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State tips farmers on eucalyptus production

ROUND TABLE
By | Apr 12th 2011 | 2 min read

By Francis Ngige

Farmers can now reap the most from eucalyptus tree, thanks to new guidelines.

Despite campaigns by environmentalists against the tree, the Government on Monday launched a handbook to give guidance to farmers on its cultivation.

The book, launched on Monday in Nyeri by Forest and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa, gives the species and recommends where they should be grown for better out put and environmental conservation.

Forestry Minister Noah Wekesa (left) launched the eucalyptus tree handbook in Nyeri, on Monday. Photo: Francis Ngige/Standard

A farmer, Mr James Kimuri, told of the gains from the tree since he began cultivating it years ago.

"There before, I had coffee on my farm but the returns were not as much. The tree take a short period of between five to seven years to mature," said Kimuri.

He added: "I can get Sh3,000 per tree since I can sell them in form of poles and firewood to tea factories around." The State said it was allowing the cultivation of the tree to achieve 10 per cent forestry cover.

Forest cover

"If every farmer was to dedicate 10 per cent of his farm to cultivation of trees, it would boost the country’s projection of attaining required standards. But we are not going to cut down indigenous forests to replace them with these trees," said Dr Wekesa. The function was symbolically held at a home of a Tetu farmer, who has cultivated 10 acres of the controversial tree.

The handbook titled Growing, management and use of Eucalyptus species in Kenya has been developed by the ministry, Kenya Forestry Service and Kenya Forestry Research Institute.

The go-ahead given by the Government will be a welcome respite to hundreds of farmers.

The tree, known in Gikuyu as munyua mai, (the water guzzler) had become a headache to farmers who did not know what to do after a Government directive ordered them to uproot the plantations. At one point, Environment Minister John Michuki directed that all eucalyptus along riverbeds be uprooted.

Farmers had ventured into planting eucalyptus as a way of increasing their income. Some farmers in Kiambu and Murang’a even abandoned coffee to grow the trees, used for building, fencing and power poles.

The handbook contains 10 eucalyptus species suitable for different ecological zones.

While opposing the move to embrace eucalyptus farming, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai in a past interview said the negative environment impact was enormous.

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When Njonjo almost resigned over coffee smugglers
Known as the era of black gold, it began in 1976 when Ugandan farmers decided to sell their coffee in the private market.

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