularly given the fact that an evaluation of the PELIS programme scheduled for 2010 (two years after its initiation) is yet to start . An important question is whether for the last four years, KFS has put adequate plans and strategies into place to allow for plantation harvesting, collection of revenue and re-

planting. This may not be the case. The meagre government allocation to run KFS has simply not been sufficient, and KFS’s efforts to raise money, however good, can under the present circumstances not yield what is required. In fact, how much resources does KFS need to handle its mandate efficiently? When the logging ban is lifted, will KFS be able to handle the pressure of saw millers and sell standing stock in a transparent manner? Will the resultant income be channelled to improve management of KFS’s assets? In this respect, the on-going inventory is extremely important. What is the standing stock in government plantations, and what is it worth? A consolidated and harmonised report on the inventory has to be made public and should be open to verification. The list of “approved” sawmillers, and the criteria of approval also has to be open for public scrutiny, to eliminate loopholes that have allowed unscrupulous operators to vandalise public property. Streamlining of the sawmilling industry through speedy finalisation and implementation of the concession management framework is required. The framework will be a legal tool guiding the process of allocation and management of concessions. Concessioning is provided for by the Forest Act but not elaborated. The framework will achieve this, and it is being drafted by KFS, through a consultancy bid that was advertised early this year. On finalisation, it will have to be passed by parliament, whereupon endorsement will automatically lift the logging ban. The concession management framework will, among other things, allow the private sector to manage whole forest blocks, in a sustainable way. And this will truly start a new area for plantation management in Kenya. The writer is the National Coordinator – KFWG (Kenya Forest Working Group) Email:

will support promoting of tree planting in all areas and will encourage landowners to set aside at least 10 per cent of their land for tree planting. Best management practices will be promoted to ensure high survival. • KFS will collaborate with the Community Forest Associations in planting and reafforestation programmes. • To engage stakeholders through concessioning, contracting, joint management agreements in government forests and Local Authority forests. • Extensive national tree planting campaigns and education. • Up-scaling of the Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme (PELIS) • Disseminating comprehensive information on suitability of different types of trees for different areas. Reforms and investments to promote sustainable forest sector development • Enactment of new forest policy and implementation of the Forest Act 2005. • Commercialisation of tree growing in farmlands, drylands and local authority forests will be promoted. • Improve governance in forest management and utilisation.

Strategy for controlled lifting of the ban In order to facilitate implementation of sustainable forest management practices, it is necessary to allow phased lifting of the ban on timber harvesting that optimises production, conservation and economic benefits. In this respect, the ban should be lifted with appropriate control measures in place, including felling plans. Accordingly, KFS has prepared felling plans that cover: • Areas under thinning backlogs. • Over-mature (beyond economical and biological rotational age), diseased and game damaged plantations. • Mature plantations. The felling plans, which have incorporated the latest inventory data, have been developed for all districts in Kenya. When the ban is lifted, the plantations will be offered to the public and the highest bidders will be allocated the plantation in accordance with the Government Procurement and Disposal Act. The writer is Ag. Deputy Director (Plantation and Enterprise) at the Kenya Forest Service.

Poaching of cypress trees in Shamanek Forest, Central Highlands Conservancy. Note the height of the remaining stumps, a result of fast cutting by an axe or a panga, not at the tree base, as it should be. (Photo KFWG)

Miti October-December 2010


Logging by Timsales in Elburgon in 2009. Note the state of the plantation - not adequately pruned nor thinned. (Photo KFS)

A turn for the better? With the expected lifting of the decade-old logging ban, things may be looking up for the timber trade By Wanjiru Ciira


embers of the Timber Manufacturers Association (TMA) are unhappy. They have been unhappy since 1999 when the then Kenyan President, Daniel arap Moi, imposed an instant ban on logging in public forests. However, the ban is not a blanket one. The gazetted forests are out of bounds for all except Comply of Nakuru, Timsales in Elburgon, Raiply in Eldoret and Pan Paper Mills in Webuye who are free to access public plantations for timber, pulpwood, plywood and transmission poles. The other players in the industry regard this exception as unfair distribution of natural resources, and grossly discriminative. This is all the worse as the biological growth cycle of pines and cypress, the main species found in these forests, cannot be stopped, but simply goes on, resulting in material that, when not cut and harvested, just falls to the ground, rots and goes to waste. In addition, the other players were caught off-guard. “The ban came without warning,” says Bernard Gitau, chairman of the Timber Manufacturers Association. Apart from the loss of livelihood, the ban


even led to loss of life, literally. “My father-inlaw died as a result of the ban,” adds Rev Gitau. According to him, his father-in-law and others like him in the timber trade had taken loans to develop their businesses. With the ban on logging and the subsequent loss of business, such people could not service their loans. The ensuing stress lead to poor health and even loss of life. The main objective of the TMA, which was formed in 1981 with countrywide representation, was to promote the interests of saw millers and to handle the challenges they face as one. At inception, the association had 200 members. Today, on paper, it has over 380 members. However, with the logging ban, 80 per cent of the members are not working. Before the ban, the sawmilling industry provided employment to some 120,000 people (directly and indirectly). This number has fallen to about 40,000 people. Why was the ban imposed? The aim was to preserve the forests and protect them from illegal loggers. At the time of the ban, it was observed that of the total area set aside for harvesting of trees, 5,130 hectares (75 per cent) was allocated to non-licensed millers, or “briefcase saw millers”. Only 1,720 hectares, accounting for 25 per cent, had been allocated to licensed millers. There was also concern that the loggers were cutting down trees without any regard for conservation or replanting. As such, it was feared that Kenya’s forest cover would be wiped out. To put this into perspective, one big company like Timsales, with a fleet of trucks and trailers, can log more than 200 tonnes of wood per day, translating into clear felling of three to four hectares of plantations, or up to 1,000 hectares per year. Has the ban met its objectives? “It failed miserably,” says Rev Gitau. The Timber Association is not alone in this view. “Initially the ban had merit, but it is now 10 years since it was imposed and dramatic changes have taken place and it should be lifted,” David Mbugua, the Director of Kenya Forest Service (KFS) told Miti last year (2009) during an interview carried in the 4th issue of the magazine. He added that the ban has created a black market for timber, with prices soaring, for example, to Ksh 50,000 for a tonne for cypress. These high prices due to scarcity of timber; idle machinery; labour and unemployment in neighbouring villages act as catalysts to illegal logging. As a result, the ban has not led to replanting and re-stocking of forests. Ironically, instead of KFS spending time and energy re-stocking the forests, the organisation has been spending a sizable chunk of its time and resources protecting forests from illegal loggers. “ It … obliges us at KFS to dedicate 70 per cent of our time to patrolling and policing our plantations

Miti October-December 2010

against night poaching,” Mr Mbugua told Miti. Instead of the usual argument in favour of the ban, that it has pushed farm forestry leading to planting of such species such as Grevillea to supplement small-holders’ income, the TMA representatives claim that it has led to ecological destruction in the countryside. Trees with small diameters are being cut down prematurely, because of the lure of fast money. The ban also threatens the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Malawi. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the mahogany and mvule timber used in Nairobi today originates from the DRC while the bulk of the pine is from Malawi with some quantities brought in from Tanzania. And this is not small business, as over 10 lorries (20-tonne trailers loaded with dry wood) cross the The log yard of Pan-Paper Mills in 2009, a company that was exempted from the logging ban. (Photo KFS) border points on a daily basis. TMA estimates that timber prices would drop by 50 per cent upon lifting of the ban, at the timber consuming public in general. KFS will be happy as poaching of least temporarily, until a market equilibrium sets in. logs in gazetted plantations will diminish, and environmentalists should be Again, the logging ban has lead to wastage and loss of income fine as well, as emission of greenhouse gases through rotting logs on the for the government. Mature trees older than 30 years, ready for forest floor will diminish drastically. harvesting, just rot and fall. According to the KFS Director, the The writer is the Managing Editor, Miti magazine gazetted forests consist of some 25,000 hectares of trees older Email: than 30 years that are ready for harvesting, while 8,000 hectares need urgent thinning. “For the next 10 years, this should ensure an income of over Ksh 20 billion from mature material (pine, cypress, eucalypt) that otherwise will fall and rot.” Despite the logging ban, members of TMA had to continue earning a livelihood and utilising their machinery. They have lumbered on, using timber from private firms. In addition, from time to time, a few timber dealers get their supplies from gazetted forests, through the KFS tender system. “Such supplies are inadequate and unpredictable,” says John Wakaba, the TMA secretary. The forestry and timber industry has lobbied for the lifting of the ban. KFS has drawn felling plans and mapped out areas where harvesting of trees could be done. In addition, the parastatal has prepared subsidiary legislation to regulate community and private sector involvement in management of forests. This will enable KFS to determine sustainable harvesting levels annually, based on forest management plans. It has prequalified some 270 saw-millers for harvesting timber in state forests. To qualify, they must have a sawmill, be tax compliant, and have adequate workers’ compensation schemes. The pre-qualified saw millers are all set, now waiting for the government to lift the logging ban. From the look of things, they may not have to wait long. During the second half of August, the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Noah Wekesa said the ban would be lifted once the cabinet gives its approval. The decision to lift the ban, according to the minister, was reached after talks between the government and other players in forest management. A cynical mind might link the forthcoming lifting of the ban to several unhealthy factors, like the imminent decrease in Malawian timber supplies and the profitable import trade it has sustained for years; but that might be stretching the imagination. All said, the lifting of the ban could only be good news for members of the Kenya Timber Manufacturers Association, and for

Miti October-Decem b er 2010


A tree for all regions Although primarily grown at the coast, casuarina thrives in a wide range of climatic conditions


By Musingo Mbuvi

asuarina is a genus of 17 species in the family Casuarinaceae, native to Australasia, Southeast Asia and many of the Pacific Island countries. It was once treated as the sole genus in the family, but has been split into four genera. Casuarina is commonly known as the she-oak, ironwood, beefwood or mvinje in Kenya. It is commonly grown in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. In Kenya, different casuarina species have been introduced for planting in different dates from the early 20th century. The major introductions include: Casuarina cunninghamia (1908), Casuarina glauca (1910), Casuarina junghuhniana (1956) and Casuarina torulosa, (1952). After several trials, Casuarina equisetifolia has emerged as the most widely planted and utilised in the country followed by C. junghuhniana whose planting is picking up though limited to the highlands. Casuarina equisetifolia J. R. et G. Forst a common tropical tree known as whistlingpine is often planted as a windbreak along the ocean at the coast. Its wood is used for shingles, fencing, and is excellent firewood. The species has emerged as one of the most preferred by farmers because of its: • Fast growth: It can attain a height of three metres in the first year. • Adaptability to wider ecological zones • Multiple use • Easy availability of planting materials • Easy planting and management

Distribution The tree is typically found near sea level up to 1,600 metres. It does well within a rainfall range of 200mm to 5,000 mm (8–200 in). It tolerates drought well for six to seven months but is sensitive to frost. It grows on a wide range of soils from coastal and lowland lava flows, poor soil of fenland and limestone soils. It grows in poor soils because it is able to fix nitrogen. In Kenya, Casuarina equisetifolia is mainly grown along the coast by both large and smallscale farmers. Small-scale farmers account for 81.8 per cent of the production. From the existing government records, C. equisetifolia was first raised in Jilore tree nursery in the


A Casuarina plantation at the coast. (Photo BGF)

late 1960s and the first planting done in Gede, Malindi District (Kilifi County) in 1971. Though its planting has been expanding from the coast to the highlands of Mount Kenya, perceptions that the tree is a coastal species and that it is planted to produce poles have largely determined its distribution in the country. This is against a scenario where the tree can be grown in almost all parts of the country and that it has very many uses from timber to environmental rehabilitation.

There is knowledge on the species from past research and on-going work. The research work is on all aspects ranging from spacing trials to yield maximising through molecular techniques. Techniques for mass propagation have been developed to support large scale planting which is also supported by easy availability of seeds.

The cones are collected by cutting branchlets with mature cones or spreading a net or canvas under the tree and then climbing to handpick and drop the fruits. The cones should be dried in the sun on racks, cement floor or plastic sheet, or in ovens or kilns to open the cones to release the seeds. When drying, the seeds should be spread in a thin layer and turned regularly to avoid overheating. At night, fold the plastic to cover the seeds or cover with canvas seeds spread on the floor. Shake off the seeds and winnow, hand sort or sieve to get clean seeds. One kilogramme of mature cone produces approximately 29 grams of seed and one kilogramme of clean seed has 600,000 to 900,000 seeds. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox. Seeds can be stored in airtight plastic containers, kiln jars and aluminium packets in a cool dry place. Farmers could store seeds up to eight months at room temperature.


Propagation methods

Research on casuarina

The tree form ranges from woody shrubs to trees over 20 metres tall. Trees start flowering after three years. Flowering and fruiting tends to occur throughout the year and seed maturity takes four to six months. In the coastal region of Kenya, seeds are mature for harvesting from October to May. The species seeds prolifically and the seeds are mature when the cones turn yellow or dark green and begin to open.

Propagation is usually from seed, stem cutting and air layering. Seed propagation is common because the tree seeds prolifically and germination occurs easily. If selected pure cultures of Frankia rhizobia are not available, it is advisable to inoculate seedlings with a suspension of crushed nodules collected from the host tree, preferably at the original collection site. The infusion is sprinkled on the seedlings

Miti October-December 2010

Table 1: Survival percentage, mean height and mean root collar diameter of four-year-old Casuarina equisetifolia woodlots at the Kenya coast at different planting distances.

