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  • FTA Highlight No. 2 – Tree Seed and Seedling Systems for Resilience and Productivity

FTA Highlight No. 2 – Tree Seed and Seedling Systems for Resilience and Productivity

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FTA communications

Tree seeds and seedlings for planting purposes are the starting point from which farmers, foresters and others are able to grow trees. They are produced and made available through “seed systems”. These seed systems have been a major topic of work by FTA in the last decade because of the constraints faced by actors on the ground in obtaining tree-planting material corresponding to their needs and of good quality.

Growers do not always know or fully consider what trees to plant, and where, so that they are effectively matched to planting environments and purposes.

The problem of tree seed sourcing is becoming ever more acute due to the increased demand for seeds to meet now-massive global commitments such as the Bonn Challenge to forest landscape restoration and other tree planting initiatives.

Download the volume! [PDF]
As part of “FTA’s highlights of a decade,” a new series focusing on its main results since being established in 2011, the FTA program is now publishing the volume on Tree Seed and Seedling Systems for Resilience and Productivity.

FTA’s work on the topic seeks to address twin concerns: how to make available quality tree planting material; and how to ensure that tree seeds and seedlings are planted in the right places for the right purposes. If these concerns are met, and principles of good restoration practice are followed, the detrimental ecological effects that may be caused by inappropriate ‘restoration’ can be avoided and genuine restoration can be achieved.

Addressing the supply bottleneck is a key challenge to current global forest landscape restoration programmes becoming successful. To ensure supply it is necessary to realize the potential of many more rural organizations, small-scale private nurseries and local communities to effectively participate in tree seed systems.

Photo gallery

The recent greater focus on accountability in tree planting provides new opportunities to improve tree seed sourcing. ICRAF’s Genetic Resources Unit (GRU) conserves and supplies for research and direct use both tree seeds and seedlings; its field genebanks (see Figure 1) feature more than 80 tree species. The CATIE Forest Seed Bank in Costa Rica reaches more than 170 clients in 20 countries with tree seed. Both ICRAF and CATIE are managing partners of FTA.

Unfortunately, existing approaches do not meet the need for tree seed supply that is well matched to planting sites and purposes, or that addresses livelihood and environmental goals. Growers often end up planting whatever tree seeds and seedlings they can find. A lack of attention to what is planted in restoration initiatives, and the problems this may cause, is increasingly being raised as an important issue. Through its research, FTA seeks to improve on the poor current situation. For example, ICRAF’s Provision of Adequate Tree Seed Portfolios (PATSPO) project focuses on enhancing tree seed sourcing to support Ethiopia’s forest landscape restoration.

Recent preliminary work by FTA showed that the savings (through better survival rates of trees) and increased incomes (from increased production) from better seedling establishment and growth far surpassed the extra expense of quality tree seed sourcing in restoration programmes. More advanced calculations, including estimates based on African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) activities, suggested that an extra cost per seedling of less than 5% could generate more than USD 5 billion of additional income for tree growers.

The African Orphan Crops Consortium works to fill production gaps for 101 lesser-used food crops, including tree crops, that have potential to address nutritional deficiencies, by improving support to breeders. FTA researchers developed and implemented the supply of “fruit tree portfolios” — combined with other plant foods, these are sets of trees that supply required nutrients to local communities year-round. FTA also engaged in communication campaigns such as the From Tree To Fork, which aimed to raise awareness about the properties of underutilized species through the engaging use of graphics and fun messaging.

Rural resource centres (RRCs), also developed by FTA researchers, supply food tree seedlings and instruct people in tree propagation and other skills. FTA’s tree nursery work in Viet Nam has promoted the widespread planting of the indigenous son tra fruit tree (H’mong apple, Docynia indica), and has taught more than 1,000 participants about topics such as agroforestry systems.

FTA scientists applied the nurseries of excellence (NOEL) approach in Indonesia. A NOEL project on Sulawesi produced more than two million quality seedlings of more than 50 tree species.

An important part of FTA’s work is engaging with national partners to help develop policies that support more effective integrated tree seed systems. In work led by Bioversity International, FTA has developed a set of indicators for this purpose, and has applied them in seven countries in Latin America.

FTA tools for bringing existing knowledge resources together to support the better choice of what trees to plant, and where, include the Agroforestry Species Switchboard. Genetic sequencing for improved varieties is another prominent FTA research domain. Recently FTA scientists collaborated in the establishment of the reference genome of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). An interesting interview with the lead scientists of this paper is also available here.

