Rising cost of wood lures farmers into eucalyptus planting
Posted Monday, June 11 2012 at 18:14
Commercial tree planting is becoming a lucrative venture in western Kenya as more farmers invest in the sub-sector due to low capital and lucrative returns.
Grain farmers are turning to eucalyptus cultivation which they consider more profitable compared to maize and wheat production.
The price of wood and its products has risen over the years, luring many into commercial tree planting.
A report by Kenya Forestry Service indicates an increase in tree products in terms of volume and value caused by rise in prices of different types of wood.
Eucalyptus is the most preferred tree species planted in western Kenya because of its fast growth and ready markets for its products. India is the leading eucalyptus growing country in the world followed by Brazil.
“The farm forestry sector in Western Kenya has great potential to transform livelihoods of millions of smallholder tree growers through increased availability of tree product market opportunities and diversification of on-farm incomes,” said Joshua Cheboiwo, the principal research officer at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Londiani.
Fire wood prices have gone up to Sh1,000 per cubic meters while the price of transmission pole wood is Sh1,200 which the farmers says fetches better prices as compared to maize and wheat whose prices can drop as low as less than Sh2,000 per 90-kilogramme bag after massive investment.
“Increased charcoal prices has ensured better returns those who have planted Black Wattle trees as some can now earn upto Sh150,000 per hectare of land under the trees compared to Sh50,000 years ago,’’ said Dr Cheboiwo.
The cost of charcoal has also increased from Sh600 to Sh900 per bag due to shortage of logs.
The cost of timber has also risen in most parts of the region from Sh10,000 to over Sh25,000 per tonne bringing huge financial gains to farmers who have ventured into private forestry.
More than 14 million tree seedlings have been planted in over 5,000 hectares of public forests in the North Rift region, a move expected to boost the afforestation programme.
However, farmers in the region have been asked to grow and manage trees like other crops in order to earn higher return from the products.
“The profitability of farm forestry is dictated by various factors including demand and supply and changing market conditions for alternative crops and farmers need to exercise proper management practices in order to earn better profits,” said Dr Cheboiwo.
The oversupply in the transmission pole sector, low expansion of treatment plants and entry of concrete pylons into the power transmission sector are some of the factors that have discouraged some farmers from investing in private forestry.