Treatment parameter

0.5 m x 1.0 m



1.5 m x 1.5 m


2.5 m x 2.5 m


Average survival (%)








Average height (m)








Mean root collar diameter cm (inches)

3.9cm (1.6in) (1.8in)

5.4cm (2.2in)

5.6cm (2.3in)

6.7cm (2.7in)

7.3cm (3.0in)

5.7cm (2.3in)

using a watering can. This will improve seedling establishment and ensure rapid growth during the initial stages of plantation establishment. Seeds germinate well under temperatures ranging between 20ºC and 30ºC and no seed pre-treatment is required. The seeds are sown on beds and germinate within seven to 14 days. Casuarina has a high germination rate of 80 to 90 per cent. In wet conditions, it is advisable to have raised nursery beds to avoid dumping off. Cuttings are sometimes used instead of seeds. This has been done by air layering, which has showed limited success. Using terminal branchlets, heel cuttings or basal sprouts especially from juvenile plants treated with rootinducing hormone powder has proved more successful. Although cuttings are more labour intensive, it is the recommended propagation method when the resulting offspring are desired to be identical to some superior form of the tree.

Transplanting The germinants are pricked out for transplanting when they have two leaves. Pricked out seedlings should be put in a container with water before transplanting to potted tubes to avoid desiccation. The nursery should be in an open area as casuarina demands light. The potted seedlings should be watered twice a day for three months. Periodic root pruning should

In Kenya, Casuarina equisetifolia is mainly grown along the coast by both large and small-scale farmers. Small-scale farmers account for 81.8 per cent of the production. be done. Hardening off will start during the fourth month where watering will be reduced, starting with once a day to three or four times a week.

Field establishment Land should be ploughed or hand dug and cleared of tree stumps and roots. If the planting is on a farmland, it should be done before crops are planted. In dry areas, micro-catchments should be constructed to retain moisture for improved tree establishment and enhanced survival. Transplanting in the evening is recommended and should be done after enough moisture build up in the soil. The area should be fenced off to control browsing by goats and wild animals. Farmers plant Casuarina under different spacings. The most common spacings used in Kenya are: 0.5 m x 1.0 m, 1.0 m x 1.0 m, 1.0 m

x 2.0 m, 1.5 m x 1.5 m, 2.0 m x2.0 m and 2.5 x 2.5 m. Each of these spacings shows negligible differences in survival but with marked difference in height and root collar diameter. Farmers use the latter to determine the selling price of poles. Sometimes, farmers plant trees at very close spacing of even 30cm by 30cm in anticipation of getting many poles per unit area. This prompted the setting up of a “researcherfarmer” designed spacing trial in Kilifi County to test this perception by farmers. Table 1 shows the mean survival, mean height and mean root collar diameter for C. equisetifolia trees from four-year-old woodlots. Wider spacing resulted in faster growth, higher mean height and wider root collar diameter but it produced conical shaped poles, which are not popular with customers. Smooth cylindrical shaped poles are preferred to roof tourist hotels. Farmers use root collar diameter and shape to determine the pole selling price. The communities use inches instead of centimetres.

Tree management Young plantations require constant weeding to reduce competition from weeds and it is advisable to intercrop. Seedlings should be protected from browsing stock and fire during the initial stages of growth. C. equisetifolia hardly coppices after cutting. When the tree is introduced to new areas, inoculation of the seedlings with pure culture of effective strains of Frankia rhizobia is recommended to enable the species to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Alternatively, a grower can mix nursery soil with soil collected from underneath mature casuarina trees. The tree itself is almost pest and disease free with isolated cases of black blister disease reported by a few farmers in the coastal region. Casuarina needs to be popularised as an on-farm tree species owing to the ease of establishing it, fast growth and numerous uses. The writer is a researcher at KEFRI Email:

The poles are used for construction in the hotel industry. (Photo KEFRI)

Miti October-December 2010


Diseases of the mukau

The last 10 years have seen isolated symptoms on the species, mainly caused by fungi


By Jane W. Njuguna

elia volkensii (mukau) is an indigenous tree species belonging to the family Meliaceae. Current research findings indicate that its growth performance is potentially faster than the popular eucalyptus species especially in arid and semi arid areas of Kenya. It has been recorded to reach a height of 2metres in one year. Mukau is popular for its valuable timber, which is resistant to termite attack and compares favourably with that of Camphor wood (Ocotea usambarensis) and Meru oak (Vitex keniensis) (Kidundo, Blomely)1. The tree is also used as firewood, as fodder and in the honey-making process. It also has medicinal and insecticidal properties. The species is therefore being promoted as a potential multipurpose tree for the drylands. For a long time, there have been no reports of serious disease or pest problems on the species. Some authors, like Konuche2, argue that indigenous tree species have evolved alongside their natural enemies, are therefore less vulnerable to diseases and pests, harsh climates, etc, making such species best suited for use in agroforestry systems in the drylands. However, in the last 10 years, there have been isolated reports of various disease symptoms on the species, mainly caused by fungi. The disease symptoms affect the growth and performance of the species in the farms. Reports of wilts, leaf spots and powdery mildews on M. volkensii became frequent in the late 1990s, affecting young and old Melia trees in Embu, Mbeere and Kitui districts. By 2002, a stem canker and dieback disease was observed to affect saplings and mature trees and in some cases resulting in the deaths of trees. Regular and monitoring surveys carried by the Integrated Pest Management team of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) show that the incidence of various disease symptoms increased from 18 per cent in 2000 to 35 per cent in 2005. We also

observed that young seedlings in the nursery are more susceptible to disease attacks and about 20 per cent of deaths of seedlings occur in the first year of growth. All parts of the tree - seeds, leaves, stems, roots and branches - seem to be equally affected by different species of fungi.

Diseases affecting seeds Pre- and post-germination damping off caused by several species of Fusarium, Botryosphaeriaceae, Aspergillus, Rhizopus and Penicillium, has been frequently recorded in nurseries. Pre-emergence damping off severely limits germination potential of Melia seeds, while post-germination damping off kills germinated seedlings thereby reducing the growth performance and number of expected seedling for agroforestry purposes. We have

observed that some Fusarium, Neofusicoccum parvum and Lasiodiplodia theobromae are seedborne; while the common moulds Aspergillus, Rhizopus and Penicillium were surface contaminants.

Diseases of seedlings Young seedlings are susceptible to root collar rots, leaf blight and fall, chlorosis, wilts, yellowing and powdery mildews.

Diseases of mature trees Stem cankers, dieback and resinosis have been observed on some older trees, attacking stems, branches, twigs and shoots. The cankers cause ugly deformations on the stems and internal







1 Blomely, T. (1994): Indigenous Agroforestry; Melia volkensii in Kenya. Agroforestry today. 6(4): 10-11; Kidundo, M. (1997): Melia volkensii - propagating the tree of knowledge. Agroforestry today 9 (2): 21-22. 2 Konuche, P.K.A. (1994): The influence of light environment on indigenous tree seedlings in Kenya. PHD thesis, University of Edinburgh 196pp.


A - Moulds on germination media. B - Fusarium spp. and common moulds. C - Diseased cotyledons on germinated seeds. D - Healthy seedlings sprayed with Benlate E - Post emergent damping-off yellowing and leaf spots F -Wilts and dieback of Melia seedlings (All photos by KEFRI)

Miti October-December 2010

rotting of wood. This will reduce the market value of construction woods. Crown breakage has also been observed on mainly infected trees. Leaf diseases on such trees include leaf blights, severe chlorosis, spots and powdery mildews.

Fungi isolated from the various disease symptoms Several species of fungi have been isolated from diseased plant parts. These included; Fusarium solani, F. oxysporum, Colletotrichum sp., Phomopsis sp. and some Botryosphaeriaceae spp. (Neofusicoccum parvum and Lasiodiplodia theobromae) were isolated from the diseased plant parts. N. parvum and L. theobromae were isolated in higher frequencies from stem cankers and also branches and twigs with dieback symptoms. The combined effects of Fusarium spp. and Botryosphaeria spp. were observed to cause severe root collar rots, which were very destructive on young saplings in the field, causing wilting and death. Fungi isolated from leaves include Colletotrichum sp, Alternaria sp, and Oidium sp. (powdery mildews). Two wood rotting fungi; Wrightoporia tropicalis and Ganoderma sp. were observed to decay standing Melia volkensii trees. The above fungi are highly pathogenic and cause severe diseases on a wide range of plants including forests, ornamental and agricultural crops. Fusarium spp, Phomopsis spp cause both pre and post-emergent damping off in many plants. The presence of these fungi on evergreen tree crops such as trees on small-scale farms, pose a challenge to general farm production given their unspecific nature of infection. It is therefore important that preventive measures be undertaken to avoid the spread and subsequent infection of other trees on the farms.

Management options of the various disease symptoms Control of tree diseases is difficult especially if the trees have passed the seedling stage. The best stage to control for diseases is at the seed and seedling stage. These include: Seed treatment with systemic fungicides and maintaining seedling hygiene during sowing to avoid pre and post-emergent damping off of seedlings, especially at the nursery stage. In our experiments, treating seeds with Lindane3 effectively controlled surface contaminants and reduced pre and postemergent damping off. Soil drenching around infected plants to stop the fungal spores from germinating in the nurseries.





G - Typical stem canker H - Breakages from cankered stems I - Basal stem canker J - Death (healthy trees in the background). (All photos by KEFRI)

Use of systemic and curative fungicidal sprays on young seedlings, where infections are already present in the field. There are no specific fungicides for tree diseases and not much research has been done to test available fungicides on tree seedlings. However, our experiments with some broadspectrum fungicides show that some of them are effective against a wide range of fungi. Foliar diseases caused by Colletotrichum spp

and Alternaria diseases could be controlled using foliar sprays of copper based fungicides (Copper hydroxide and Copper oxychloride). Other broad-spectrum fungicides (including the tebuconazole group) that are effective against foliar and soil-borne pathogens, could also be used. All fungicides must be used and stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Restricting movement of seedlings and

3 Note of the Technical Editor: Lindane is a persistent organic pollutant classified as a dangerous and pesticide and as such better substituted by an alternative.

Miti October-December 2010


plant debris from areas of infestation as well as removing and burning infested seedlings. Do not put infected material near the nursery to avoid spreading the fungi through spores and/or mycelia. Grow healthy plants with appropriate fertilisation with nitrate fertilisers, irrigation and weed control. Where the disease is present on older plants, removal or pruning of infected branches will help to reduce disease spread. Remember that infected material should be burnt.

Research strategy KEFRI has embarked on regular field surveys and laboratory isolations and identification of the fungi. Systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of data on the epidemiology and impacts of the disease are ongoing. These results will be an important tool in forecasting disease spread and outbreaks as well as giving information on the most appropriate and long-term methods of disease control.

that the fungus could be soil-borne, noting that species in the genus Fusarium cause serious preand post-emergent damping off in many plants. The two Botryosphaeriaceae species - N. parvum and L. theobromae - exist mainly as endophytes but become serious pathogens when host plants are exposed to stressful environmental conditions (Desprez-Loustau et al., Slippers et al.)4 Changes in climatic conditions, land use practices and movement of infected planting materials may have predisposed M. volkensii to fungi attacks. Important: All M. volkensii growers and extension workers should report any unusual symptoms immediately to the nearest Kenya Forest Service, Forest Department Office, any KEFRI research centre or the nearest government administrative office. The writer is a senior researcher at KEFRI Email:

Conclusions It is not yet clear why M. volkensii has become susceptible to fungal attacks. Our preliminary research results on seeds indicate that some fungi could be seed-borne. The isolation of F. oxysporum especially from basal stem cankers indicates

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Others (Bamboo, ornamental shrubs, palms).

GTIL produces planting materials for local, regional and overseas markets, and has a network of marketing agents all over the country, including a base in Tanzania. The company’s production capacity is over 20 million plantlets per year.

Aeroponics produces quality disease-free seed potatoes at a multiplication rate from 5:1 to 50:1. Aeroponics also helps to control diseases especially viruses and bacterial wilt.

TYPES OF CROPS Industrial (pyrethrum, sugarcane, sisal, coffee, vanilla and macadamia). Horticultural: Fruits (mangoes, avocadoes, citrus, passion, pawpaw, strawberries, temperate fruits). Flowers (roses, orchids lilies, Eustoma, Zantendeschia, Gladiolus, Statice). Food (Bananas - dessert, cooking, plantains - Irish potatoes, pineapples, sweet potatoes, yams, cassava) Tree species for fuel wood, timber, poles, pulp, bio-fuel (eucalyptus, acacia, grevillea, pinus, markhamia, croton, teak, cypress, jatropha). Medicinal plants & herbs (Prunus africana, neem, Moringa oleifera, Warburgia ugandensis, Artemisia annua, Aloe vera, Mondia whytei, turmeric, geraniums, stevia).

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GTIL collaborates with various organisations like Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), International Service For Acquisition of Agricultural Biotech Applications (ISAAA), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Biotechnology Trust Africa (BTA), African Biotechnology Stakeholder Forum (ABSF), Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI), Horticultural Crop Development Authority (HCDA), Kenya Plant Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Mondi International, National Potato Council, International Potato Centre (CIP), GTZ, USAID, JOIL (Singapore), among others.

Forestry Society of Kenya addresses climate change


he Forestry Society of Kenya held a Climate Change Workshop, on the theme “Forestry and Climate Change”, in Nakuru in August. The well-attended event brought together representatives from a number of forestry organisations in Kenya. Some of these were the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), The Mau Secretariat, The Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG), the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), The International Small Group & Tree Planting Programme (TIST) The Finnish Embassy, USAID and Egerton University, among others. Participants discussed the challenges of the impact of climate change on forestry in Kenya. These challenges were presented from different perspectives. Fatuma Hussein of NEMA presented a paper titled “Climate change and the role of NEMA as the designated national authority (DNA)” This was an in-depth look at the historical background of climate change from a global perspective. KFS elaborated on the REDD+ programme in Kenya and what it has done so far, while the Mau Secretariat provided participants with first-hand experiences of handling climate, with interesting illustrations from forests in Lodwar and Samburu. KFWG brought on board their experiences of handling climate change and Treasury provided the economic perspective of how they are handling climate change with relation to forests. The Finnish Embassy, which financed and facilitated the workshop, provided a donor perspective. Using impressive satellite images, TIST illustrated what the organisation has done for communities in various areas in Kenya over the last four years. The workshop came up with a number of recommendations as the way forward. These include: To start lobbying for the lifting of the ban on logging in gazette forests To sensitise the public on the effects of the logging ban Form a group that can talk on forestry issues on behalf of the Forestry Society of Kenya. Talk to the committees on environment (ministerial and parliamentary committees) Educating farmers on the benefits of bamboo and other species. Produce tree seedlings for planting. Put systems in place, so that if the logging ban is lifted, forests will be managed and harvested in a sustainable way.