Scaling up high-quality tree seed and seedling supply efforts will Global Plan of Action for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Development of Forest Genetic Resources

Download the publication to find out how more about FTA’s 10 years of research on tree seed and seedling systems!

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  • Uganda now has a new 10-year National Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan

Uganda now has a new 10-year National Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan

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Monopodial bamboo. Copyright: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)
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FTA provided key technical and financial support for the strategy

Bamboo is extremely versatile. Its sturdy, wood-like nature makes it useful in construction, and it is also a source of paper, packaging, furniture and fabric. It can be used to produce biofuels, charcoal and crafts, as well as stick-based products like curtains, mats, toothpicks, incense sticks and skewers. It is also a source of fuelwood and fodder.

A bamboo house in Uganda. As well as handicrafts, furniture, fuel and fodder, bamboo can also be a durable construction material. Copyright: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)

As one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, it is a major carbon sink. It acts as a windbreak and its  extensive root systems help control soil erosion, prevent flooding and landslides, retain moisture and raise water tables, thereby reversing desertification. Various iconic animals, including panda, gorilla and monkeys, rely on bamboo for food and shelter. Managed sustainably, it could help many countries reach their global land restoration, climate change and sustainable development commitments.

Yet it is often seen as the poor cousin to timber – viewed as less durable and with few market opportunities.

Uganda has 55,000 hectares of bamboo, including species that can be used for everything from fodder and fuel to furniture and flooring. But, despite high demand for bamboo as a construction material, few farmers are planting the crop, and the country is missing out on a global market worth an estimated USD 60 billion.

“Bamboo has huge potential in terms of timber substitute products, energy products, fiber products, furniture and crafts, as well as soil and water conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said Michael Malinga, Uganda National Coordinator for the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

Riders on a bamboo bike tour in Uganda, in 2018, to raise awareness about the plant’s potential uses (the frame of all the bicycles is made out of bamboo – light and solid). Copyright: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)

“Bamboo can be an available, scalable solution to some of Uganda’s pressing development challenges, but as in other countries, Uganda’s bamboo sector needs a more supportive policy environment to reach its full potential,” said Charlotte King, INBAR’s communications and press specialist.

Fast-growing, versatile and easy to process, bamboo grows across much of East Africa. Copyright: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

New plan for bamboo

Now, that potential will be more fully tapped, as Uganda begins to implement its National Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan for 2019–2029. With technical and financial support from INBAR/FTA, the Ugandan Forest Sector Support Division (FSSD), the Ministry of Water and Environment (MoWE) and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) developed the strategy in 2019.

Research by INBAR’s Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme generated important evidence about the potential significance and contributions of bamboo to sustainable growth in Uganda, informing key aspects of the strategy. This included a regional remote sensing assessment, a property test of indigenous bamboo species, a value chain analysis and training materials.

“The focus of Uganda’s bamboo strategy is on managing the country’s bamboo resources to provide economic, social and environment benefits for all. Its vision, goal, guiding principles, strategic objectives and strategies are all tailored towards achieving a viable and sustainable bamboo industry in Uganda,” said Malinga.

The strategy is in line with international obligations to which Uganda is a signatory, like the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, as well as with national policies and planning frameworks such as the Uganda Vision 2040, the Uganda Forestry Policy 2001, the National Forest Plan 2012, the National Land Use Policy 2013, and the National Energy Policy 2002.

The strategy was approved and released by Hon. Dr Goretti Kitutu Kimono, Uganda’s Minister of State for Environment, on 24 September 2019 in Kampala. “This strategy will go a long way in redeeming the bamboo industry in this country. Bamboo could help Uganda to restore forests and create jobs,” said Dr Goretti.

A collaborative effort

A wide range of stakeholders were involved in the consultative process to develop the Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan. Two national-level stakeholder consultation workshops and a series of internal reviews from task forces, as well as senior management of the Ministry of Water and Environment, National Forestry Authority (NFA) and FTA partner the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), contributed to the development and validation process.

One of the highlights of the latest FTA Annual Report

The overall goal of the strategy is to ensure the coordinated development of the bamboo industry to stimulate green economic development and the production of high-value products for domestic, regional and international markets.

Planting and managing bamboo will contribute an estimated 15% towards Uganda’s goal of restoring 2.5 million ha of forest landscape by 2030, of which about 28% will be on government land and the remaining on private land. The Ministry of Water and Environment estimates that the strategy will help create 150,000 full-time jobs, producing 140 million bamboo poles each year.

