Regards from Tanzania: Visiting Sawmill and Forest Plantation in Sao Hill

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Summer and Field School Participants at Sao Hill Forest Plantation

On the 6th day of WoodCluster Summer and Field School, we visited Sao Hill Forest Plantation (SHFP) and the biggest sawmill in East Africa operated by Sao Hill Industries Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Green Resources. SHFP is government-owned, whereas Green Resources is a private enterprise. Both are located in Mufindi District, about 15 km from Mafinga, where we conducted the Participatory Innovation Workshop.

Green Resources Sawmill

In Green Resources, we had the privilege to have a tour with thorough explanation from Mr. John Sondi. Green Resources was founded in the 1970s under the management of Tanzanian Government. Later it was privatized by a Norwegian company in 1998, then renamed as Green Resources. The current share of the company is 100% Norwegian. Green Resources produces four main products: bulks, logs, sawdust, and wood chips.

Green Resources operates two sawmills: the old and the modern one, which began in 1974 and 2003, respectively. The modern one has different compartments. The first is the sorting section which can accommodate logs less than 26 cm in diameter. The sorting and grading is classified into 13 categories. The bigger logs are processed to the old sawmill, which operates fully manually. The next step is the debarking process in order to produce clean chips. The debarking reduces the diameter measurement by an average of 7%.

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The old sawmill

After debarking, the logs go to the measurement chamber, which is monitored in the control room. In the whole sawmill facility, there are only four people working. After measurement, the operator instructs the machine to process according to the specifications. The next step is chipping, which removes the errors that could happen along the process chain. Finally, the sawdust is directed to the processing chamber, as a by-product. The sawdust is forwarded to the briquetting, which is demanded by the tea industry. The marketing is done by a private company, Tractor Ltd and Lion Energy Co Ltd.

The products that are damaged due to improper pruning are sorted and taken to the joinery department, where they go under different processes to make furniture products such as doors and glass cabinets.

The next compartment is the treatment of the poles and timber, whereby they are inserted into the cylinder for the process of pressure impregnation. When the cylinder is sealed, vacuum is created by sucking out the air. The vessel is flooded with water and Chromated copper arsenate (CCA). When they release the preservatives, it finds its way very fast into the internal voids. Another vacuum is created to pull out the preservatives.

Logs produced by Green Resources have a market share of 25% in Tanzania, whereas the rest 75% of the market share is fulfilled by local saw millers. According to Mr. Sondi, a challenge in the saw milling industry is the lack of timber certification, as there is no governmental rule. The most common problem is that smallholder farmers tend to sell immature trees, particularly pines. As soon as the pines seem to be tall and thick enough to be sold, smallholder farmers sell. They are not aware of the importance of tree maturity. As for eucalyptus, smallholder farmers sell based on the diameter of the pole. To learn more about the sawmill, please visit their website.

Sao Hill Forest Plantation

Sao Hill Forest Plantation (SHFP) is located in the Sao Hill Forest Reserves. It has four divisions in total and we only had the chance to visit Division 1. It is the biggest forest plantation in Tanzania which plays a central role not only in the wood sector, but also in maintaining the ecosystem services. The planted forest supports the Ruaha river in Iringa region, which is a major water catchment area. Ruaha river basin contributes high amount of water for crops, enhances hydroelectric facilities, especially those along the coast of Tanzania.

SHFP is government-owned and the plantation area borders 16 villages. The tree species are dominated by pines and eucalyptus. The pines are harvested after 25 years or even up to 40 years in order to harvest high quality, mature trees. We visited the nursery bed, where pines and eucalyptus seedlings are raised very neatly. Their forest management activities include weeding, pruning, and thinning at specific times of the year. To do pruning, it is common to use a panga.

SHFP also explained to us their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. For instance, the company distributes nursery seedlings to the neighboring villages for free. According to our key informant, as the CSR department follows up with the villages, it is estimated that the survival rate of the seedlings is 80%. In their extension service program, the CSR team, which consists of development officer and fire officer, visit the surrounding villages. They facilitate in education on entrepreneurship and encouragement on income diversification, including fishing and beekeeping.

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Harvesting pine sap

As a company, SHFP also practices apiculture as a side income. The honey is sold at the shop for 5000 TZS or about 2€ per jar. Beside apiculture, currently SHFP also has an on-going project to harvest pine sap, which has a multitude of functions, like for cosmetics and pharmacy.

On behalf of the whole team, we thank our key informants from Green Resources and Sao Hill Forest Plantation for their time and effort to give us a nice tour on a Saturday through their impressive vicinities. The trip has definitely expanded our horizons! For more information on SHFP, visit their website.

By Joab Nuwasasira and Kendisha S. Hintz

One Comment on “Regards from Tanzania: Visiting Sawmill and Forest Plantation in Sao Hill

  1. Pingback: 1st WoodCluster Summer School in Tanzania | TU Dresden - Tropical Forestry Blog

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