Miti October-December 2010



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Embedded in science Despite his administrative duties, Dr Ben Chikamai, the Director of KEFRI, remains close to his calling By Jan Vandenabeele


r Ben Chikamai, the Director of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) was born in Western Kenya, close to Kakamega and Malava forests. This pushed him towards studying forestry, although originally he would have preferred to study agriculture or medicine. Dr Chikamai graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Science - Forestry degree in 1983. He was picked to work in forestry research by Dr Jeff Odera, at the time a deputy director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and later, the first director of KEFRI. The East African Forestry Research Organisation (EAFRO) had just collapsed and the Forestry Research Division became a department of KARI, following amalgamation with the forest conservancy of the then Forest Department. Dr Chikamai was seconded there from 1983 until 1986, when KEFRI was created through the Science and Technology Act, Cap 250, Laws of Kenya. Working on species and provenance trials in the out-stations of Kibwezi and Hola, Dr Chikamai became fascinated with dry lands. From 1984 to 1986, while still at KARI, he obtained a scholarship to the University of Toronto, in Canada, to pursue a master’s degree in forest products utilisation. The programme focused on pulp and paper, and it came with an attachment to Pan African Paper Mills. A practical outcome of Dr Chikamai’s research was a reduction in the rotation age of pine plantations for pulp and paper from 25-30 years, down to 18 years. He also contributed to the formulation of three papers: Kraft liner, used in lining the inside of cartons; sack Kraft, for cement bags and MF Kraft, for packaging. With the setting up of KEFRI, Dr Chikamai automatically joined the organisation in the forest products utilisation based at Karura where


Dr Ben Chikamai, director of KEFRI. (Photo BGF)

he was appointed head of the Forest Products Utilisation Unit in 1987. Dr Chikamai transformed this section from a timber-testing outfit into a forest products research division with four distinct units: i. Wood physics, mechanics and engineering ii. Wood anatomy iii. Wood energy, and iv. Non-timber forest products (wood chemistry). At the time, it was not known internationally that Kenya was a potential producer of gums and resins. Gum arabic came, and still comes, mostly from Sudan, Ethiopia and further west from the Sahelian countries of Chad, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. In fact, the gum arabic from Kenya turned out to be of a different composition, and from a taxonomically distinct variety. This is Acacia senegal var. kerensis, common in eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, southern Ethiopia), as opposed to A. senegal var. senegal, from northern Uganda, northwestern Ethiopia, the Sudan and the Sahel.

The gum produced by the variety kerensis is more viscous compared to the senegal variety and presents challenges during spray drying but has valuable unique properties where adhesion is required. As such, this kind of gum has its own market. Today, gum arabic on the international market goes by type, not as simple gum arabic any more, and Kenyan gum has a niche market. Much of this knowledge was derived from the doctoral research by Dr Chikamai in the University of Wales (Bangor) and the University of Edinburgh. In his PhD studies, (1991-94), Dr Chikamai concentrated on establishing exactly the types of A. senegal present in the country, the amount of resource in northern Kenya, and the chemical characteristics of the gum. He developed a procedure to reduce the high viscosity of the gum through enzyme technology, by breaking down the molecule, without destroying its functional properties. Today, Kenya exports more and more of its gum arabic, while it has become the second world exporter – after Ethiopia - of myrrh, a resin harvested from a spiny shrub (Commiphora myrrha) that grows in Mandera and Wajir districts. Kenya is also the leading exporter of opopanax/ hagar, a closely related resin from another species – Commiphora holtziana - growing in northern Kenya, southeastern Ethiopia and northeastern Somalia (Somaliland). Hagar has tick-killing properties and is therefore incorporated in pet shampoos in the USA. It also kills bacteria, and is heavily sought-after in the Far East for human medicine. Demand cannot be met, but Kenya exports over 1,000 tonnes per year to China. The exudation of gums and resins is a stressrelated phenomenon, from a physiological point of view. The gums exude during the dry season, and prevent loss of water from a tree through injury. At this point of the interview, we realised Dr Chikamai could go on for much longer on this

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fascinating subject of gums and resins, and with some regret, we directed the interview back to KEFRI, where Dr Chikamai was appointed director in 2009. During its early years, KEFRI had segmented its research into 17-18 different disciplines. In 1989, the organisation started implementing its research agenda through five-year strategic plans. The individual disciplines were integrated into multi-disciplinary programmes in 1999, while the last strategic plan was revised to be in line with the Kenya Government Vision 2030. The goal of KEFRI is to contribute to achieving the Vision 2030 by developing technologies for sustainable development and utilisation of forest and allied natural resources to enhance a clean and healthy environment. The strategic objectives are: • to generate knowledge and technologies for forest development, conservation, management and utilization; • to strengthen research and management capacity; • to improve seed production, distribution and marketing; • to disseminate forest research findings; • to improve corporate profile and public image of KEFRI; and • to strengthen linkages and partnership with stakeholders.1 Research programmes are now reorganised into seven programmes at national level. These are: • Farm Forestry (tree farming) - compatible with agriculture and livestock; • Natural Forests – for conservation, rehabilitation, restoration of the five water towers and making communities benefit from forests; • Dryland Forestry - 80 per cent of the country is dry, with many challenges. Focus is on technologies that improve management of woodlands for poverty alleviation and environmental conservation. • Industrial Forest Plantations - to support wood-based industries; • Tree Seed Programme – focus is on improved seed sources e.g. camphor (Ocotea usambarensis), Meru oak (Vitex keniensis), Elgon teak (Olea capensis) and Markhamia lutea, while good seed sources of blue gum (Eucalyptus grandis) and Grevillea robusta have been developed; 1 KEFRI Strategic Plan 2008-2012, p.5

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Research by KEFRI’s Dryland Forestry’s programme Prosopis management. Reduction of stem numbers through thinning is now a standard method for management of natural invasions of Prosopis. Thinning helps to open up the spaces for growth of grass and plants otherwise suppressed by the invading trees. The tree will also produce bigger stems that can be exploited for timber. (Photo KEFRI)

Technology Dissemination and Service Programme – packaging and providing research information to service providers like the National Agriculture and Livestock Extension Programme (NALEP), the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and VI, an agro forestry programme. • Networks and Partnerships – for strengthening synergies and complementarities with various partners. These programmes are at national level, while research is structured at grassroots level through KEFRI’s regional research centres. These are six, distributed ecologically: • Maseno – for Lake Victoria Basin eco- region with sub-centres at Kuja River, Ramogi and Kakamega; • Londiani – for Rift Valley with sub-centres at Marigat, Turbo and Lodwar; • Muguga - for Central Highlands (which is also the KEFRI headquarters) with sub-centre at Nyeri • Karura, Nairobi – national centre for forest products; • Kitui – for drylands of North Eastern and northern Kenya, with sub-centres in Kibwezi, Bura and Garissa; • Gede - for the Coastal eco-region. KEFRI employs about 1,000 people, of whom 90 are scientists while about 200 are technologists and foresters. The rest are professional support and general staff (administration, accounts, supplies, drivers, etc). When asked to rank KEFRI among African forest research institutes, especially in subSaharan Africa, Dr Chikamai puts the organisation second behind South Africa, which has a rich history of forest research and indeed is a world leader in plantation forestry. The quality of forest research of course depends on availability of resources, and although KEFRI is relatively well endowed with facilities compared to neighbouring countries, networking has become the norm,

to seek synergies and complementarities. For instance, Dr Chikamai would contact the Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) for research on Milicia excelsa (mvule), a common and commercial species there. Tropical ecology in general is well developed in Ghana and Nigeria, while Kenya is ahead in agroforestry and tree improvement. Networking also takes place at the national level, including public-private partnerships (PPPs) like the Baringo Aloë Enterprise Company, and national universities. At the international level, KEFRI works with, among others: • the Association of Forestry Research Institutes in Eastern Africa (AFREA) which groups eight countries around the Horn of Africa, with KEFRI as the secretariat; • the Forestry Research Network for SubSaharan Africa (FORNESA), with the secretariat in FORIG (based in Kumasi, Ghana), and • the Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa (NGARA) hosted by KEFRI. In addition, KEFRI cooperates with the International Centre for Research in Agro Forestry (ICRAF), which has a good back-up team of highlevel scientists. Heading KEFRI obviously is a managerial and time-consuming job. However, Dr Chikamai maintains his contacts with research through supervising several students, at both master and doctoral level, and he continues to coordinate NGARA. He is also the current Regional Coordinator for Africa for the Commonwealth Forestry Association (CFA) and member of the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) where he is serving as its Liaison Officer. A tough job!

The writer is the Executive Director, Better Globe Forestry Ltd Email:


Mechanical sanding of timber. It requires an experienced hand. (Photo BGF)

In the footsteps of the father SOS Vocational Training Centre “off spring” replicate the SOS philosophy By Wanjiru Ciira


ehind some high-rise residential buildings in the Donholm area of Nairobi’s Eastlands, nestles a woodwork workshop. To get there you have to battle the appalling roads that characterise the area. During the rainy season, you have to wade through puddles of water and mud, while in dry weather you have to fight off dust. You would normally not associate this workshop with quality furniture. But you would be dead wrong. This is the home of Audicious Wood Works, a furniture-making outfit that Cornelius Mbithi, Joseph Njung’e, Morris Muoki, Samwel Nthiga and Gibson Muraya – all graduates of the SOS Vocational Training Centre in Buruburu - set up in July 2004. Audicious is known for woodwork and fittings for interiors, such as wooden staircases, wardrobes and kitchen cabinets, as well as individual furniture pieces like beds, chairs, tables, and even picture and mirror frames. Cornelius Mbithi always wanted to be a carpenter. He is passionate about carpentry – making durable, high quality furniture. And although today Mr Mbithi can look back with


pride at what he and his partners have set up, he came into carpentry by a very long and winding route. He was not one of the SOS “children”, so to speak. After sitting for his Form 4 examination in 1992 in his home area of Kathiani in Machakos, Mr Mbithi stayed at home for a year, “trying to do some farming.” He then decided to try his fortune in Nairobi and joined the masses of casual workers at construction sites. And that is when a window of opportunity opened. A friend of Mr Mbithi, who worked at the SOS Woodwork Workshop, needed a helper for sanding the legs of furniture. “When he mentioned it to me, I jumped at the idea,” says Mr Mbithi. So, in August 1994, Mr Mbithi joined the SOS Workshop and worked as a helper until the end of that year. He remembers working on a big, round table with 40 drawers. Mr Mbithi was now on good terms with the people at the workshop and when he came back in January 1995, expecting to continue as a helper, he was offered a job as a storekeeper. Fritz Bachlechner, the Technical Training and

Construction Coordinator at the SOS Wood Workshop trained Mr Mbithi in storekeeping, a skill that was to prove very useful when Mr Mbithi eventually set up his own furniture workshop. However, at the time, Mr Mbithi did not appreciate this and kept looking for opportunities to work in the workshop, making furniture. “I wanted to be a woodworker,” he says. As a storekeeper, Mr Mbithi started handling issues of costing and keeping a record of all items in the store, such as hinges, varnish, screws, sanding paper, tools, wood, etc; all the time working closely with Lucas Barongo, the Production Unit Manager. However, Mr Mbithi still could not suppress his burning desire to be a carpenter. He thus took every opportunity to interact and learn from the carpenters and instructors in the workshop. He not only wanted to be a practical carpenter but also have the papers to back his competence. To this end, Mr Mbithi sat for and passed the Grade 3 Carpentry course at the end of 1996. Yet he was still working in the stores. He then decided to sit for the Grade 2 Test in the new

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year. To prepare for this, Mr Mbithi befriended the fundi (artisans) in the workshop even more and would spend every spare moment assisting them. After a year, he sat for the Grade 2 test and passed. That was when Mr Mbithi went to his boss, Mr Bachlechner and stated bluntly, “I cannot continue being in stores.” He wanted to get into the workshop and make furniture. Interestingly, Mr Bachlechner responded by sending Mr Mbithi for a short certificate course on Stores and Supplies, probably in the hope that the latter would concentrate on stores and abandon his dream of becoming a carpenter. But this was not to be. Mr Mbithi decided to take matters into his hands in 1998. He trained a former storekeeper to take over the stores, all in a bid to free himself of the storekeeping duties. Unfortunately, the new trainee left after just two months and Mr Mbithi had to go back to the stores. An opportunity to get out of the stores came when Mr Mbithi was seconded to the SOS Children’s Village in Entebbe, Uganda, to analyse and interpret drawings for furniture and do the costing. When he came back to Kenya, Mr Mbithi went to work in the workshop, until 2004 when he left to set up Audicious Wood Works. Looking back today, Mr Mbithi appreciates the training, both practical and theoretical, that he received at the Vocational Training Centre. While working at the stores, he learnt stock control and planning for projects. He later learnt how to interpret drawings and do costing. This was in addition to the carpentry and furniture making skills that he gained at the workshop. These skills prepared Mr Mbithi, not just to be a maker of quality furniture and fittings, but also to be an entrepreneur who can run and manage a woodwork business. One of the cardinal principles of quality carpentry and furniture making that Mr Mbithi learnt at the SOS centre and which he still applies today is to use dry wood. “We never use wet timber,” he says. “We look for forest timber then dry it.” And he prefers to dry the timber naturally, not by kiln. Since Audicious uses dry timber, their customers will never experience the misalignment of doors and other fittings so common in Kenya today. Dry timber appreciates in value. For instance, Audicious buys wet mahogany (e.g. Khaya senegalensis) and other timber at Ksh 95 to Ksh 105 per board foot. After drying, the timber sells for Ksh 180 to Ksh 200 per board foot. Another practice that sets Mr Mbithi and his business partners apart is that, just like the SOS Vocational Training Centre workshop, they use joints and glue to join pieces of wood, and not nails. The joints are secured by wooden dowels

