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Risks regarding forrestry in Kenya

Running a plantation in Africa is not without problems for a number of reasons, but despite the challenges that has been, Better Globe Forestry Ltd (BGF), the forest company that Better Globe established and own, has now been operational for a decade in Kenya. Today BGF is one of Kenya's most recognized and respected forestry companies by the government as well as other companies and organizations related to forestry in Kenya.

It is our experience that Eastern Africa, spanning countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is among the safest places to place our plantations. They have been democratized after British systems and has stable governments. Furthermore it is possible to enter into leasing contracts on land of 45-99 years of duration and thereby our plantations are secured for manu decades to come.

Running plantations successfully in Africa demands great understanding of the culture and close cooperation with the local authorities and the local community. BGF has 10 years of experience and has build the necessary trust on all levels of society over the years. The founders behind BGF has several decades of experience in business in Africa, long predating BGF, where among other things, they have been working with ISO9001 certification at top levels.

Most tree planting companies are looking for arable land and easy access to water. Over the years many tree planting companies have tried to start plantations in Africa with little or no success. They have fought the local people and occupiers that does not want to leave the land they grew up on. This problem BGF do not have, since they specialize in planting trees that can survive in arid lands. They do not take arable land for the plantations but help to create growth in some of the most vulnerable and driest areas in Africa. As a matter of fact the whole reason for Better Glove Forestry doing what they do, is the wish to make a difference and create growth in some of the poorest areas in Africa.

This is why Better Globe Forestrys focus is:

It is our conviction that our way of engaging and meet the local community is a big part of the successes of Better Globe Forestry creating professional plantations in the less attractive arid lands.

Risks connected to the future market price of tropical timber

Our Mukau trees are still to young to be sold of. As they are rare, there is no available market prices. What we can do is collect comparable and competitive trees in the same segment. Below table shows the export prices from sawn timber from July 2014

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The quality of our Mukau trees is higher than the African mahogany(Ivorensis) (Se the section on quality of tropical timer) but we can use the same valuation. A fully grown Mukau tree gives in average 1/2 m3. the value today would be 520 euros (1020€ x 1/2). Our agreement is that you will get a fixed price of 208.50 euro in return for every tree you buy (2,55 euro per year 5-19 and 170 euro in the 20th year). This means that even if your trees was ready to be felled today we would still be able to pay you the promised amount just by selling the wood as raw timber - and that is not including the profits that the plantations created over the 20 years the trees take to mature.

Risks connected to the quality of tropical timber

Better Globe's forest company BGF in Kenya possesses the largest plantations of Mukau trees. The Mukau trees is a rare Mahogany sort in Africa, close to extinct a few years ago, until BGF chose to utilize it in their plantations. To ensure that their Mahogany trees are up to the standards and quality demands of the market place, they work together with Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) to test the quality of the trees. In the below table you will see the results. We have also compared the Mukau trees with other hardwoods on the market

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As you can see from the table, Mukau is lighter in weight than natural american mahogany and Teak but much harder than both competitors. Finally the bending strength of Mukau is better than the others. The specs of the Mukau trees shows that it can be utilized in many areas, such as flooring, furniture production etc and that the timber easily lives up to the highest standards compared to other competitive tree sorts on the market.

Risk factors connected with the supply and demand of tropical timber

During the last 50 years about 60% of the global forests have disappeared. From 1990-2000 about 16 million hectares of the global forests have disappeared every year according to FAO in FN (FAO), mainly in Africa and South America. From 2000-2010 13 million hectares disappeared yearly.

The supply of tropical wood have been diminishing, especially because the rain forests suffers a loss of between 12 to 15 million hectares a year. This in spite of billions of US dollars used to protect the rain forests. Although there has been a massive focus on saving the rain forests it is not as successful as expected. Illegal activities and loopholes in the systems combined with strong company financial interests and ruthless political corruption makes it difficult to save the trees. This again raises initiatives, plans of action and legal measures to stimulate the uses of legal and sustainable manufactured wood on the markets, especially in environmentally conscious markets as Europe.

The great demand of tropical timber and the still decreasing supply is the reason of the increases of prices of tropical timber, especially the sustainable manufactured tropical timber. Better Globe Forestry has a sustainable production of tropical wood in arid lands and therefore you can help reduce and counteract the global deforestation through purchasing trees through Better Globe. There is no doubt that the production of sustainable tropical wood will remain a giant market for Better Globe in the future.

Attack from insects, pests, diseases and fungus

Most insects and fungus are selective towards what tree sorts the attack. In general the risks of damage from pests are the biggest when the plants are physiologically weakened from being planted in places that are unfit for them, if they have been prepared wrong, ineffectively planted, unfavorable climate, neglect of weeding or maintenance. But even healthy trees and bushes can from time to time be attacked by insects and fungus and when that happens it is important that the necessary means are readily available.

