Dynamics of Wood Value Chains for Smallholder Tree Farmers in Uganda

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Field interview with transporter (©A. Samanya)

I am Samanya Abdul, an MSc student of Environmental and Natural Resources at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. My research topic was titled “Dynamics of wood value chains for smallholder tree farmers in Mubende district, Uganda”. This research was done with support from the WoodCluster project (funded by the German government in conjunction with the Technische Universität Dresden).

Wood supply deficit Uganda was reported to have grown to about 20 million tonnes since 2000. However, efforts to address the wood supply deficit put emphasis on provision of input subsidies to smallholders tree farmers without due consideration of the entire wood value chain. Limited consideration chain is partly because marketing of farm-grown wood in Uganda is poorly documented and, therefore, not well understood. To bridge this knowledge gap, the study employed value chain analysis approach to examine the dynamics shaping wood value chains for smallholder tree farmers in Mubende. Specifically, the study characterised organisation of smallholder value chains, analysed value-added and distribution to chain participants, and analysed market power relations of actors in the value chains.

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Abdul doing data entry (©A. Samanya)

Mubende District was selected for this study because it had approximately 87 thousand hectares of private forest planted mainly by smallholder tree farmers. The major species encountered was Eucalyptus species with pine and other species planted at a smaller scale. The scattered woodlots had different age classes of trees harvested and sold to markets through local brokers and wood traders.
A mixed method approach, including rapid market appraisal and participant interviews, was used to collect field data. A base node sample of 49 smallholder tree farmers was randomly selected from field lists of tree farmers that harvested woodlots in the past five years. Using the snow-ball sampling procedure, respondents in the base node identified downstream participants of the value by providing contact and location details. A sample population of 108 was interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire for the entire study. Three smallholder woodlots under harvest at the time of the study were selected to triangulate costs, price and dimension data from the survey.

My entry point to the study area was through the Chairman of Namwasa Outgrowers Association, Hajji Nuhu Muzaata, and the Chairman of Mubende Timber-dealers Association, Mr. Henry Kasakya. The two chairmen received us numerous times and ensured we get a good reception from the smallholder tree farmers and wood traders in Mubende district. During field work, local research assistants like Mr. John Barugahare and Ms. Grace Anecho, were helpful in ensuring that we could navigate the hills of Mubende while searching for smallholder farmers.  A few challenges encountered in the field included difficulty in tracing mobile chain actors, especially transporters and wood traders.

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Field interview of wood trader (©A. Samanya)

The smallholder wood value chain structure had six stages with six core activities complemented by support activities. The core activities of the value chain were tree farming, buying, processing, brokering, trading and transporting. Tree farming at 68.5%, was the most performed core activity while wood transportation at 12% was the least performed core activity by chain participants. Majority of the wood traders integrated both core and support activities in their main function of the chain. However, 92% of smallholders did not integrate other value chain activities in their main function. The value chain had four product pathways (round wood logs, utility pole, building poles and sawn wood).

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Bwaise wood market in Kampala (©A. Samanya)

The major pathway was the round wood logs pathway with 72% share of total round wood volume produced by smallholders. Wood from the four pathways was sold in greater Mubende, Kampala markets, pole treatment plants and wood based factories. For value-added and distribution, results showed the utility pole pathway generated the highest revenues compared to other pathways in the value chain. However, the distribution equity index for the pathway showed high revenue concentrations with traders (pole treatment plants) with smallholders receiving less than 10% of the value created.

Results for market power relations revealed that smallholder wood value chains are governed by market-coordination. There was asymmetry in market power between smallholders and wood traders because wood traders were integrating other value chain activities in their main function. Wood traders also derived their influence on other actors of the value chain by maintaining a network of field agents and traders that ensured supply of both material resources and market information.

 

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Wood harvesting operations in Mubende (©A. Samanya)

It is recommended that smallholders should integrate other value chain activities in their main function through collective action initiatives. Smallholders should be supported with knowledge in silvicultural management and selection of germplasm in order to supply the high value-added pathway. Lastly, efficient wood processing equipment should be promoted through tax incentives to increase value-added from the round wood log pathway.

I thank the almighty God who has brought me this far. The completion of this master’s thesis was made possible by the generous assistance, advice and encouragement from various institutions and people who cannot all be mentioned in the limited space. However, the following cannot go without mention. I extend my sincere appreciation to the WoodCluster project (funded by the DAAD programme in conjuction with the Technical University of Dresden) that considered it a priority to fund this research. Special thanks goes to my supervisors: Dr Robert Kambugu Kyeyune, Dr Justine J Namaalwa and Mr. Owen. E. Sseremba for their time, wise counsel, encouragement and mentorship. I further thank the WoodCluster project coordinator at Makerere University, Dr. Justine J Namaalwa, for identifying me to be part of this project and also doing commendable work of coordinating the entire WoodCluster team based in Uganda.

By: Abdul Samanya

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