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or “biscuits” are they are called in the industry. When the joints on your furniture are done this way, you do not have to worry about loose, squeaking joints after a few years’ use. The joints remain secure and firm for the entire life of a piece of furniture. Other details that make the difference between quality work and ordinary work is the use of different types of sanding paper, depending on the wood. In addition, at Audicious, furniture is cleaned piece by piece, before assembly. This way, one is sure the finished product carries no dust in obscure corners. Since the Audicious team does a great deal of joinery and fittings work on site, they have invested in portable drills, screwers and planers

Careful work at the bench in the workshop. (Photo BGF)

that they take to site. Apart from mahogany, Audicious also uses grevillea, mvule (Milicia excelsa), mukangu (Aningeria altissima), Meru oak (Vitex keniensis), cypress (Cupressus lusitanica, mostly for construction) as well as pine (Pinus patula). Audicious does not advertise and all the customers learn of the workshop through “word of mouth”. For this reason, Mr Mbithi places a high premium on honesty and integrity. He realises that it is only through maintaining these values and never compromising on quality that the company can grow. And the future? Mr Mbithi would like to own a workshop with proper woodworking machinery. “We would like to be like the SOS workshop,” he says. We at Miti wish him the best. The writer is the Managing Editor, Miti magazine. Email:

The finishing touch. A timber joint fixed with screws, not nails. (Photo BGF)


All set for future forestry

A very interesting picture. First, there is the small soil volume of the container, and then there is the container itself. It is square (to avoid spiral roots) tapers towards the bottom for easy root pruning and is reusable. It fits inside a crate used for the seedling transport. Note the curve in the seedlings stem, where the cutting started to sprout. (Photo BGF)

The Tree Biotechnology Programme Trust does more than multiply cloned eucalypts By Jan Vandenabeele


he Tree Biotechnology Programme Trust (TBPT) has become a potent force in Kenyan afforestation. It all started in 1994, with one of the recommendations of the Kenya Forestry Master Plan on technology transfer. At the basis of this realisation lay the growing awareness that there was too much felling of trees, and not enough planting, one of the major reasons being a shortage of quality planting material. Through the facilitation of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), based at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, a technological transfer of novel tree cloning techniques from South Africa to East Africa was negotiated with a private company, Mondi Forests Ltd. They had developed a clonal technology for fast multiplication of genetically improved eucalypt species and hybrids. It had proved a remarkable success, with growth rates of hybrids like Eucalyptus grandis x camaldulensis (GC), even in marginal areas, being far superior to existing yields. And so it worked out, in 1997. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation (UK), a private foundation funded by Sainsbury Family Charitable Trust, ensured financing through the Kenya Gatsby Charitable Trust. As a result, Mondi Forests Ltd agreed to an initial free technology transfer of 12 GC clones, and with the then Forest Department and the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) being natural partners, ISAAA put hands and heads together and the Tree Biotechnology Project was born. A major aim of the project was the introduction of facilities for large-scale rapid macro-propagation techniques for clonal multiplication of selected tree species. This was a large nursery complex (the largest in East Africa, at 6 ha) in Karura, Nairobi, including fields with clonal hedges, boreholes, a greenhouse, shade houses, stores, etc. For financial reasons (sustainability of revenue), the project evolved into a programme and in 2007 it transformed legally into a trust. In addition to the collaborators mentioned above, the trust has other national and international partners, namely, the Forest Society of Kenya, K-Rep Development Agency, the Kilimo Trust (a subsidiary of Gatsby Trust) and the Central American and Mexico Coniferous Resources Cooperative (CAMCORE), an international conservation and tree-breeding organisation. Benson Kanyi, then working in the Forest Health Management


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Centre (FHMC) of the Forest Department, was appointed manager of the new programme. He had graduated from the University of Nairobi in 1984, spent a year at KEFRI and gradually climbed the ladder in the Forest Department, first as District Forest Officer in Kilifi, where Arabuko Sokoke forest is found, and Nyandarua, and afterwards as Provincial Forest Officer in Western Kenya. He has an MSc in Entomology and had been involved in the National Aphid Programme (the cypress aphid) and the Leucaena psyllid project, among others. He was also experienced in cooperation with institutions like the National Museums of Kenya, the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and KEFRI. In addition, FHMC had some experience with tissue culture and had experience handling trial plots in both establishment and monitoring. Tree and forest health is important when dealing with clones, which, because of their genetic homogeneity, are more vulnerable to pests and diseases than natural tree populations. An example of such a pest is the relatively new eucalypt chalcid (Leptocybe invasa) that has been attacking some eucalypt species since 2002, starting in Western Kenya.

Growth of the clones and trial results1 Much has been said about these eucalypt clones. They were introduced in 22 field trials in various ecological parts of the country like Karura, Embu, Machakos, Hombe, Kitui (Tiva) Timboroa, Gede, Sokoke, Msambweni and Marigat (planted between 1998 and 2002) and followed up by KEFRI. 2 Even before trials were complete, the introduced clones proved a wild success, with planters jumping on them and sometimes planting in inappropriate places. This had its consequences, with clones succumbing to drought or being stunted because of poor management practices like planting too closely, competition with grass and deep inter-row ploughing that would destroy root systems. However, a start was made, and more clones were introduced from South Africa, including hybrids between Eucalyptus urophylla and E. grandis (GU clones). When planted in the right places with good management techniques, the

1 Mostly from Konuche P, 2004, “Deploying clonal forestry technology into Kenya’s National Forestry Programme”. In: ISAAA Brief nr 33, “Towards optimizing the benefits of Clonal Forestry to Small-scale farmers in East Africa”. 2 Trial establishment in various sites in Uganda followed (Abi, Ikulwe, Kifu, Ngeta, Serere, Akol, Apala, Bugongi, Katooma, Kigumba, Mukungoro and Nyabushabi), with new introductions not limited to Camaldulensis-hybrids, but also including Urophylla-hybrids and pure E. grandis. A Tree Biotechnology Project was also set up in Tanzania, with trial sites in highlands (Lushoto, Mufindi and Ilkurot), lowlands (Mombo and Kwamarukanga), Coastal (Kibaha, Zanzibar and Pemba), semi-arid (Kigwe-Dodoma, Kisangiro and Shinyanga), Miombo (Kingolwira, Tabora and Songea) and Lake Zone (Kanyinya).

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clonal plantations have exceeded expectations. Growth is fast, producing harvestable volumes at 4 - 5 years, and the trees are homogeneous, meaning they all have the same, straight shape, facilitating easy harvesting and processing. However, the growth depends on the ecological area. In the coastal areas, GC hybrids have shown exceptional growth in areas with about 900mm of rainfall (7m in height in the first year at Sokoke). In semi-arid zones, GC has shown promise in areas up to 1400masl with 600-900mm rainfall though termites and severe droughts are a problem. Highland areas, at 1500-1700masl with over 900mm of rain make a good environment for GC hybrids. At elevations of 1800-2200masl with 1200-2000mm of rain, the local improved (by KEFRI) E. grandis shows the best growth rate (up to 5m per year). Other trials have shown that the wood properties of the clones more than match the wood from mature trees of natural species.

Technical advice Land preparation is very important. Ploughed/ tilled land, with intercropping for the first two years greatly enhances survival and growth. Competition with grass should be avoided. Spacing depends on the desired product, and on the ecological zone. Relatively wide planting (3x3m) is advisable for good root development in semiarid areas. On the contrary, fuelwood can be produced under a 2x2m spacing in higher altitudes, with pole production possible in the same zone at 2.5x2.5m (1600 trees/ha or 640 per acre). Fertilising is optional, with 30-50g of NPK, but it helps, notably in poorer soils (coastal sands, leached highland soils). Pitting is easy in ploughed land, and pit depths should not be less than 30cm. The eucalypts will coppice after harvesting, and therefore are better felled with a saw, not an axe.

Scope of TBPT The Tree Biotechnology Programme Trust has sold 25 million seedlings since 2001. At an average spacing of 2.5x2.5m, this translates into a coverage of 15,625ha. And this is achieved through commercial sales, though subsidised. The selling price of a seedling in Karura is Ksh 14 for a clone, and Ksh 7 for a seedling from seed, versus the real cost of respectively Ksh 25 and Ksh 10. Currently, 60 per cent of TBPT’s budget is met by sales, with the remaining 40 per cent coming from the Gatsby Foundation, for extension, training and publication expenses. Apart from the main nursery in Karura, TBPT also has outlets in Lamu (Hindi), Gede (at the KEFRI station), Eldoret next to Sossiani River (KFS forest extension site), Meru at the District Forester’s office, Eldoret and Kilgoris (DFO’s office). Some 119 qualified entrepreneurs who

have gone through TBPT’s training programme complement these outlets. These private producers are grouped under the Forest Tree Nurseries Association of Kenya, which has its own professional standards. To allow clonal production for these operators, TBPT developed a special technique for rooting the cuttings, under plastic tunnels. TBPT also produces a scientific paper on the research done at the Karura nursery as part of knowledge sharing on the new technology. TBPT’s activities are not limited to eucalypts. Related programmes work on indigenous species like Warburgia ugandensis (muthaiga), mukau (Melia volkensii), Prunus Africana (red stinkwood) and others. A biodiversity centre was set up for collection and conservation of indigenous species, provenances and individual tree specimens.

The future The Kenyan controversy around eucalypts has had repercussions on TBPT. The worst seems to be over, and even growers from central Kenya, most affected by local measures to fell eucalypts, are coming back after a sustained effort in information dissemination and separation of facts from pseudo-facts. Severe and recurrent droughts have also been a setback, but with a silver lining as they showed the limits of certain clones and the potential of others. Limited budgets are of course a restraining factor, notably with escalating input costs, but seedling sales are booming and TBPT looks set for further growth. And this not only for seedling sales, but also in innovation and research, and capacity building beyond the Kenya borders. In this regard, TBPT successfully discharged an order for 500,000 high quality GC clones to a commercial multinational company in Tanzania. In addition, TBPT has been invited to Mozambique, Rwanda and Burundi to share experiences and support the establishment of a similar programme. In this endeavour, TBPT is a member of the Seed Traders Association of Kenya (STAK) and registered by KEPHIS as a seed/germplasm merchant as well as licensed to operate an open quarantine facility. In recognition of its contribution to tree improvement research in the region, TBPT was in 2008 appointed the secretariat for the East Africa CAMCORE membership at a meeting attended by the key forestry institutions from East Africa. Quite some activities! As they say, clonal forestry is the future, and Tree Biotechnology Programme Trust is preparing it well. The writer is the Executive Director, Better Globe Forestry Ltd. Email:


Bringing tree growers together The Uganda Timber Growers Association looks out for the interests of commercial forestry The HQ of UTGA in Kampala. (Photo BGF)

By Jan Vandenabeele


ommercial tree growing is certainly taking root in Uganda. Miti spoke to Robert Nabanyumya, the current Executive Director of the Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA). Established in 2007, UTGA brings together commercial tree growers in Uganda. Its overall objective is “to ensure a sustainable, profitable, socio-economically and environmentally sound commercial forestry industry in Uganda.” The association was formed through the initiative of the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS), a joint Uganda – European Union (EU) project that pushes commercial plantation forestry in Uganda. To date, membership stands at 120, representing almost 20,000 hectares of plantations (mostly Pinus caribaea var hondurensis or PCH for short). Membership is open to individuals, organisations or institutions with commercial plantations. Holdings for members start at a minimum of a hectare, while member companies like The New Forests Company have over 2,000 hectares. An executive committee defines the management, makes the annual workplans, and supervises a secretariat that runs the day-to-day activities. The executive committee answers to the members through


a general assembly, that is responsible for the vision, overall policy formulation and approval of budget and activities. In its short life, UTGA has drafted a three-year strategic plan, with special emphasis on marketing and value addition, lobbying and advocacy. It has also strengthened its participation in forestry training, and its capacity for bulk purchase of inputs. UTGA has also realised the institutional development of the organisation and mobilisation of resources for the members.

Marketing and value addition The oldest plantations of the members are now six years old, which for eucalypts means that two thinnings have taken place, and for pine, one thinning. As the first thinning for pines is normally a waste (the tree diameters are too small for sawing into timber), and done at a loss in order to increase future value of the plantation, UTGA is looking for a solution to create value out of this operation. Its members are cash strapped due

to plantation maintenance operations and would love to have some income. UTGA has requested assistance from SPGS to pay for a consultancy to look into the first thinning issue.

Lobbying on various issues Most UTGA members have planted their trees on National Forest Authority (NFA) land, for which they obtained permits. A permit lasts for 25-50 years, depending on political connections, but it can be withdrawn on three months’ notice, which does not give any security of tenure. UTGA is lobbying for a more secure permit system that automatically covers two rotations or 50 years. UTGA has also lobbied successfully to become a member of the NFA board, while lobbying is still on to become a member of the Presidential Investors Round Table. This is a very influential forum where matters like taxation on returns can be discussed. Tree planters want to obtain a tax alleviation that is compatible with the longer wait for returns from their forest plantations.

