Eucalypts, (commonly called gums) have received a bad press, often from eminent people such as Wangari Maathai, who have painted them as the villains of the tree world, attributing all kinds of disasters to them; most particularly the drying of rivers and reducing the fertility of the soil. Such opinions are not founded on fact.
All trees need water to grow; and there is evidence that the fertility of the soils on which gums have been for fifty years is as good as when they were planted. The gum uses the water more efficiently than other trees and produces more volume per hectare per year than any other commercial tree. The tree is used for firewood (by all the smallholder tea factories); for power transmission poles, timber, chipboard, medium density fibreboard and veneer. It is vastly more productive than pine or cypress. The growing of gums should be encouraged.
Those who grow long-term crops such as tea and coffee choose the best land; deep, fertile soils that are well drained and with adequate rainfall. Crops of potentially high value are being planted and care at the outset results in tea and coffee that is healthy and productive. With gums the tendency has been to plant them on land that is not suitable for other crops such as maize. Pop the seedling into a shallow scrape and let the tree get on. That is not a good policy; gums are not tolerant of poor husbandry.
It is wise to dig a deep hole, add fertilizer, kill the grasses and give the gums a good start to life. Treat them as a CROP. The extra cost at the outset will be money well spent. Gums should be an excellent investment. They will provide what the country needs, and while they grow, they mop up carbon.
Friends of Mau Watershed understands just what Good Husbandry means and insists that the Guidelines are followed. That way success is ensured. Since 2004 Fomawa has been working with schools around the Mau with a project titled “Growing Trees with Communities in Schools”. This has been a success. It has demonstrated to all involved with the schools just what Best Practice means. Many farmers associated with the schools have seen that growing gums can be a good investment if it is done in the way promoted by Fomawa. Fomawa is continuing with this work in 2020. The documentary, and the article in Swara, the magazine of the East African Wildlife Society tells a fuller story.
See the documentary on commercial forestry, and Fomawa's involvement in it by clicking
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