The most important precautions that must be in place to protect against future damage from insects and fungus is to plant tree species that is suited for the climate and soil conditions at hand. Furthermore to conduct investigations for original pests to ensure that none is within what can damage the chosen species. This is the reason for choosing Mukau and Acacia who are original in Kenya and very resilient.

Reed more about how Better Globe Forestry - in cooperation with KEFRI - prevents diseases in our Mukau trees in MITI #8 page 14 Click here!

To obtain this necessary information BGF has done extensive controlled experiments in their small planting programs in conjunction with among others, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and Ghent University in Belgium. BGF is working to perfect the protocol for In Vitro production of Mukau trees, with unique qualities taken from more than 100+ trees (superior in quality and growth) and the plan is to start to clone Mukau on our lab in 2015.

Animals can damage trees and sprouts

Damage on forest plantations done by wild animals is primarily in the form of them eating the sprouts or the bark off young trees.. The most important methods of controlling such damage is using fencing, hedges or ditches, capture by traps and removal. When it comes to domestic animals it is mostly sheep, goats and cattle that can be a threat to young plants, and here too fencing and hedges are used to prevent those from entering. Where as fencing is expensive, the entering of domestic animals can be controlled by guards.

Wild animals has never caused problems in our plantations despite the lack of fencing. We have stable relations with the local community and most of them makes sure that their cattle does not cause trouble in our plantations. BGF has security guards that works 24/7. After detecting local farmers stealing grass from our plantation at night, BGF has agreed with the community that they can grass their domestic animals between the trees. That keeps their goats happy and our seedlings safe from harms way.

Can trees grow in arid lands and semi arid lands (ASAL) with very low precipitation?

The trees ability to survive in tough environments are depending on different factors of production. The most important factors are thoroughly prepped terrain, effective protection of the small seedlings, plantation methods and selection of the best sorts. In semi arid land like where BGF is planting, water is often scarce. Even trees that are used to drought need water to survive, especially the young plants are depended upon water. Sustainable development of the root system in the nursery period, proper preparation of the terrain, and proper planting methods are essential for the survival of young trees in the area.

BGF has great expertise in agriculture, water conservation and utilization, and are aware of the challenges associated with the planting of Mukau trees in ASAL land where the company's projects are located. We have completed a 6-year-long Mukau pilot project with the largest forestry research institute in Kenya (KEFRI), and did the necessary research and development to launch a large-scale planting program with Mukau.

Mukau tree we plant naturally grows in dry bush land or dry wooded grasslands, where it often stands out because of its height. It is fast growing and produces high quality timber. In addition, the species is resistant to termites and drought. BGF pilot project has shown that it can be planted year round, provided it gets adequate care and watering. The growth is excellent and the trees reaches 3 m in height after nearly eighteen months.

Land contracts must be based on relationships

Land is very central to many families' livelihoods, and food security. Many large scale land investment in Africa has resulted in many small farmers livelihood has become distant and thus sometimes created many conflicts, environmental degradation, water losses and political instability in African nations.

Our plantations are in the semi-arid region where living conditions are already too harsh for people to earn a living. This means that we do not take any arable land away from the locals. On the contrary, we form partnerships with farmers, and it is easier to work through sustainable land contract that can be respected and followed by all party's.

BGF have spent 4-5 years in cooperation with the local communities and authorities, where our plantations are located. As a result, we signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding), which led to a 45 year agreement extended the lease of land, with the Kenyan government's approval. We do not own the land on which the projects are located. The land acquired through the above-mentioned long-term leases with the legal administrative guarantee that the trees belong to Better Globe Forestry Ltd.

Fire risks of the plantations

In order to protect forest plantations, it is important to remember that if there is not enough combustible material, there is little or no fire risk. This prevents fires from developing on the ground level, which is the major cause of dangerous and harmful plantation fires.

It is unlikely that the plantations burns down. In any case, our forestry company Better Globe Forestry Ltd (BGF) has taken steps to reduce the fire hazard, and therefore avoided fire in any of our plantations in the last 10 years. We understand that it is important for us to have a great relationship with the local community in order to run our plantation in a safe and productive manner. We train our local staff well and help build their community. A healthy relationship is important to minimize the risk. To further minimize risks, we use firebreaks, which is a hole in the vegetation, that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the development of a forest fire or wildfire. In addition, we have security staff employed in the fields.

Read more about prevention and fighting of forest fires in MITI magazine # 17 on page 16. Here you will find an article written by Kenya Forrest Service, one of Better Globe Forestry's partners.  Click here!

The expected growth of the trees can fail

There are many reasons that a tree does not grow properly, such as over-fertilization and over-cropping. BGF has done a lot of testing over several years to find the right balance of fertilizer and pruning.

A 17-year-old Mukau wood is expected to be approximately 40 cm in diameter (0,33 m3). BGF plant two trees for every tree we sell, and we plant in several plantations. The second tree acts as a security in the event that the first should be damaged. BGF will use backup trees as a safety feature to be able to pay you the agreed buy-back price.

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Vanja Hellum
Cellphone: 90688466
Email: vanhel@online.no

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