Members pay the following rates, according to the size of their plantations:

Category Membership Annual subscription

1-25ha Ush 100,000 Ush 200,000

25-500ha Ush 400,000 Ush 300,000

More than 500ha Ush 600,000 Ush 500,000

(Ush 25 = 1Ksh)

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Robert Nabanyumya (in the middle), the Executive Director of UTGA, in his plantation of Pinus caribaea, in Nakasongola, supported by a grant of SPGS. He has put his money where his mouth is. (Photo Robert Nabanyumya)

In fact, representatives of UTGA early last year met President Museveni and explained the level of investment involved in commercial plantation forestry in Uganda and presented him with a study of the contribution of commercial forestry to the national economy. This level of lobbying is only possible with some serious networking connections. In such discussions, it is clear that knowledge about the financial value of forest plantations is important and UTGA has requested SPGS to do a consultancy on this; to which request SPGS has agreed.

Institutional development of UTGA An important achievement of UTGA is the creation of a members’ Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO). The SACCO will get support from the Micro-Finance Support Centre, which extends loans for medium and small-scale enterprises at 9 – 10 per cent interest, compared to commercial rates of 21 per cent. In fact, the SACCO will become an agent for the Centre, allowing members to obtain loans for expansion and maintenance of existing plantations. Of course, certain conditions have to be fulfilled before one gets a loan, like capacity for repayment, while UTGA will monitor

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the use of the money. It is important to note that the SACCO will only be able to raise money from the Support Centre according to the funds it can muster itself. UTGA has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate with NORSKOG, the Norwegian forest association. NORSKOG is helping UTGA write a five-year business plan that concentrates, among other things, on fund-raising strategies and internal generation of money. The cooperation is enshrined in the terms of the 2nd phase of SPGS. NORSKOG is helping UTGA with its business management and with training for good governance structures. It will help private growers draft proper forestry management plans, including mapping of their plots.

Bulk purchase of important inputs UTGA buys vital items like quality seeds, especially of PCH, which is imported from Australia or Brazil. This seed is then offered at discounted rates to members. UTGA also aims to shop for equipment, herbicides and other items, but first wants to have the SACCO firmly established. A wise move.

Participation in training UTGA is represented in the steering group for Commercial Forestry Research and Training (COMFORT), together with SPGS, Makerere University, Nyabyeya Forestry College, the National Forest Resources Research Institute and NFA. One of the tasks of the group is to set priorities for the stakeholders and identify training for private investors’ specific needs. UTGA also links members to contracting agencies, for establishment and maintenance operations such as clearing, pitting and vegetation control (spraying with the herbicide glyphosate). In conclusion, UTGA has created a powerful presence in the Ugandan forestry world in a short time, and has used the assistance of SPGS to excellent effect. Its prospects look good, which they need to, if the strong push into commercial plantation forestry in Uganda is to survive the phasing out of European Union and Norwegian funding in the next few years. The writer is the Executive Director, Better Globe Forestry Ltd. Email:


April 2009: Dama Masha and a helper plant seedlings of drought-resistant eucalypts on her half-acre piece of land. (Photo: KOMAZA)

Trees to the rescue Micro-forestry helps Kenya dryland farmers to protect their land and overcome poverty By Tevis Howard and Leah Harrison


n 2009, a woman named Dama Masha became one of the first farmers to partner with KOMAZA, a young, non-profit social enterprise that plants trees on small-scale farms in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) throughout Kenya’s Coast region. From their homestead, Ms Masha and her relatives have seen their sandy 10-acre lot transform with the growth of three half-acre “micro forests”. Today, Ms Masha is one of more than 2,000 farmers1 working with KOMAZA in Ganze and Kilifi districts, and the organisation expects to have over 10,000 partner farmers within the next three years. KOMAZA’s micro forestry model is spreading rapidly because it offers an alternative to poverty in ASAL regions, where traditional farming often fails due to drought and nutrient-poor soils. Before planting with KOMAZA, Ms Masha relied

1 By October 2010, KOMAZA expects to have 2050 partner farmers.


on maize and tended cashew, coconut and mango trees, but her region receives only 350A crate of drought-resistant eucalypt clones from the Tree 900mm of rainfall annually. A Biotechnology Project. (Photo: KOMAZA) nearby swamp where she and her area where 85 per cent of people live below the neigbours obtain water for their crops stands dry for six to eight months per year, poverty line, earning less than Ksh 100 per day.2 After decades of deforestation, Kenya’s closed like over 90 per cent of water pans in the area. During severe dry periods, as Kenya experienced forest cover stands at less than 2.5 per cent, far in 2009, Ms Masha’s family confronts starvation. below the 10 per cent minimum internationally With no savings and no available jobs, what are recommended for ecological sustainability.3 Communal land, which predominates in the options for survival? For years, farmers in the area have turned to areas like Ganze, is particularly vulnerable to the illicit charcoal trade. To support her family, Ms deforestation. “Where there is no title deed, Masha has felled over 1,000 trees in her lifetime. people cut down trees without authority,” explains The informal charcoal industry is only growing Harrison Kenga Karisa, a village elder in Ganze. more attractive as demand for charcoal rises in As trees disappear, soil erosion and tandem with population and urbanisation. Ms Masha says she can earn Ksh 400 for every 50kg bag of charcoal, or Ksh 1,200 from a fully mature 2 FAO, Kenya (2007). Food Security District Profile: Kilifi District, Coast Province. tree. Such an amount is undeniably enticing in an 3 United Nations Environmental Programme (2001), An assessment of the world’s remaining closed forests.

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desertification encroach on ASAL regions. “The community’s forest has disappeared, and our land is becoming a desert,” says Mr Karisa. With the charcoal industry destroying fragile dryland environments, Ms Masha and her community need a new solution to extreme poverty. KOMAZA provides one in micro-forestry. In the past, the possibility of profiting from tree farming was out of reach for Kenya’s poorest families. A household like Ms Masha’s, unable to afford adequate food and shelter, cannot bear the burdensome start-up costs required for quality agro-forestry inputs. Moreover, in rural areas of Kenya, value-added processing facilities and high-margin wood markets are inaccessible for ordinary families. Most important, in communities where farming techniques are handed down over generations, farmers simply have not acquired basic silvicultural knowledge. Ms Masha discovered the power of microforestry at a community-wide assembly in 2009. A neighbour, Zawadi Bernard, attended the same meeting. “That day, I learned the value of growing trees,” says Ms Bernard. After she signed up to participate in the programme, a KOMAZA facilitator visited her 10-acre farm to ensure that she owned adequate land in compliance with the organisation’s environmental criteria, which is approved by Kenya’s National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA). Today, KOMAZA’s decentralised field extension network utilises GPS equipment to map the remote regions where the organisation has already planted over a quartermillion trees. Since Zawadi Bernard and Dama Masha joined KOMAZA, the organisation has significantly improved its operational model. Before establishing a tree farm, new farmers now plant nitrogen-fixing green grams or cowpeas that boost soil fertility and lay the foundation for a productive micro-forest. These short-term crops also yield 30-40 kg of high-protein legumes within four months, instantly increasing farmer income and nutrition. Farmers offer a portion of their yield as repayment for seeds, which helps KOMAZA expand to work with additional families in the area. The farmers who succeed in growing shortterm crops and prove their commitment to the programme move on to plant trees during April’s long rains. After farmers complete land preparation milestones, a KOMAZA facilitator helps them plant seedlings sourced from Kenya’s Tree Biotechnology Project and KOMAZA’s own nursery. To support the success of the farms, KOMAZA offers access to high-quality inputs, including a termiticide; a water-retaining polymer; and a fertiliser that provides nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Farmers also intercrop green grams or cowpeas during the first two years of growing

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trees. Given the economic constraints of the tree growers, KOMAZA provides all inputs on credit and does not demand repayment until the trees are harvested. When Ms Bernard and Ms Masha joined KOMAZA in 2009, they planted Eucalyptus grandis x camaldulensis and Jatropha curcas. This year, Jatropha has been replaced with an indigenous species, Melia volkensii. Each half-acre farm now includes 160 Eucalyptus ‘GC 15’ and 160 Melia. Both species are drought-resistant, pest-resistant and fast-growing. Moreover, the Eucalyptus clonal hybrid, developed by Mondi in South Africa, is highly water-efficient, and the tree’s self-pruning, straight trunk makes it extremely attractive in the marketplace. KOMAZA has carefully chosen species that thrive in marginal lands and have the potential to return unprecedented income to ASAL farmers. According to KOMAZA’s most recent data, the survival rate for the eucalyptus is 95.9 per cent. Once established, KOMAZA farms require very little maintenance. Ms Bernard spends only one hour every other day tending her microforest. A facilitator comes every two weeks to check on maintenance practices, including composting, mulching and creating water basins. The facilitator also teaches new skills and explains how to identify and respond to any pests and diseases. As the trees mature, the facilitators track farm performance, including tree growth and survival rates. To increase efficiency, KOMAZA is developing a new reporting system that tracks farm-level data using mobile technology. On KOMAZA’s experimental farm in Ganze, the organisation is conducting maintenance tests to refine best practices while trialling new indigenous trees, short-term crops and rainwater harvesters. KOMAZA is also engaged in a fouryear partnership with the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) to study the eucalyptus pest Leptocybe invasa. Through on-going research, KOMAZA is working to strengthen the promise of micro-forestry for ASAL environments. Already, Ms Masha and Ms Bernard have seen initial returns on their farms. Since April 2009, they have each reaped 90 kg of cowpeas, and they can expect micro-forestry earnings as early as 2012. KOMAZA harvests portions of each farm in phases over 10 to 12 years so that families receive regular income, and they coppice trees for continued growth and profitability. After harvesting, KOMAZA plans to consolidate yields for processing into charcoal, posts, timber and electricity poles. This way, farmers benefit from economies of scale and reach otherwise inaccessible national wood markets. Even after repaying input costs, families can earn over Ksh 400,000 from their half-acre micro forests over

During a visit with her KOMAZA facilitator, Dama shows the progress of her farm, just one year after planting. And this is on leached, unfertile sands. (Photo: KOMAZA)

a typical harvest cycle while a portion of the revenue allows KOMAZA to continue investing with new families. Through micro-forestry, dryland families can overcome poverty while helping to meet Kenya’s growing national wood deficit, expected to reach 11.8 million cubic metres by 2020.4 “My mother and I are very old,” Ms Masha says. “But we have a future in our trees.” She hopes to use her micro-forestry income to build a new house. Ms Bernard, meanwhile, aims to educate her eight children and re-open her small shop, which closed for lack of capital. More than 100 people have found jobs among KOMAZA’s staff, and as Mr Karisa predicts, “Factories will be built here because we are producing timber. My community will grow.” Beyond economic development, microforestry is restoring ASAL environments after years of degradation. Small-scale farms provide an alternative source of wood and a new source of income, thereby easing pressure on indigenous trees and protecting natural ecosystems. Moreover, KOMAZA’s maintenance techniques are helping farmers improve the productivity of their land and are spreading even beyond microforestry plots. KOMAZA has demonstrated the potential of tree farming as a triple-bottom-line business, and farmers with adequate resources have begun to replicate the model independently on their own farms. Today, the community in Ganze looks forward to thriving forests rather than barren deserts. KOMAZA, which is Swahili for “promote development and encourage growth,” plans to expand its operations throughout East Africa so that thousands of families can harness the entire micro-forestry value chain - from seed to market - to secure their economic and environmental future. Tevis Howard is the Founder and Executive Director at KOMAZA while Leah Harrison was an Associate at the time of writing. Email:

4 Christine Holding, Paul Njuguna, & Catherine Gatundu. “Farm Sourced Timber: the Restructuring of the Timber Industry in Kenya – Opportunities and Challenges.” ICRAF, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Forest Action Network. 2001 (Accessed 09/10/2009).


Born in a timber family Top Ugandan tree planter’s vision is to provide for the scarcity of timber in the country


By Robert Nabanyumya


onsiano Besesa was born in 1958 in a timber family. “I say that I was born in a timber family because my father was the first Ugandan to be registered as a pitsawyer in the early 1940s in the greater Kigezi region, in southern Uganda. My mother’s dowry and my school fees came from timber,” he says. Mr Besesa started the timber business in 1977 as a pit sawyer in Bwindi Forest Reserve, now Bwindi National Park. Since then he has worked in almost all forested districts of Uganda. He then opened a timber store in Ndeeba, Kampala, in 1981, from which he operates even today. In 1991, Mr Besesa registered a company, BESEPO (U) Ltd (BESEPO is a combination of his names – BESEsa and POnsiano). He has undertaken the complete sawing business in the timber industry, from pit sawing to sawmilling. In 1995, he obtained a loan from the Uganda Development Bank and purchased a sawmill from Sweden. He was a sawmiller until 2005 when he realised there were not enough trees to sustain the mill. “The sawmill is in my timber store in Ndeeba,” he says. When it dawned on Mr Besesa that trees were diminishing in Uganda, he decided to start planting. “As somebody who loved his business, I had to start planting my own trees,” he says. So far, BESEPO has planted 625 hectares of pine and eucalyptus trees in Mbarara, Kibale and Mubende districts. The biggest plantation is in Mubende where BESEPO has planted 425 hectares, with 575 hectares still to be planted. So far, Mr Besesa is the top local investor in tree planting, standing in fourth position in the country, behind three foreign companies. “I hope to start harvesting in the next three years and finish planting the remaining unplanted area in the next four years,” says Mr Besesa. If he were to get financial support, he would plant the remaining area in a shorter time and then acquire a modern machine to harvest the trees. BESEPO won the 2008 Award from the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS), a scheme supported by the European Union



and the Ugandan government. Mr Besesa also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the National Forestry Authority (NFA) for his contribution to tree planting. Mr Besesa is one of the founder members of the Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA) and his achievements have been made possible by the favourable economic environment in the country, which is encouraging the development of private sector commercial forestry. His achievements have of course not been without challenges. These include encroachment on areas where he is planting and inadequate financing. Mr Besesa is part of a wider constituency of tree growers with a vision to provide for the escalating scarcity of timber in the country. The

gap between timber demand and supply needs to be bridged. The projected timber demand in the country is estimated to require about 75,000 hectares of forest plantations, but to date, only about 45, 000 hectares have been planted by both public and private investment UTGA, formed in 2007, galvanises efforts of the timber growers in the country, offering a collective voice to develop commercial forestry. The main focus is advocacy, lobbying, as well as developing competitiveness of the industry through value addition efforts, research, knowledge development and partnerships with other like-minded institutions. The writer is the Chairman of the Ugandan Timber Growers Association Email:

