For decades, farmers in semi-arid eastern Kenya have used native Melia volkensii (Gürke / mukau) as a multi-purpose tree in agroforestry systems. The tree is hardy, fast-growing, and can be readily integrated with food cropping systems.
The existence of an already established native small-scale m. volkensii industry is attributed to knowledge of certain indigenous groups in the area. If certain issues in cultivation, mainenance (e.g. pruning) or harvest of this tree and others are not anticipated, the quality (and value) can be reduced.
With production systems changing from shifting cultivation / goat herding, to settled subsistence arable farms, interest in the practice has risen in popularity over recent decades .
Indigenous and national forestry knowledge is important, because the management of this species has proven to be different from popular western trees such as pine. Unfortunately, use of poor-quality genetics or cultivation methods has still limited the benefits of outcomes in the sector .
The tree nursery of AWG was established in 2011 near Kitui. The project builds upon existing work, to help local farms diversify / raise income with small-scale timber, and other forms of environmental value creation.
The team sources "phenotypically superior" inputs, germinates and establishes seedings for local farms / forest projects, as well as guarantees purchase of non-timber products (fruits) and wood.
For this reason, AWG also has a long-term relationship with member farms who plant this, paying an up-front amount to ensure care and support.
The seed collection and germination process helps raise the genetic diversity and resilience of native varieties. Specific varieties that are cultivated include Melia azadirachta, Azadirachta indica, Senna siamea, and more.
To date, projects planted using these materials have indeed experienced strong outcomes, but it is clear more efficiency/value/speed is still possible in the tree's domestication process. In order to further improve the quality of services, AWG teams and collaborators are currently reviewing lessons to improve processes and use of best practices.
By adopting innovations such as more rigorous ground sampling, breeding trials / genetics assessments and remote sensing, the organization aims to improve the quality and availability of feedstocks. This is further justified by the improved traceability in the sale of materials.
In all of the above areas, the Open Landscape Network has the potential to make it easier for AWG and its collaborators to help buyers in the region access good quality inputs, and market products accordingly.
1 - Stewart, M., Blomley, T. (1994). Use of Melia volkensii in a semi-arid agroforestry system in Kenya. Commonwealth Forestry Review Volume 73(2). (p. 128-131). Link
2 - Kimondo, J.M, Kigwa, B.K., Mbuvi, M.T.E. (2008) - Melia volkensii in Kenya: current domestication and improvement programme. Link