Syndicate content

Add new comment

Thank you Kimbowa and Teddy. I think you're both right. Hopefully, the stress of rising food and oil prices will give a boost to sustainable agricultural practices that include trees for charcoal production AND trees that retain water and enrich the soil for improved yields in an unforgiving, fickle climate. This would create an ecosystem that can survive and provide decent livelihoods. The alternative is migration. I was visiting the area with a private investor (Better Globe Forestry) interested in trees that grow naturally in Kenya's arid and semi-arid lands: a local variant of mahogany, melia vulkansii (“mukau” in Kikamba, the local dialect), that produces beautiful red hardwood in 15 to 20 years' time. I saw mukau covered in fruit in the middle of barren, drought-stricken fields and worked into planks and expensive furniture by local craftsmen. If planted now in large numbers, it could enter the sustainable wood market just when its rainforest relative runs out. Better Globe Forestry, a company backed by Scandinavian investors (motto: "Prosperity with Purpose"), is working to improve the mukau species through a concerted R&D effort, collecting seeds with the help of Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) from the rare high-quality trees that have not already been sawed down. Large-scale afforestation holds many promises (healthier ecosystems, jobs, food security, renewable energy). But the research costs and planting uncertainties are huge for a private entrepreneur interested in indigenous, climate-smart species, and the policy environment is not always supportive of tree planting. Several development partners (the World Bank, IUCN, the World Agroforestry Centre, PROFOR, TerrAfrica and EcoAgriculture Partners) convened last week in Nairobi to try to identify and lift some of the constraints to private investment in trees and landscape restoration in Africa. What do you see as the biggest constraints and opportunities in this area?