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1. Ponsiano Besesa (middle, in a white T-shirt) shows visitors around his Pinus caribaea var hondurensis plantation in Mubende. 2. Ponsiano Besesa (in T-shirt and glasses) explaining issues of plantation forestry in Uganda. 3. A three-year-old stand of Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis (PCH) in Mubende. 4. Training takes place even in the plantation! 5. The Sawlog Production Grant Sheme (SPGS) – staff always come in to check on progress of the maintainance. Here they are driving through to do a spot check! (All photos UTGA)




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A tree with multiple uses Contrary to its bad reputation, Prosopis (mathenge) can realise economic benefits

Prosopis bushes growing along the Malindi-Lamu road. They are “pruned� by passing lorries and profit from runoff from the tarmac. Herds of goats passing along the road are the prime cause of their distribution. (Photo BGF)

By Simon Choge


r osopis trees are native to arid and semi-arid zones of the northern countries of South and Central America such as Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, Mexico, Uruguay, the Caribbean and Venezuela. Many governments, agencies and individuals have, for the last two centuries, introduced the species around the world, actively encouraging its propagation. As a result, the genus is now found in all five continents. In Africa, Prosopis is found in nearly all the countries of the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and central and southern Africa. It was introduced in neighbouring Sudan in 1917 by dispersing its seeds across wide desert areas using aeroplanes. The same planting techniques were used in South Africa and India in the 1940s. It was not realised at the time that the tree’s beneficial attributes to survive extreme drought and produce large quantities of nutritious pods would later support its aggressive invasion. This has been made worse by extensive hybridisation among several of the 44 Prosopis species and varieties as well as lack of utilisation pressure and natural enemies in their new areas of introduction. Unfortunately, it is not easy to predict the behaviour of any given species in new areas of introduction. Neither has it been easy to eliminate Prosopis, an experience faced by all invaded nations. The species commonly known as mathenge in Kenya is Prosopis juliflora. Although the date and manner of its introduction to Kenya remains uncertain, recent surveys have shown that


colonial administrators planted some ornamental trees at Mrashe Township (now Taveta in TaitaTaveta District) in 1948 with seeds sourced from South Africa. Other subsequent small-scale trial plantings followed in Hola (1960s) and Bamburi, near Mombasa in 1973. However, more coordinated cultivation across the country (alongside other drought resistant trees) was carried out between the early 1970s and mid 1980s, mainly through ASAL development programmes. Its invasive potential was then little known. The El Nino rains of 1997/98 accelerated the spread of the species as a weed in Kenya. Large Prosopis biomass can now be found in Baringo, Garissa, Mandera, Tana River, TaitaTaveta and Turkana districts of Kenya.

A tree with multiple uses Prosopis trees have been found to be some of the most ecologically and economically important trees for arid areas. They can survive in hot arid zones where virtually no other trees can grow as well as on poor or saline soils. In the process, the trees have provided many of the basic needs of the populations living in these zones. Prosopis trees produce excellent firewood and charcoal. The wood can also be sawn as timber. The species therefore contribute to the rural economy in areas where they have been introduced. The pods of Prosopis species are valuable sources of carbohydrates, sugars and proteins for livestock and human populations. Industrial processing of pods can produce seed gums for use in the food industry, dietary fibre and ethanol

as a bio fuel. These technologies are yet to be adopted in many African countries. In addition, honey produced from the trees is of high quality.

An invasive weed There are reports, from almost every country where the trees have been introduced, of Prosopis invading agricultural and pasture land, watercourses, roadsides and wasteland, if left unmanaged. Although individual Prosopis occur as small trees, invading populations tend to form dense thorny impenetrable thickets. The success of Prosopis species as invaders is largely attributed to the large number of seeds they produce and their efficient dispersal by livestock after feeding on the pods. The situation is made worse in countries like Kenya where exploitation for charcoal or round wood (poles) is not allowed by law.

Control of the species Although Prosopis trees are considered a valuable asset in many arid and semi-arid areas, they have become aggressive in many countries. Perceptions on Prosopis therefore vary widely. Some see Prosopis as a useful and productive tree, tolerant of sites where little else will grow, while others see it as a weedy invader that ought to be eradicated. Unfortunately, Prosopis is difficult to eradicate. Eradication programmes using manual, mechanical, chemical and biological methods have given limited success due to little understanding of the biology of the species and

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to scarce resources. Some of these methods are effective for a short time, but Prosopis generally returns. This is largely because the tree re-grows from stumps and from massive numbers of seeds stored in the ground. Seeds usually lie dormant in the soil for many years and germination is stimulated by soil disturbance and a sudden rise in moisture.

Current initiatives to address the Prosopis weed problem in Kenya The Government of Kenya, in collaboration with development partners and affected communities, has initiated several programmes aimed at addressing the Prosopis problem in the country.

a). Defining the status and impact of the species in Kenya Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) have undertaken a study on the status and impact of Prosopis invasion in Kenya. The study has shown that there is a complete lack of knowledge and technology, particularly among the local communities, to manage the invasions. In addition, the government lacks a policy that guides management and control of Prosopis and other invasive species.

b) Pilot project to fill the knowledge gaps on management and control of Prosopis FAO supported the first intensive pilot project in Baringo District on integrated management and control of Prosopis. The project addressed the knowledge gap on Prosopis management and control through capacity building of both the local communities and government officials. The technologies for management, control of invasions as well as processing and utilisation of Prosopis were demonstrated with guidance from leading world experts. The technologies are now being piloted on selected sections of the affected areas of the country. A new programme to out-scale these technologies across the country and carry out a detailed mapping and inventory of Prosopis is being planned.

c) Establishing local institutional structures for management and utilisation The government, in collaboration with several development partners, is implementing a pilot programme aimed at establishing local institutional structures to manage Prosopis infestations in selected areas of the country. The development partners include The World Bank (Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project – KAPP), Arid Lands Based Livestock Production Project (ALLPRO), Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO),

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Prosopis stems obtained during thinning of thickets are used for making charcoal. (Photo KEFRI)

among others. These initiatives have helped to change the negative perceptions on Prosopis. For example, residents of Marigat District earn in excess of Ksh 20 million per month from sales of Prosopis charcoal and pods for industrial manufacture of livestock feeds. However, further organisation of the local groups is required for a more coordinated approach on thinning, killing of stumps, processing, certification and marketing of products in all the affected areas of the country. Arrangements to allocate groups, villages or individuals to specific invasions for management, processing and marketing of products are being made. Collection of 100 per cent of pods for local processing for livestock feeds and value addition for trading are also planned. It is estimated that over 50,000 tonnes of the pods are available per month in the country.

The Kenyan livestock feed industry competes with the food industry for cereal grains. Recent research results have shown that Prosopis can help to stabilise prices of cereals in Kenya and to have more of it available for human consumption. This would in turn help to fight famine prevalent in Kenya’s ASAL areas. With a Prosopis coverage of over 800,000 hectares in Kenya, over 200,000 tonnes of production of pods per month can be achieved if the collection is well coordinated across the country. Trials indicate that 50 people can collect 5 tonnes per day or about 150 tonnes per month with earnings of over US$ 10,000 a month. Already, during a trial run involving about 50 collectors spread out in four districts in Kenya (Baringo, Tana River, Turkana and Taita-Taveta, in 2008), 30 tonnes of pods were collected and sold to Sigma Feeds and Tamfeeds, for making animal feed, and another 20 tonnes exported to South

d) Policy directions on management and utilisation of Prosopis Policy development on Prosopis management and utilisation in Kenya is in the process of being developed. The policy will lay emphasis on the need to focus on control of the species as the primary objective with utilisation and other accruing benefits as secondary objective(s) owing to the conflict of interest on the status of the species in the country at present. Other technologies for management and control of invasions will equally be considered such as chemical, mechanical or even biological control if and when found appropriate. The writer is a Principal Research Officer, Drylands Programme, KEFRI. Email:

Africa, earning the community about US$ 3,500. Research has shown that milling of 1 tonne of pods during industrial processing destroys over 2 million seeds, a novel biological control of Prosopis spread while sustaining livelihoods. Fifty tonnes of pods already processed has therefore destroyed over 100 million seeds that would have been dispersed and flourished. Besides the use of pods, charcoal is also a very important source of energy and a source of income for many rural households. Prosopis makes excellent charcoal, and the high quantity of biomass in Kenya remains largely unexploited. Four people can make over 1,000 kg of charcoal per week or 4,000 kg a month with earnings of over US$ 3,200 per month. These are above average levels of income that can transform livelihoods of community members significantly while reducing the population of the invasive trees.


Constructing tabias Some practical guidelines By Herman Verlodt

This article is a follow-up on two previous ones, “A solution for semi-arid regions” in Miti issue 6 and “Tabias for harvesting water in ASAL” in Miti issue 7.


onstruction of tabias starts with putting landmarks and realisation of the necessary topographic measurements, followed by construction of the dikes.

1. Topographic levelling and land marking

done through the overflow in the principal dike (which is built with stones), the lateral dikes are prolonged to end 20 cm above the level of the overflow. Sometimes one (or both) ends of the lateral dike are designed to serve as protection for emergency evacuation (when the delivery to the tabia is superior to the expected one through exceptionally heavy rainfall). When a combination is made of central and lateral evacuation, the extremities of the lateral dikes should be placed at the same level as the central evacuation. In case of irregular surfaces, intermediate levelling is suggested along the principal dike, every 20 m (landmarks V) and eventually also between both ends of the lateral dikes (landmarks VI).

The deviation dikes have to be marked and a landmark (VIII) placed at the end of the deviation dike. If deviation will be done at both sides, two deviation dikes need to be constructed. When only one deviation dike is used, the other lateral dike has to be prolonged to avoid evacuation and a landmark (VII) is necessary to mark the end of the prolongation. Positioning of the different landmarks is illustrated in figure 1. Figure 2 shows the notes made to prepare for the construction of the tabia after topographic levelling. As the slope is around 0.7 per cent (see the different marks and differences in height for a distance of 30 m), the water supply (a deviation of a temporary river) is very difficult to calculate. Since the land is small, the depth of the water retention has been reduced to 25 cm instead of 30 cm for safety and a storm evacuation has been integrated and is situated 5 cm above the normal evacuation. The figure shows the positions (in m) of the

Topographic levelling starts by fixing a landmark outside of the provisional area for the tabia. The landmark will not be influenced or destroyed by the construction works, and we can come back to it whenever necessary during the construction. This initial landmark will serve as reference for all the others. It makes it possible to position at any moment, the right level of the bottom of the retention basin or the right situation of the spillover. The second landmark to be fixed will be at one end of the principal dike (I). The third landmark will be fixed at the other Figure 1 : Landmarking of the tabia end of the principal dike (II) and this by initial point observing the projected length of the 1,0 m dike and by following the contour lines because this landmark should be placed rincipal V V V II I V V pr at the same level as the first one. (A GPS dike has insufficient precision for this, and lateral dike optic levelling is to be preferred). retention basiin The ends of the lateral dikes are fixed perpendicularly and marked prolonged lateral dike VI VI IV VIII III VI VI VI by landmarks (III) and (IV). To obtain the right 90° angles, the theorem of on basin deviation dike upper limit of the retentio Pythagoras1 is applied by using a ribbon prolongation of lateral dike meter. The length of the lateral dikes is VII determined by the slope and for slopes superior to 1 per cent, the length of the Figure 2 : Preparation of levelling Initial mark total large of the prin ncipal dike = 90 m lateral dikes can be smaller than the 100,00 height of central evacuation length of the retention dike. 87,5 m 75 m 55 m 35 m 15 m 0 m position of the lanmark The kind of spillover or overflow also 0 4 0 99..95 -5 -4 0 height in cm towards gro determines the length of the lateral 99.70 99.66 99.70 99.75 99.74 99.70 topographic level in m dikes: When overflow occurs along the soil, the end of the lateral dike has to be fixed 30 cm above the landmark bottom of the retention basin. When evacuation is only done at one -18 -18 -18 -18 -20 -25 depth tof levelling i 99.88 99.88 99.88 topographic level in 99.88 99.90 99.95 side, the other lateral dike should be prolonged in order to avoid overflow. deviation dike When the evacuation has to be storm 100.00 99.95 evacuation

full level

1 a2 + b2 = c2, e.g. 42+32=52


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different landmarks of the proposed principal dike (with a length of 90 m) as well as on the superior limit of the retention basin. The topographic levels of the different landmarks are also shown. These will allow for the calculation of the levelling A detail of the supply channel. Photo BGF. needed to realise these different points. The whole retention basin has to be brought to ground level on the both edges of the principal dike (landmark I and II). The differences are calculated and presented on the figure and allow determination of the exact positive (filling Not a tabia, but a pond excavated for road works with an earth dam that also collects up) or negative (excavation) levelling to realise water from a surrounding catchment area. (Photo BGF) landmarks V and VI. The ground surface will be levelled n Figure : initial scarification works for preparation of the excavation and a retention of 25 cm is obtained by positioning of the overflow. The 3rd passage 2nd passage prolongation of the lateral dikes will be done until the level of the central 5th passage evacuation is met. The position of the eventual storm evacuation on the prolongation of one or both lateral dikes is obtained by prolongation until the 1st passage same level of the central evacuation is 6th passage reached, plus an additional 5 cm.

