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Reap Cash From Tree Planting

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Herbert Musoke

For a long time, agroforestry has not been a priority among most agribusiness people, yet it is one of the enterprises that will earn one generational wealth.

Tom Obong Okello, the executive director of the National Forestry Authority (NFA), says agroforestry is a viable business that not only gives a farmer a good return on investment, but also keeps the whole community healthy.

“Trees provide a lot of social economic benefits that contribute to humanity’s wellbeing. They support the ecosystem and support socioeconomic activities such as leisure, source of firewood and herbal medicines,” he says.

“When we are talking about trees, it is not only for timber and furniture, but also fruits such as mangoes, jackfruit and avocados, which have a high demand that can create incomes for families,” Juliet Mubi, the NFA public relations office, says.

Mubi adds that there is no specific land requirement for tree planting.

Okello says the choice of an agroforestry-related business is dependent on one’s objective which then determines the varieties of trees one will grow.

“If one’s objective is to make cash in two to three years, you will go for trees that can be cut for building and construction support poles such as eucalyptus. For those interested in timber, pine is another species, but will take a long time, about 15-20 years,” he says.

Bamboo Bamboo is yet another venture being promoted by NFA.

Okello says there are entrepreneurs coming from abroad to see the value addition opportunities in bamboo. The available bamboo in Uganda is only the naturally occurring one in protected forest reserves and national parks covering over 55,000 hectares.

“NFA is coming up with other varieties which are very good for industrial production,” he says.

Bamboo can be used in the manufacture of over 10,000 products and in some countries like China and India it is used to make fabrics such as bedsheets and curtains.

Quality planting material

Okello advises that those who wish to engage into tree planting should consult with NFA or a certified tree nursery operator to avoid being duped.

For best practices, farmers can reach NFA as it is operating 35 tree nurseries across the country to enable them access planting materials.

One can also get technical guidance near them, or contact the district forestry and agriculture departments

Counting costs

Planting pine: NFA chief Tom Obong Okello says the returns depend on the variety. For example, one hectare of pine requires 1,111 seedlings, each costing about sh500. Thus, you need sh555,500.

Workers: The other cost one has to incur includes clearing the land, applying herbicides, digging the holes, planting, transporting and weeding. These activities will cost around sh1.5m, on average.

First Thinning: Over the years, you mainly do maintenance tasks, but also make some money. At five years, you can carry out the first thinning which you can sell for firewood. Okello says at 10 years, you do the second thinning and retain a maximum of 500 trees.

Returns in 15-20 years: After 15-20 years, we expect returns of sh65m. You will also have spent about sh21-22m for maintenance, getting a profit of sh40m-45m for one hectare.

“For eucalyptus, if you are to sell poles, you harvest at three years then it regrows. The second sale will take about two years because the tree stumps will have mature and well-established root systems,” Okello says.

Promotion

The Sawlog Production Grant Scheme is a project by the Government of Uganda — funded by the European Union and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation — aimed at sustainable utilisation, development and promotion of non-wood forest products. The Cabinet has also approved an environmental restoration plan for degraded areas such as river banks, wetlands and forest reserves.

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