LESSONS FROM RECENTLY CONCLUDED INSPECTIONS
In the months of February and March 2012, SPGS staff roamed the country, carrying out routine field inspections of contracted clients and as well administering on-site technical guidance to the growers. After the inspections, the team compiled key points observed during these field visits, to encourage improved practices in plantation operations, which include:
Wrong timing of planting: some growers planted towards end of rains consequently achieved low survival (below 50%) yet high stocking (at least 80%) is essential for a profitable returns on one’s investment. Eucalypts were planted offsite. Growers seem quite impressed with its fast growth hence some were tempted to try it on their sites, which were unsuitable for the specie consequently, the trees were struggling, diseased or heavily infested with Chalcid wasps. A few growers went ahead and planted eucalypts in wetlands, however, SPGS has a strong rule on wetlands, which promotes their conservation for ecological functions thus these growers have been denied the planting grant. For more facts on eucalypts, refer to SPGS News 32.
A good number of growers experienced forest fires in the Dec-Feb 2012 dry season. This was largely malicious fires with a few cases of accidental fires. Growers need to maintain a positive relationship with the surrounding communities to prevent malicious forest fires and where possible, engage them in tree planting under SPGS community initiative. This way your investment will be protected. Growers seem to be taking forest fires lightly. A good number have not yet acquired basic fire fight tools and still rely on the rudimentary methods (use of tree branches) which are not adequate. Monitoring of plantations is rarely done. Some plantations were gutted due to absenteeism of workers (who went on charismas holiday). Data from our clients (supplemented by a questionnaire carried out by UTGA) showed that more than 1,700 ha were lost to fires in the Dec- Feb 2012 dry season.
Most striking is the outbreak of a pine moth (Gonometa podocarpi) in Kabale district. This moth has been observed specifically on Pinus patula and cypress trees. According to records though, this moth first appeared in Uganda (in the 1920’s) and was controlled. Currently NaFORRI (National Forestry Research Resources Institute) is undertaking research to establish facts about this moth and may suggest control measures soon.
Growers had done fairly well in terms of contract performance: Some performed exceptionally well and planted beyond their contract areas while others performed poorly, especially those that did not take this venture seriously, planned poorly, or failed to raise funds for planting (since SPGS grant is not given up-front). SPGS will be revising contracts soon and as usual, there will be room for dialogue with each client so adjustments made are achievable. Non-performing clients will be dropped and new contracts offered soon (hopefully) to prospective tree growers.
The issues highlighted here are elaborated on in SPGS News 34/35. We hope growers improve their practices accordingly to realize fast growing and high yielding plantations.