2. Construction works The mechanical construction of the tabia involves the following tasks: Delimitation of the extremities of the tabia with the traditional mulching2 tools (see figure 3): The delimitation of the lateral dikes is done outside the line of the landmarks and shows where the dike is to be constructed. For the upper limit of the retention basin, the delimitation is done inside, as the works will have to start just inside the landmarked zone. For the principal dike, two demarcation zones are realised: the first one just inside the retention basin (in order to mark the end of levelling works) and the second one just outside (to show the position of the dike). There should be a distance of 0.5 to 1 m between both zones for correct visualisation. The delimitations are realised as visualised on the figure and necessary to assure good adhesion and fixation of the dikes and facilitate excavation at the start. First, scarification of the soil is done (generally from the upper side towards the principal dike). Then a bulldozer or tractor with shovel or blade will start on the outer side of passage 1 and depose soil just beyond the zone of passage 2 (on the separation zone of passage 2 and 3). Passage 4 and 5 are used for disposal of soil for the lateral dikes and passage 6 and 7 for the deviation dikes. First terracing by raising the inferior part of 2 Mulching in this case means making the upper soil crumbly so that soil capillarities are destroyed and no evaporation of water can take place from the lower soil levels (deeper than 15-20cm). The author means tools like hoes or spades.

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distance of 1 m

4th passage

7th passage

the basin when the slope is superior to 1 per cent and starting partial construction of the principal dike. Verification of the level of the principal dike. Creation of reference points for the work. Second scarification if necessary (normally done longitudinally). Second terracing if necessary (for completing the height of the principal dike, and sometimes a third scarification is necessary). Before second terracing, a few reference marks are dug out to the exact depth. This is not necessary on regular slopes neither is it necessary on irregular slopes when the conductor is experienced. Lateral level control. Longitudinal terracing for construction of lateral dikes while levelling the bottom of the basin. Sometimes for this work, additional soil has to be brought to the construction site, depending on the depth of terrace works to be realised or diagonal excavation to be done in order to reserve some soil for the lateral dikes. Construction of auxiliary deviation dikes (if necessary). These dikes should be raised with as little disturbance of the subsoil as possible on the upper side of the dike, to avoid weakness and destruction by erosion. Eventual sensitive zones need to be protected by stones on the sidewalls. Verification of all levels and final levelling followed by compacting, especially of the zone of the overflow. Final scarification of all zones concerned,

by construction of deviations and overflows. Marking and construction of deviations and overflows. As described, tabia construction is a combination of scarification works and terracing, so a correct tool for scarification and a tractor or bulldozer equipped with a blade or a shovel are needed. The plough is used very often, but this is not the best tool for scarification, because the ploughing zone is narrow, the plough goes too deep and creates soil clumps. Heavy cultivators and scarificators are preferred because they can work on areas more than 2 metres wide in one go, the depth is more regular and the soil is prepared with no clumps, but also not pulverised. The choice of a bulldozer or a tractor depends on the soil quality. Tractors with a blade do very good work except where there are big stones. A frontal shovel can be as efficient as a blade. The experience of the conductor of the engine is what makes the difference. Due to the relatively small volumes of terracing, big engines will not be very efficient. (The last article on tabias will deal with improving existing tabias and maintenance of tabias.) The writer is a former professor of the University of Tunis, Tunisia and a researcher specialising in horticulture and irrigation techniques Email: or


Water below the sand Sub-surface dams are built under the sand surface of seasonal riverbeds; how can they supply water? By Erik Nissen-Petersen and Jan Vandenabeele

This is another article in our series on small and cost-effective ways to obtain water in drylands. We have already written on: The availability of water in drylands Water from dry riverbeds Shallow wells.


subsurface dam is a structure built across a sand-filled, seasonal riverbed that can arrest and store water that is trickling downstream in the voids between sand particles under the surface of riverbeds. It is hence a vertical barrier that stops the underground flow of water in sandy riverbeds. Water is trapped and stored in the sand upstream of a subsurface dam from where it can be extracted from waterholes or hand-dug wells during dry seasons. Subsurface dams raise the water level in the sand upstream of the dam wall to about 30cm below the surface of the riverbed. Subsurface dams are thus hidden under the sand and cannot be seen. The dam wall must be firmly embedded with the bottom of the riverbed and anchored into both riverbanks to avoid seepage and under-mining that can destroy the structure. Dam walls can be made of any impermeable material, such as; soil, clay, or reinforced bricks, blocks, rubble stones or concrete.

The science behind the practice The amount of water stored thus depends on the amount of sand present in the riverbed, and the size of the voids between the individual grains of sand. Big grains of sand touch each other only at the extremities of their ball-shapes, thereby creating space in between that is available for either air or water. Coarse sand offers the biggest storage possibilities, followed by medium sand, fine sand and silt. (Clay will also store water, but absorbs it inside its microscopic texture and does not let go of it.) When a sand basin consisting of coarse grains is filled with water, the maximum saturation with water will be 45 per cent. An approximate volume of a dam reservoir will be arrived at by this rule of thumb: “Maximum depth (m) x maximum width (m) x maximum throwback (which is the horizontal length of water in a dam, in m) / 6 = volume.” For example: If a river sand reservoir is


A subsurface dam under construction in Kitui. Note, at the far side of the river, the anchoring of the dam in the riverbank. (Photo: Erik Nissen-Petersen)

380m long, 66m wide and 5m deep, it contains 20,900m3 of sand and can hold a volume of 9,405m3 of water at complete saturation. However, maximum water extraction is less. With an extraction rate of 35 per cent from 20,900 m of sand, the volume of water that can be extracted will be 7,315m3. The table below (already published in Miti issue 5) gives an overview of the different possibilities. Therefore, if the 20,900 m of sand is filled with silt, only 5 per cent of water can be extracted from it, which amounts to 1,045m3 of water. In some riverbeds, the subsurface flow of water may be replenished from an upstream source, such as another subsurface dam. Extraction should take place from the deepest point of a sand/water reservoir by means of a shallow well. The inflow to a well can be improved by inserting a perforated (or “infiltration”) 160mm pipe laid in crushed stones from the bottom of the reservoir to the well.

Siting, construction and costs It is crucial to select the right type of riverbed, and the correct place in a riverbed. If a riverbed

contains fractured rocks and big boulders, these will drain water into the underground. The floor of soil under the sand must be of an impermeable and watertight texture, such as clayey soil, clay or murram, which can be made watertight by compaction. A good site is identified through systematic and longitudinal probing in the middle of a dry riverbed, until a natural upward bulge, called a dyke, is found under the sand that can be used for foundation of a subsurface dam. This probing does not take more than half a day, and will make the difference between a reliable supply and a missed opportunity. Probing is done simply by hammering an iron rod (16mm or 5/8”) into the sand at 20m intervals. Probing rods have notches cut into them for every 25cm, so that when they are pulled up, small samples of sand will be found in the notches. When the deepest point for the extraction of water and the shallowest point for the subsurface dam are found, these are crossprobed at intervals of 2m. The probing data is used for drawing a longitudinal profile and two cross profiles on

Saturation with water and extraction possibilities per soil type

Soil type Size (mm) Saturation (%) Extraction (%)

Silt <0.5 38 5

Fine sand 0.5-1 40 19

Medium sand 1-1.5 41 25

Coarse sand 1.5-5 45 35

Miti October-December 2010

Clay extraction for the construction of a subsurface dam. This is a community undertaking, with women doing the donkeywork here – transporting the clay in gunny bags to the construction site. (Photo: Erik Nissen-Petersen)

millimeter graph paper. The requirements and cost of labour and materials are calculated on the basis of these profiles. The cheapest and easiest type of subsurface dam is constructed of clayey soil taken from nearby. Dam walls built of soil do not require reinforcements if the base is 4 times wider than the top (crest) of the dam wall. Since the crest should be from 0.3 to 0.5 meters below the surface of the riverbed, it cannot be damaged or carried away by flash floods. Subsurface dams are constructed with 60cm wide trench, called a key, for anchoring

the subsurface dam into the river-floor and riverbanks. This key is filled with several 20cm thick layers of moistened and compacted clayey soil in a process that goes on until the crest of the dam wall has reached to 30 cm or 50 cm below the surface of the sand in the riverbed. The sides of the dam wall, with a slope of 45o, are smoothened with shovels and wooden planks. The upstream side of the dam can be plastered with clay or cow dung to prevent water from seeping through dam walls built of sandy soils. Finally, the excavated sand is back-filled against both sides and the top of the dam wall.

Schematic view of a subsurface dam

A completed subsurface dam, its black clay top barely visible in the sand of the riverbed. (Photo: Erik Nissen-Petersen)

A subsurface dam built of clayey soil and able to holding the 7,315m3 of water after each flooding would cost about Ksh 120,000 of which Ksh 25,000 is for local labour. Add to this a shallow well costing about Ksh 70,000 of which Ksh 10,000 is for local labour. If infiltration pipes are required, it will obviously cost more (e.g. Ksh 130,000 for some 70m of pipe). The total cost is therefore about Ksh 190,000, of which Ksh 35,000 is for local labour, for a continuous supply of water during long dry seasons. Pumps are not included and the given prices should be updated from 2006 when the handbook ‘Water from Dry Riverbeds’ was published on Contribution of materials and labour by the local community is factored at commercial rates. Where subsurface dams are constructed of other materials than clayey soil, the price of a comparable subsurface dam is at about Ksh 500,000.

Particular advantages of subsurface dams Evaporation of water is practically reduced to zero, as the water is found 50-60cm below the sand surface. This is important in drylands where daily evaporation can reach up to 10mm from open water surfaces. The water is free from contamination because livestock and other animals do not come to drink, as they cannot see the water that is below the sand. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes cannot breed in such underground water reservoirs. The effects of global warming, translating into occasional heavy thunderstorms that pose a serious risk to other types of dams because of sudden heavy water loads, have a minimal impact on subsurface dams, as these are hidden under the surface. They simply cannot be washed away like, for instance, a sand dam, an earth dam or a stone dam. Maintenance costs are low, and the lifetime of subsurface dams in Tanzania is known to be 105 years. Handbooks on rural water supply in dry land can be read and downloaded from .Video films on the same subjects can be watched on Erik Nissen-Petersen is a consultant on water in ASAL Email: and asal@ Jan Vandenabeele is the Executive Director of Better Globe Forestry Email:

Miti October-December 2010


Involving people in reclaiming the land

Experiences from the Western Kenya Integrated Ecosystem Management Project By George Ayaga


eforestation and loss of vegetative cover have led to environmental degradation in western Kenya. Pressure for agricultural land, encroachment, settlement, over-cutting and intense traditional activities are some of the factors causing highlevel deforestation. For instance, over the last 50 years, grass has replaced trees as the most important land cover in the Nyando basin. Studies suggest that historically, land use based on grass and cereal crops has increased the risk of soil erosion significantly in this environment. According to the National Development Plan (2002-2008), the average annual loss of forest in Kenya from a combination of all these factors is approximately 1,350 hectares. In gazetted forests such as Kakamega, people no longer wait for official allocation but invade forests for settlement and other products such as fuel wood. This has resulted in a severely degraded



Fuelwood upstreamofofthethe river Fuelwoodcut cutfrom fromthe the vegetation vegetation upstream L.Nyando catchments, runoff movinginto intothe thegully. gully Nyando catchments, runoff moving


Katuk into the theland landofoftethe Katuk Odeyo Odeyo gully gully eating eating into LuoLuo community in basinbasin. community in L.Nyando river Nyando


Bare land landafter afterdeforestation deforestation Nyando. Bare in in L. river Nyando


environment as exemplified by the emerging and expanding gullies (photos 1-4) in the Nyando river basin where high runoff and erosion from upstream is visible. These gullies have eaten into farmland, causing net loss in agricultural productivity and the resultant food insecurity. Photos 1-4 show women carrying firewood to their homes during the rainy season. The firewood extraction has left the upper catchments of the basin bare. As a result, soils are eroded, forming the adjacent gullies. The gully progressively eats into the land, forcing the communities to lease grazing and cropping land from their neighbours in the upper part of the catchments. With no strict rules and insecure land tenure, leasing leads to land degradation in the upper catchments as well. The Katuk-Odeyo gully, (photo 2), with a 20km2 â&#x20AC;&#x153;basinâ&#x20AC;?, is a result of this phenomenon. Photos 3 and 4 further illustrate the implications

Other gullies gullies forming Other forming around aroundKatuk Katukodeyo Odeyoas a result of erosion as a result of erosion.

of the bare ecosystem, brought about by the deforestation in the Nyando basin. Rampart degradation is replicated in many other river basins in western Kenya such as the Nzoia and Yala where occasional overflow of the rivers beyond the banks create large flood plains in the adjacent catchments. Photos 5 and 6 show the level of riparian degradation and farming activities taking place along the riparian ecosystem in the Nzoia river basin. Intensive farming activities along the riparian zone have resulted in substantial amounts of sediments and residue chemical fertiliser finding their way into the lake. This has led to massive land degradation in watersheds within the Lake Victoria basin, especially the areas surrounding the Nyando, Nzoia and Yala rivers. The eutrophication of the lake has led to high-level invasion by aquatic weeds such as water hyacinth, among others, while depletion of


Plate 5: along Farming Nzoiaincreased causing europhication increased Farming riveralong Nzoiariver causing ofeutrophication L.Victoria. of L.Victoria


Plate 6: Riparian zone degradation along Nzoia River Riparian zone degradation along Nzoia River.