Long term, this could lead to the creation of 700,000 full time jobs, with 230,000 ha of bamboo planted on farms and 60,000 ha of regenerated natural bamboo forest.

Early growth

Progress is well underway, and Phase II of the Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme for Uganda was designed in response to the strategy. Collaborative efforts by various stakeholders are under way to assess the country’s potential for bamboo industrialization. This is expected to supplement the information on suitable species of bamboo.

In 2020, researchers identified bamboo-growing areas and grouped them in the following clusters:

  • West Nile
  • Mt Elgon
  • Western
  • Acholi
  • South Western
  • Karamoja
  • Albertine
  • Teso

The clusters were ranked according to present status, potential for participating households, bamboo resource base, gender dynamics, current business/marketing practices, and product knowledge and skills, among other criteria. The team also started developing specific clusters for integrated bamboo development, in partnership with the National Forestry Resources Research Institute of Uganda.

The government of Uganda began the process of developing bamboo clusters for small and medium-sized enterprises and industries, tasking an ad hoc committee to develop a plan on how the country will advance the bamboo sector, and also advocate for the inclusion of bamboo in the National Development Agenda.

Planting bamboo does not stop with the pandemic! Moments during INBAR’s bamboo propagation techniques training in Moyo (23/9/2020). Copyright: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)

Despite the COVID 19 pandemic, the Ministry of Water and Environment planted nearly 80 ha of bamboo in several districts, along with over 2,000 seedlings in terraces around Echuya Forest Reserve communities to protect their hills from soil erosion. This was done in partnership with INBAR and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and local partner the Mgahinga Craft and Cultural Centre.

More on-the-ground workshops! INBAR’s bamboo propagation techniques training at the National Tree Seed Centre in Namanve, Wakiso near Kampala (19/9/2020). Copyright: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)
A shot from INBAR’s bamboo propagation techniques training in Kabale (15/9/2020). Copyright: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)

By the end of July 2020, the production of quality bamboo seedlings had reached over 500,000 from government and community-based nurseries, while private enterprises had produced over 2 million seedlings. And by the end of August, 144,000 seedlings were supplied to the refugee-hosting districts of Kikuube and Moyo, of which 29,600 seedlings were planted as a buffer in Bugoma and Era central forest reserves, which are in close proximity to refugee settlements. Seed imports amounted to 16 kg of quality bamboo germplasm, and another 18 kg were already in transit – an amount capable of producing more than 400,000 seedlings.

A bamboo nursery established as part of the INBAR-led Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme. Copyright: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)

Finally, although the pandemic restrictions limited awareness-raising efforts to virtual channels, INBAR organized 10 online seminars between July and August, around two themes: environmental management of bamboo, and bamboo for poverty reduction and livelihood development. The topic of bamboo also featured in a talk show on the current state of Uganda’s forestry sector on the country’s NBS TV channel.

“INBAR is proud to have worked with Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment to support the development of this bamboo strategy, which should be an important step forward for the sector’s development,” said King.  

This article was written by Erin O’Connell.

Produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) together with one of its managing partners, the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • From savannah to forest: Women’s roles in land restoration in Sumba

From savannah to forest: Women’s roles in land restoration in Sumba

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A high savannah view is seen in Sumba, Indonesia. Photo by R. Finlayson/ICRAF
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Sumbanese women are renowned for their strength of character. Photo by R. Finlayson/ICRAF

The unique knowledge of the women of East Sumba, Indonesia, is being recognized in the restoration of their deforested land.

The high plateaus of East Sumba in Indonesia, especially on the way to Haharu subdistrict, are very beautiful. On either side of the narrow road, an expanse of savannah stretches wide. During the brief rainy season, herds of the small, brown sandalwood pony and large, white, humped cattle graze freely. It is a green and neat landscape, with short grass, scattered shrubs and a few clumps of tall trees, such as kehi (Lannea coromandelica) and kosambi (Scheilechera oleosa).

At first glance, the grass looks deliberately planted, although in reality it and some of the woody species regenerate naturally in the rocky, limestone soil. Some limestone outcrops appear on the surface, reaching heights of 1 to 3 meters, giving the impression of a stone forest.

This charming landscape, unfortunately, does not promise a decent living for the people who inhabit it. They live in poverty because the productivity of the land is very low. Most of the people have difficulty even finding sufficient clean water; some villages have no water sources at all. The limited tree cover in the rocky landscape results in limited capacity to store water. The island has been largely deforested, beginning with the Dutch in the 1700s exploiting the sandalwood and continuing after independence up until the early 2000s, by which time there was nothing left to take.

