Hope as more villagers venture into commercial tree farming in Mufindi

23Jul 2019
James Kandoya
The Guardian
Hope as more villagers venture into commercial tree farming in Mufindi

FOR Aidan Fitavangu, tree farming is everything to him and other people in Nzinyi village, Mufindi District located nearly 600km from the country’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam.

He views tree farming as an important tool towards addressing poverty in the hilly and mountainous area of Mufindi.

“In those years, I never thought that tree farming will be one of the important farming ventures in this village,” he says.

“We used to tea, and cereal crops as our source incomes, but now trees have started showing us the way,” says Fitavangu, while busy with farm chores in his 3.5acre of his tree farm.

Starting out

“I started growing trees few years ago and the hope is alive. I am expecting a lot from this new farming venture. It wasn’t easy for me to get into this activity, until I was informed on the use of improved tree seedlings, which matures earlier than the traditional trees,” he says.

A father of three reveals that the use of improved seeds is vital because it enables them to get high quality woodlots and therefore generate good income.

Fitavangu views tree farming as a lucrative business, particularly when someone planted improved seedlings.

“I’m expecting to harvest trees in the next few years because I have used improved seeds,” he says, calling other tree growers in the area to venture into using improved seeds to get high quality woodlots, which can win the competitive markets.

“Tree seedling production is a key step in the forestry value chain, just as you cannot produce bread with spoilt flour; you need good quality tree seed material to grow proper forests.”

The best tree seedlings are from professional tree seed orchards that produce improved tree seeds. These seeds come from known sources of plus trees that grow with full potential.

And therefore, the use of improved tree seeds is always recommendable, as it guarantees better quality tree, higher growth rate and purity of seeds.

However, improved seeds clear the bad notion hangs in most tree growers that it is not paying business because it takes longer time between 15 and 20 years to harvest.

“Planting materials, skills and knowledge services for tree growers of all sizes, can raise of high quality woodlots,” this is according to representative from Jambe Agro, Steven Salum.

According to Salum, it enables tree growers to generate incomes for household as compared to use of the local seeds.

Having based on southern highlands, their target is to market and develop channel distribution to small and medium scale growers in the region.

For decades, many tree growers believed that growing trees was not paying because it takes longer time up between 15 to 20 years.

Presently, with improved tree seeds and better silvicultural practices, tree growers can plant and harvest their trees at an average of within shorter time ranging between five and seven years for electric poles for example. Time varies with end produces and species

Moreover, with quality seeds, there is a lot of potential for better growth volumes to the household incomes.

He however added that improved seeds should be coupled with application of good farming practices such as spacing and use of fertilizer.

“We take a task of extending the supplies of improved seeds varieties project and related good farming practices to increase the better woodlots quality where on so doing increase also the households income,”

When other factors remain constant; he said tree growers are in position to give high woodlots quality from best trees being eucalyptus or pines.

Salum noted that currently, the company had embarked distribution of tree seeds on the southern highlands where there was high potential especially in Iringa, Njombe and Mbeya regions.

But standing trees in the vicinity of local farms can provide a ready and excellent source of high quality seed for aspiring tree farmers.

In view of the fact, choosing the right seed source is one of the most important aspects of forest establishment.

It has huge implications for the early growth and survival of a plantation, and in later years on its productivity and wood quality.

“If the genetic quality of the planting stock is not correct from the outset, then there is little that can be done to improve a plantation other than costly replacement”, he said.

Commercial forestry in Tanzania is still hampered by limited production of, and access to, quality genetic material which severely limits plantation productivity and quality.

He expressed fears that there possibility of independent nurseries provided with seed through informal distribution channels of poor quality seed, producing and selling unimproved seedlings.

“Most small and medium tree growers are unaware of the existence or the benefits of improved tree planting materials, and there is no quality assurance of seedlings, “he added.

Charles Tizeba, a former minister for Agriculture describes good quality seed as fundamental for agricultural productivity. “It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the agricultural supply chains are working well,” he says.

According to the Tanzania Brief 2017 of The African Seed Access Index (TASAI), the seed industry in Tanzania consists of two systems: the informal sector and the formal sector.

The informal sector is the system where farmers produce, obtain, maintain, and distribute seed resources, from one growing season to the next.

Due to factors such as limited knowledge, lack of a wide variety of seeds, limited resources to purchase seed, and poor access to agro‐dealers, most small‐holder farmers in Tanzania still rely on the informal system.

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