Participatory Innovation Platform Workshop in Uganda: sharing experiences among actors along the wood value chain

On February last year, the WoodCluster partners from the collaborating Universities; Hawassa University (Ethiopia); Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania)  and TU Dresden (Germany), met in Uganda  for the Participatory Innovation Platform (PIP) workshop and field visits in Mubende district. For two days, the project teams and the six students from Makerere University convened at the School of Forestry Environment and Geographical Sciences. Presentations were made by the ongoing and prospective students for guidance on their research projects and ideas. One of the days was wrapped up with a welcome dinner where the project partners continued to guide students on how to improve their research ideas.

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Project team members ©WoodCluster

With assistance from the partners, the Ugandan team under and the coordination of Dr. Justine. J. Namaalwa, a successful PIP workshop was conducted. The aim of the PIP was to facilitate interactions and learning among actors along the wood value chain, through a participatory diagnosis of challenges and innovative identification of appropriate interventions along the value chain.

In addition to the workshop, a field excursion was organized to enable the project team members experience some of the aspects that were discussed. Sites were earlier identified to represent the different value chain nodes and these included a Nursery bed, woodlot(s), small-scale processing unit, large-scale processing unit (sawmill), wood trader, and, a pole treatment plant. The trip back to Kampala from Mubende was also synchronized with visits to three more sites. Below some of the highlights of the visit:

Visit to the Nursery Bed Operator

Mr. Nicodemus Nabende who operates a tree nursery for the Namwasa out growers, is a trained forester from Nyabyeya Forestry College thus has the ability to assist farmers with technical information. The tree nursery is located adjacent to the New Forest Company plantation. Seedlings are bought from his nursery by the New Forest Company and distributed to the farmers for free. The main seed source used is the National Tree Seed Centre at Namanve. The seedlings raised include; coffee, Pinus, Terminalia metallica and Eucalyptus clones. His recent focus on the clones was attributed to the increased demand, with claims of higher survival rates. He produces clonal eucalyptus particularly GU 7 and 8. GC is not in supply because New Forest Company (NFC) discouraged the production claiming slower girth increments.

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Visit to the nursery bed operator ©WoodCluster

Visit to a Family Woodlot managed by a Female

The family of Mr. Mugabe and her wife, Mrs. Prossy Mugabe, who participated in the PIP workshop, own a Eucalyptus grandis woodlot of 4.5 acres within a distance of 0.2km from the homestead. They also own other woodlots located at distance of about 5 km from the homestead. During the visit the family reported that all decisions regarding their tree growing are jointly made.  The seedlings are often sourced from nearby nursery beds and in a few instances, wildings were used. Mr. Mugabe family attempted to establish a private nursery bed, but this did not satisfy their planting needs at that time.  About labor deployment, they often hire labor during the activities of land preparation, and, use family labor in the subsequent activities. With regards to tree management, while weeding was intermittently done, no thinning had been implemented for their 9-year-old Eucalyptus crop. This was mainly because of the relatively low survival rate, interpreted as self-thinning by the tree farmers.

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Mrs. Prossy Mugabe hosting the team members at their family woodlot ©WoodCluster

The host shared an experience of selling off a one-acre Eucalyptus woodlot aged 9 years, whose target product was transmission poles. The process was as follows;

(a) A wood broker initiating contact with the tree owner; (b) Negotiations between the tree owner and wood broker basing on the tree owner’s knowledge of the stand value. The tree owner based on the size and age of the crop; (c) The wood broker and potential buyer visit the tree stand to ascertain the size and age of the crop; d) Final negotiations about the amount to be paid and the terms of payment made; e) Through a gentleman’s agreement it was agreed that 80% of the value be paid before harvesting starts and the 20% shall be paid after clear felling has been completed; f) The balance payment is often done before harvesting is completed.

Some challenges were experience:

  • The first tree buyer sold his harvesting rights to another buyer without the knowledge of the tree owner.
  • The secondary tree buyer claimed ignorance about the 20% balance payments, although later cleared the payment.

Visit to Woodlots owned by a Member of the Out-growers Association

The project team also visited the chairperson of Kalwana out-growers association. The association covers 5 sub counties in Mubende district dealing in coffee, maize, apiculture and tree growing of mainly Eucalyptus and Pinus species. The main objective for including the tree growing activity for this association was to have a better bargaining power while selling their trees. However, no actual sales had been done as an association by the time of the visit. The tree farmer has been active in tree farming for some time given that his crop of Eucalyptus had already been harvested for transmission and construction poles. The plantation had been established at a spacing of 2×2 meters and thinned at 2, 3 and 4 years as advised by the experts from the New Forest Company.

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Visit to a woodlot owned by a member of a tree farmers’ group ©WoodCluster

The team found a 2-year old stand of hybrid Eucalyptus grandis being managed for transmission poles after the age of 6 – 8 years. The tree farmer also had a pine crop aged 8 years with a target rotation age of 18 – 20 years. The farmer mentioned that NFC is often the first target for selling his trees, despite the bureaucratic processes that are involved. While NFC would be a reliable buyer with less price fluctuations, the bureaucracy involved is often a disincentive to many out growers. To ensure that they have a flow of income outside the trees, the association adopted apiculture within the trees. The downside of this however is that the prices of honey are very low and to overcome this, they organized themselves to sell as a group.

Visit to a Timber Store and Furniture Workshop

Mr. Nyombi James the LCII Chairperson of Maduudu Parish; plays various roles across the wood value chain including; tree farming, timber processing, timber stocking and value addition /carpentry. He has been in the timber trading busing and processing for the last 20 years, dealing in both exotic (Pinus and Eucalyptus) and indigenous tree species (such as Markhamia lutea, Khaya anthotheca, Terminalia metallica, Ficus natalensis, Antiaris toxicaria). While Pinus and Eucalyptus are often from woodlots, the indigenous tree species are from scattered tree-on-farm systems. At the carpentry workshop, he processed the wood to produce mainly sideboards, wardrobes, beds, doors and door frames, as well as coffins.

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Wardrobe made in the furniture workshop ©WoodCluster

“We use low quality timber for making coffins and the good quality timber for making furniture like side boards”  Mr. Nyombi

Visit to the Circular Sawmill Plant

A visit was made to a circular sawmill plant owned by one of the PIP participants. The plant was mainly processing wood from Eucalyptus and Pinus tree species. At this site, an observation was made in regard to the very low recovery rate of the circular sawmill evidenced by the heaps of off-cuts and the large volume of saw dust from the milling process.

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Project team visiting the circular sawmill plant in Mubende Town ©WoodCluster

Visit to the NFC Sawmill at Namwasa and Pole treatment Plant

New Forest Company owns and operates a sawmill. However, the mill was not operating at the time of the visit, it was possible to take look of the installation, raw materials and processed wood onsite.

The last stop was the pole treatment plant under NFC located in Mityana. There the team was guided through a tour around the plant and it was possible to learn about different operations. The operations units visited included the timber yard and pole treatment facility.

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Project team visiting the NFC Pole Treatment Plant in Mytyana ©WoodCluster

by Scovia Akello and Antonny Tugaineyo

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