In response to these at once beautiful and harsh conditions, Wahana Visi Indonesia in partnership with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Lutheran World Relief are developing a model of environmental and landscape restoration that incorporates improving the livelihoods of the people. With support from the Australian Government, ICRAF’s role in the Indonesia Rural Economic Development project, part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), is to help farmers establish trees that they have prioritized as economically, culturally or environmentally important.

A high savannah view is seen in Sumba, Indonesia. Photo by R. Finlayson/ICRAF

Tree seedlings produced in community and farmers’ nurseries are planted on private or community land and can also be sold to earn additional income while waiting for the saplings to grow to harvest age.

Improving land and environmental functions by empowering local people — whether men or women — is not easy to do. Understanding the socio-cultural issues in a community is important, especially the roles of women because they are often an overlooked resource who can make a significant contribution. Men and women have different strategies and approaches to valuing, using and maintaining the environment to sustain their livelihoods.

In Sumba, ICRAF conducted a gender study that did indeed find great potential for the involvement of women in landscape restoration. Sumbanese women play very important roles in the management of land and natural resources, although they are frequently not visible. They are tough and work actively on their land, in addition to their household tasks, providing important contributions to planting and harvesting, work that requires intense labor.

They are also involved in managing chickens, pigs and dogs and, particularly, with the management of waste from cattle and goats. Women are responsible for providing water for all the livestock. Yet despite their significant roles, few women have opportunities to receive agricultural training. They are usually involved in support roles, such as preparing meals for the training session.

Partly this is a class issue in that Sumba is traditionally a stratified society and social classes remain important in some villages. The classes are closely related to the management of land and natural resources. The maramba are the highest social group, consisting of ‘nobles’ who control large amounts of natural resources. The kabihu is the class of ordinary people, who conduct their own economic activities freely. Ata are indentured laborers or slaves who attend on the maramba. The ata are usually supported financially by the maramba but they cannot freely choose their work.

Vel and Makambombu (2009) stated that unmarried ata women and men have weak positions in local customary law so their role in making decisions is limited. This social structure is now not as strong, with many villages dominated by the independent kabihu. The ata, vassals of the maramba, are declining in number. The times are changing.

Women learn to graft tree seedlings. Photo by R. Finlayson/ICRAF

The role of women is also gaining greater general recognition. Two women were selected to join a seven-member team, led by ICRAF, that visited the much larger island of Sulawesi, because they were leading farmers and key community members.

The visit, and subsequent land-management activities involving more women, has led to wider recognition of the unique knowledge and experience held by women; it is now openly acknowledged that women have knowledge not readily available to men. They are able to participate in nursery activities without any cultural barrier stopping them from leaving their villages.

However, women’s involvement in public life is still limited. Public meetings remain the domain of men, with most women too shy to express their ideas and argue their case. But in training sessions divided into groups by gender, women are more open in expressing their views. It is reasonable from this to conclude that women’s involvement in public life strengthens their opportunities and their confidence in sharing their knowledge.

ICRAF’s gender study recommended some strategic approaches to increase women’s visibility and involvement. First, to continue raising local awareness of women’s unique knowledge and facilitate their involvement in decision-making in public life, particularly for restoring landscapes and improving livelihoods. But any changes to women’s roles should not increase their burden. Second, encourage an increase in men’s involvement in domestic activities so that women and men can work together both inside and outside the household.

Practical approaches include women being in charge of filling planting media, sowing seeds, watering, transferring seeds to media, and weed control.

Meanwhile, men could be responsible for the preparation of the nurseries, such as preparing the land, building the shade house, preparing the soil and manure for the planting media, and ensuring water was available. Women could also be more actively involved in accessing information and agricultural extension services, for example, organizing more training to fit women’s availability and, for certain activities, separate men and women into different groups.

In many parts of the world, including Sumba, it has often been easily overlooked that local communities who manage land are not only made up of men. Restoring the functions of a landscape must involve all members of a community who live and work in it and take into account the varying details of the social order.

Communities are the main actors in their own development because they are the ones who best understand the local physical, social and cultural environment, which are all important factors in restoration. Understanding the role of women and men as similar yet unique actors is necessary for developing sound strategies for managing land and natural resources, including restoration.

By Elok Mulyoutami, edited by Rob Finlayson, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. We would like to thank all donors who support this work through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

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