Miti October-December 2010

nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the soils in the catchment areas has resulted into poor yields. The lack of nutrients has promoted the prevalence of common weeds such as striga (Striga hermonthica) 1, leading to further reduction in yields of maize and other cereals. The net effect is food insecurity and starvation of local communities. Photos 7 and 8 show the effect of environmental degradation at lake level and within the local farms. The extent of environmental degradation in western Kenya as described above warrants a proactive approach that will create much more awareness, empowerment and change of attitude among the local communities. Many initiatives in western Kenya see reforestation as the means to address environmental degradation. Some milestones have been achieved but the level of land degradation has continued. Reasons for this remain unclear but it is thought that the lack of active involvement of local communities in addressing the issue has contributed to the low levels of success in restoring the environment in the region. With this is mind, the Western Kenya Integrated Ecosystem Management Project (WKIEMP) embraced the concept of Participatory Reforestation (PR) through an integrated ecosystem management approach. Through PR, the local communities were empowered to establish their own tree nurseries for production of tree seedlings for planting on their farms and at the severely degraded fields. Initial reforestation activities began within the lower block of the Nyando basin traversing both Kericho and Nyando districts and progressively extending to the lower blocks of Yala and Nzoia basins. The earlier block-based intervention strategy was changed after the first year of operation to refocus on micro catchments within the respective 10 x 10km blocks. This was after realising that the block-based approach did not ensure effective linkages for the communities living along the borders of common streams that drained into the larger rivers. As such, it was difficult for the communities to conceptualise the bigger picture of how all of them (upper, middle and lower) contributed to land degradation. An understanding of a micro catchment as the ”surface ground area that pools its run-off into a common reservoir or channel” was first arrived at and agreed upon by the various stakeholders including the local communities before the identification and delineation of specific micro catchments.

1 Note of the Technical Editor Striga is a parasite on food crops and drains nutrients and water from the roots of its host plant. It causes crop losses between 40 and 100%.

Miti October-December 2010



A maize and groundnut plot heavily infested with striga Plate 8 A close-up of the invasive and prolific water hyacinth near Dunga beach, L. Victoria (with purple flowers) in the midlands of the Nyando basin.

Mobilisation and sensitisation meetings with communities residing in delineated micro catchments were then held to draw Participatory Action Plans (PAPs) which would address the many challenges, including environmental and livestock and agricultural productivities, within specific micro catchments. Identification of the problem domains with matching mitigation measures were interlinked across sections of the micro catchments, targeting an integrated ecosystem. The figure below shows the process used in participatory identification of reforestation as a major intervention to combat environmental degradation in the delineated micro catchments. Identification of community Sensitisation and mobilisation of identified community on IEM Participatory identification of environmental and social problems Development of problem ranking matrix Prioritisation of interventions Formulation of Community Participatory Action Plan (PAPs) Implementation of subprojects (reforestation as per the PAP)

Process of PAP development The developed PAPs were then implemented with support from regular CBO and micro-catchment committees. Training was held on topics such as tree nursery establishment and management; soil conservation and fertility; horticulture and drip irrigation systems; composting and planting strategies; dairy goats and poultry farming; proposal writing; record keeping and marketing; and, importantly, conflict management and leadership skills. This work drew from expertise in the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI),

A close-up of the near Plate 7: A maize andinvasive groundnutand plotprolific heavilywater infestedhyacinth with striga (with flowers) in the midlands of the Nyando basin. Dungapurple beach, L. Victoria.

the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the Ministry of Livestock Development (MoLD), the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and other groups. In the course of the project, the communities planted 2.6 million tree seedlings of assorted species in degraded lands and established several farmer field schools and demonstration farms. Some of the expanding gullies in the Nyando basin stabilised after the gully heads were fenced off and an assortment of tree seedlings planted within the perimeter fence (photos 9-16). Farmers were taken on site visits to neighbouring areas to see successful ventures in dairy goat husbandry and commercial tree nurseries. In addition, annual community events were sponsored where the new approaches were highlighted, tree seedlings were distributed,2 new food crops were promoted and children were involved in planting seedlings. Group members continued to exhibit “voice and choice” within the project through highly interactive feedback sessions at regular biweekly meetings. It was at these regular meetings and training sessions that the project developed a strong bond with farmers, and the trade-offs of short-term and long-term investments were debated. In the whole process, the project utilised the methods and philosophy of PRA along with a “problem-posing” approach, to work with people on gaining new knowledge, assessing choices, and making change. Over the five years of this work, the project developed an approach to participation based on the following principles: (1) Start where people are and recognise that individuals and groups are unique (2) Work humbly with open ears and open minds (3) Take time to establish relationships based on honesty, respect and trust (4) Provide an inclusive atmosphere (5) Realise progress is incremental and nonlinear (you cannot predict all the directions

2 KARI purchased some tree seedlings from the newly established nurseries and distributed them to community members free of charge.




Photo Bare land to erosion Bare land9:exposed toexposed erosion risk in the risk L.Nyando basin. in L.Nyando basin

Photo(arm 10: of Gullies of Katuk odeyo) Gillies Katuk(arm Odeyo) forming tn theforming bare land in to theexposure bare landerosion. due to exposure erosion in due L.Nyando



Situation before WKIEMP At inception, WKIEMPinception undertook the fencing of the gully Photo 11: WKIEMP undertook the fencing of the gully


Gully 12: continously eating into the individual Photo Gully continuously eating into theland. individual land


Current Situation

Photo 13: regeneration Vegetation regenerating in the section fenced off Vegetation in the fenced-off section initiating gullyprocess. healing process initiating the gully the healing


Photo 14: Reforestation progress Reforestation progress around thearound gully the gully


Gully in the Photo 15: process Gully inof thehealing. process of healing

Gully heal. Photocontinues 16: Gullytocontinues to heal

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. - Nelson Henderson


and connections your work may lead to), and (6) Accept conflict as inevitable, not always negative, but something that requires attention. The work was about change - a change that ultimately must be freely embraced by those involved. In our experience, change requires adjustments that are often accompanied by some degree of conflict. This is to be expected, and can be an opportunity for growth. Conflict may show up in issues of: Modern viewpoints displacing traditional approaches; Politics and partisanship; Short-term self interest and greed; Exclusion and marginalisation; and Difficult personalities or poor leadership. Communities and groups are diverse and complex, and not all social groups survive. Sometimes, misunderstandings or impatience can lead to the demise of groups. It is our assertion that continued community involvement in PR requires taking into consideration the immediate need of the community. Nevertheless, participatory reforestation has longterm local and global environmental benefits such as reclaiming land value at local level and carbon sequestration at global level. WKIEMP has achieved its target of planting enough trees to sequester 180,000 tonnes of carbon. Besides, the IEM concept is new to the communities but has the potential to promote PR in combating environmental degradation. In view of all these, reforestation activities in the community are likely to gain momentum with increased incentives. Perhaps linking communities to markets for tree products and potential participation in carbon finance are also possible ways that could be explored to promote PR in addition to expanded livelihood options and understanding the problems facing the community. The writer is a researcher at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Kisumu Email:

Miti October-December 2010

A gift for baby Jesus So, what is this myrrh that the Magi presented to the newborn? By Francis Gachathi


he Bible’s best-known mention of myrrh involves the three Magi offering the rare and costly gifts to the newborn Jesus. “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11). Myrrh is the reddish brown aromatic gum resin that exudes from incisions in the bark of Commiphora myrrha, a tree locally known by the Somali as didin (the tree) and malmal or molmol (the gum). The Borana call it khumbi. Commiphora myrrha is a small deciduous tree, up to 5 metres tall with silvery or greyish bark peeling in papery flakes. Its branches end in a sharp spine. The bark contains a secretion, which is freely discharged when the tree is wounded or from natural fissures. The secretion flows as a pale yellow liquid, but hardens to reddish-brown, semi-transparent aromatic oily lumps of various sizes with an acrid and bitter taste. This gum resin exudate is the renowned myrrh, an article of commerce, traded since ancient times. Remember Joseph’s jealous brothers who sold him into slavery: “And looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh on their way to carry it down to Egypt.” (Genesis 37:25). Myrrh has been valued since Pharaonic times when the ancient Egyptians, who thought it essential for the proper preparation of mummies, sent expeditions to the land of Punt (Somalia) to obtain it for embalming and fumigations. It has been used throughout history for personal adornment and religious rituals. It was the primary ingredient in the holy anointing oil that God commanded Moses to make (Exodus 30:2333). Commiphora myrrha grows in drylands, characterised by hot and dry climate and low rainfall. It is found in Somalia, South West Arabia, Yemen, Djibouti, eastern Ethiopia and North Eastern Kenya. In Kenya, it occurs in Mandera and Wajir in Acacia commiphora bush land, on shallow sandy soil overlying limestone, 200-800 metres altitude with about 250–300 mm annual rainfall. Myrrh is a product of considerable economic importance to the local pastoralist communities.

Miti October-December 2010

during the peak season. Since they are in the camp throughout the tapping season, collection is a continuous process and a person can collect up to 150 kg in a month. It is collected in a tin or plastic container and stored at a collection centre in gunny bags with polythene lining to minimise loss of the volatile oil. From the field, myrrh is transported by camels or donkeys and sold to shopkeepers in local trading centres. The local traders sell the same at a profit to gum traders who could be agents of yet other gum traders who at last re-pack the gum in fresh bags ready for export. Prices of myrrh in Wajir range between Ksh 80 – 120 per kg.

Uses of myrrh

Tapped myrrh tree in Mandera. (Photo by KEFRI)

Myrrh collected in Mandera. (Photo by KEFRI)

Collection and trade of myrrh Myrrh is collected after the trees are tapped. Organised groups of men called malmaley (malmal collectors) do this. During the season (JanuaryFebruary and July-September), they move into the woodlands and live in camps where each person is allocated an area. A specially designed axe is used for tapping and collecting myrrh. A single malmaley can collect up to 5 kg per day

Locally, myrrh is mixed with charcoal to make a very durable ink used in Madrasa (Quranic schools), and burned to repel snakes and offensive insects. In human and livestock medicine, it is used to treat various ailments including wounds and boils, digestive problems, coughs, colds, eye diseases and a wide range of ulcers. A very common local traditional use of myrrh is placing on the fontanel, the membraneous space in an infant’s head, to quicken hardening. Its commercial uses are mainly incense and perfumes, essential oils, cosmetics, flavours, antiseptics, astringents and other medicines. It is a common ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash. Like other gum-resins, myrrh falls into the category of non-wood forest products (NWFPs). These renewable resources could be exploited sustainably for household income and still conserve biological diversity and ecosystem functions while increasing overall productivity of the land. It can generate wealth and uplift the living standards of the local communities by contributing to their welfare, livelihood and development. It has potential to diversify livelihood options in drylands. One advantage of the gums and resins resources is their ability to produce marketable products in the dry season when forage is scarce, thereby offering a meaningful economic activity. The writer is Principal Research Officer, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) Email:


Forestation through

golf KFS launches an initiative to plant 50,000 trees per year

A view of the Nyali Golf and Country Club. The doum palm (Hyphaene compressa) in the middle of the lawn shows that we are at the Coast. (Photo KFS)

By Leakey Sonkoyo


he Misitu Golf Challenge is a series of golfing events currently being staged in 13 venues countrywide. The challenge, whose theme is “Forestation through the game of golf”, was launched at the Muthaiga Golf Club in May 2010. It is an initiative of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and is sanctioned by the Kenya Golf Union (KGU). The event has been introduced to create more awareness of the importance of forestation, hence the theme. Kenya urgently needs to achieve the 10 per cent forest cover for posterity. Through the event, the golfing fraternity contributes towards this noble cause while sponsors and friends of KFS will be playing their role in community social responsibility. Emilio Mugo, the Senior Deputy Director of KFS, launched the event on behalf of the KFS Director. Mr Mugo noted that one of the major reasons why KFS chose golf as the vehicle for promoting forestry was that golfers are very conscious of forestry and some of the best golf courses are set in forests. He thanked Patrick Obath for accepting to be the goodwill ambassador of the tournament. Eng Obath said the Misitu golf challenge was a creative concept aimed at marketing the game and concurrently creating awareness of the urgent need to increase forest cover in the


country and conserve the environment. Through the initiative, KFS plans to plant 50,000 trees on 50 hectares, per year. KFS will identify the areas to be planted and will oversee the protection and maintenance of the trees. Several sponsors have been invited to collaborate with KFS, while the hosting clubs are expected to use the entry fees to increase the tree cover in their golf courses. KFS is the lead sponsor of the challenge while Golf and Beyond enjoys exclusive management rights for the event. Kengen, KBC and General Motors East Africa are among organisations that have joined this initiative. About 160 golf players from all over the country will participate in the national finals to be held at the Muthaiga Golf Club on January 15, 2011.The finalists will have been selected from all the qualifying rounds, played in the different venues. Ten players with the best qualifying scores from each club/zone will be eligible to play in the national finals. If any player who qualifies is unable to attend the final, then the player with the next best score and so on will be eligible to represent that club in the finals. At the launch, Samson Reuben Ndegwa, the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) Chairman, said KGU was pleased to be part of the series, knowing that no other game in the world advocates for a greener

environment than golf. Mr Ndegwa said the union appreciates the initiatives of KFS and supports their effort in restoring the forest cover of the country. As a partner in that effort, KGU waived the sanction fee for the series and urged the golfing fraternity to participate in large numbers. So far, tournaments have been held at the Royal Nairobi Golf Club, Thika Sports Club (incorporating Ruiru, Makuyu and Machakos Golf Clubs), Sigona Golf Club, Limuru Country Club (incorporating Kiambu and Ndumberi Golf Clubs) and Windsor Club. Railway Golf Club, Nakuru Golf Club (incorporating Njoro, Gilgil, Naivasha and Great Rift Valley clubs), Muthaiga Golf Club, Nyeri Golf Club, Nyali Golf Club, Karen Country Club and Eldoret (incorporating Kitale, Mumias and Nandi Bear clubs) have also hosted the event. The programme for the rest of the tournaments is as follows: December 4, 2010 - Nyanza Club (incorporating Kakamega, Kericho and Kisii Golf Clubs) January 15, 2011 - National Finals – Muthaiga Golf Club. The writer is Corporate Communication Officer, Kenya Forest Service. Email:

Miti October-December 2010



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Miti 8  

Miti Magazine Issue 8

Miti 8  

Miti Magazine Issue 8