The challenge of deforestation is being tackled on 4 fronts based on interventions that have produced successful results:
- Tree planting at the individual household and communal level to address different needs for fuel and building material.
- Bamboo planting to replace the use of wood for tobacco sticks, roofing material on barns and houses, granaries, animal pens, and other domestic uses (the scale of planting will depend on access to bamboo seed which is currently limited in supply due to the fact that bamboo flowers and sets seed only once in a lifetime (i.e., every 20+ years).
- Introduction of improved kitchen stoves to save wood and labor for cooking and heating.
- Natural regeneration and management of woodlands and trees on farms and communal lands.
The first 2 of these (tree and bamboo planting) do not have immediate effects on deforestation due to a lag time of 3-6 years between the time of planting and harvesting. Planting programs are also expensive and prone to high risk due to drought, disease, fire, damage from termites and animals, and poor management at various stages of the cycle – species selection, nursery care, time and method of outplanting, protection and harvesting.
The last 2 interventions have potential for immediate and dramatic effects on reducing deforestation. The reasons are due to impacts from lower rates wood of consumption, less destructive methods of harvesting trees, and practices to encourage natural regeneration with trees that already have established root systems and that are adapted to the local environment.
A brief description of each forestry intervention is provided below.
1.1 Planting Trees
Tree planting is focused at the individual and communal levels to address different needs. A diverse range of trees may be planted on different scales and in different configurations around homesteads, on boundaries and farms, and on communal lands such as degraded hillsides, stream banks, roadsides, schools, grave yards and other public areas.
1.2 Planting Local Bamboo
Bamboo is targeted a) to reduce deforestation by replacing use of wood from trees in constructing barns and houses, as well as for tobacco sticks, b) to increase incomes among communities, c) to protect vulnerable river banks, and d) to replenish the declining supplies of bamboo. The choice of species is a local African bamboo (Oxytenanthera abyssinica) which has more solid stems relative to the exotic bamboos. Although small in size, the stems are strong, making it valuable in light construction, as well as for making mats, baskets, and furniture. Use of seed is preferred as it is a low cost, non-destructive method of propagation. However, availability of seed is problematic since bamboo flowers and seeds in a synchronized manner across the region only once in a lifetime at the age of 20+ years. This took place 3 years ago, which means there will likely be little or no production of new seed for 15+ years. The situation will be investigated to verify this unusual flowering phenomenon. If we discover any flowering differentiation across the region, efforts will be made to collect seed, and other bamboo species will be explored.
1.3 Improved Wood Stoves
The use of woodfuel in rural areas is by far the largest form of wood consumption. Consequently, a strategy is needed to reduce wood consumption through more efficient methods of using it, or by providing alternative sources of energy. The latter at present is not feasible in rural areas due to cost and supply problems for alternative fuels. The realities of the situation dictate a strategy to introduce simple fuel-efficient stoves into the targeted communities using models that can be made by one adult in 1-2 hours with local materials.
TLC uses demonstrations to increase public interest in wood stoves, and to train women how to construct them with local materials. With proper use, the model recommended reduces firewood use by 30-50%. This equates to 1.5 m2 for an average-sized household per annum. In terms of labor, this saves 1 person day per week, allowing women to engage in other more productive chores, and increasing school attendance by girls
1.4 Natural Regeneration of Woodlands and Trees
Many communities have expressed strong interest in this concept because it provides opportunities to restore the biodiversity of the natural landscape and the multiple products and uses derived from native trees, which are disappearing.
Managing natural woodlands and trees have many notable advantages:
- Biodiversity of the natural landscape is restored for multiple uses and products.
- Avoids the huge expense and effort of raising, transporting, outplanting & protecting nursery seedlings.
- Natural trees are adapted to the environment with strong and well established root systems to weather fires, drought, browsing, pests and diseases – avoids setbacks from poor or untimely outplanting
- The timeframe for implementation is flexible vs. the narrow window to raise and outplant nursery seedlings which is often in direct conflict with critical farming activities.
Management Practices to Promote Regeneration:
Clearing New Land for Cultivation: Cultivation by most smallholder farmers involves land clearing with excessive felling of trees. With appropriate selection and spacing, a number of native trees could be left on these farms with positive effects on the soils, crops, wood supply, and the general environment. The best trees to retain on farmland are fast-growing trees that coppice well and are compatible with crops. These include but are not limited to species of Acacia, Albizia, Bauhinia, Brachystegia, Combretum, Markhamia, Pericopsis, Pterocarpus, Terminalia and Ziziphus. The density of trees to leave depends mainly on tree size (100/ha; 60/ha, 40/ha for small, medium & large trees respectively). Protect selected trees from fire and cutting.
Existing Cultivated Land: Trees have a natural propensity to regenerate on farmland. This can be promoted as follows:
- Select and protect 60-100 coppicing trees per ha, evenly spaced at 10-15 m apart.
- Thin shoots to 1 or 2 dominant stems per plant to promote vertical growth. This avoids low bushy growth which interferes with cultivation, and produces low quantities of wood.
- Trim the selected saplings as they develop in size and protect them from fire.
- Use thinned shoots and trimmings for wood or other uses.
Regeneration on Fallow or Abandoned Land:Many areas are abandoned or fallowed when people move, or when the soils have been depleted. These areas have high potential for tree regeneration. Follow the practices under (2) above to encourage wood production, to provide valuable wood for domestic or farm use, and to promote fast tree growth by reducing competition for space, light, nutrients and moisture.
Managing Natural Woodlands: Many of the principles above apply here as follows:
- Collect dead wood or prune branches whenever possible rather than cutting trees down (see point above).
- In dense stands, selectively thin out scrubby or malformed trees to give space for the development of the better stronger trees.
- Trim shoots of young regenerating trees to promote vertical growth (see point above)
- If tree are cut, leave at least two of the same size under the rule “take one, leave two”.
- Protect the area from fire to promote regeneration of young trees which will eventually replace the larger trees that are cut.
- Encourage communities to form bye-laws against indiscriminant tree cutting and fires.