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YFA Diaries

On 1st February 2011 the two winners of the CFA Young Forester Award, Chidiebere Ofoegbu from South Africa and Chisika Sylvester from Kenya, began their work placements with the Uganda Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS).  Their work diaries are reproduced below.

WEEK 1

Welcome to SPGS

Finally the D- day arrived, after months of preparation, I finally arrived Uganda on the eve of 31st January. The journey was quiet an interesting one and not a very long Journey, it took me about five and half hours to fly from South Africa to Uganda for this placement. But the excitement and expectation of what this placement will holds for me kept me pondering all through the flight duration. Winning the 2010/11 Young Forester Award of the Commonwealth Forestry Association is a dream comes through for me. I have been working towards winning this award ever since I first learnt about it in 2005 and discovered what a huge potential it holds for my career advancement.  You can then imagine how excited and delighted I was when I finally got the news that I have won the 2010/11 edition of the award.

Front view of SPGS office

On my arrival at Uganda through the Entebbe/Kampala airport, I was received by a young man named Francis from the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) where I will be placed for the duration of this award. My first day with SPGS was quiet a memorable one; I was introduced to the staff and management of the SPGS team. The whole activities that I underwent in my first week were centred on my integration into SPGS team. In my first week I got to learn about SPGS vision and mission, and how they are promoting commercial forestry in Uganda.

Chidiebere Ofoegbu at SPGS office, doing some literature studies

Forestry in Uganda has been very dormant over the years (for about thirty years ago). This has resulted in lost of forest; even the forest reserves were not speared. But within the past six years of her existence, SPGS has helped in changing this trend resulting in the establishment of several thousands of hectares of high quality plantations across the country mostly pine and eucalyptus plantations. SPGS have also helped in establishing several hectares of woodlots across the country which is very crucial to the survival of the charcoal industries in Uganda. SPGS are not only supporting individual investors in tree plantations, they also support communities and institutional investors. The SPGS support is mostly in the form of grants and technical supports.  It is also important to mention here that all the SPGS activities are being funded by the European Union, Government of Norway and supported by the Government of Uganda. Within the first week that I have spent here I have learnt how dedication and external supports can help in transforming the forest sector of any Nation. I believe the lessons so far from the SPGS experience can be replicated in other African countries, especially in those countries where there is heavy reliance on Natural forests. In the coming weeks I will be bringing you detailed information on my experience with SPGS and how SPGS is promoting commercial forestry and development of forest industries in Uganda.

Chidiebere Ofoegbu

 

Arrival at SPGS

I arrived safely in Kampala City at around 10:30 PM on 1st Feb 2011. It is a relatively warm place where one can stay without heavy clothing. The residents are charming, hospitable and willing to talk to their neighbors.

On the second day, a tentative schedule of activities was given to me by Celia Naladdwa who is a senior Plantation Officer working with SPGS. She also introduced me to the rest of the SPGS community before taking me through the SPGS national wide mandate. It is during this session that it came out clean that SPGS is a partnership between the European Union, the Government of Uganda and the Norwegian Government and that it was operationalised way back in 2004 with the aim of promoting private sector investments in commercial tree planting. Population was fast increasing as well as the demand for forest products. The capacity of National Forestry Authority in addressing the aforementioned challenge had been overstretched and thus other forestry stakeholders had to come and at least look into ways of mitigating and later addressing the challenge fully.

I was also introduced to SPGS community work and just to sum up the whole program I would say SPGS has transformed and stimulated the face of Uganda’s private commercial tree planting by providing needed technical and financial incentives as a way of improving livelihoods.SPGS is also instrumental in conducting problem oriented research aimed at generating much needed information. This is a precious, timely and highly sought chance for me as a young forester I hope this is going to be an opportunity for me to explore and learn. This is a unique opportunity for me to develop my career path with a world class organization. This is going to be a melting pot of several issues as I interact with professionals of different cultural backgrounds thereby learning from the best forestry management practices associated with their experiences in the course of uplifting livelihoods. I am also expecting to meet new challenges in the course of undertaking forestry management activities. I also look forward to working closely with the research and development component by providing innovative ideas that would boost the quality of output and later dissemination through appropriate forums.  

Chisika Sylvester


WEEK 2

This week has been much of office work and more of introduction to SPGS work. I began on a very high note by first attending SPGS weekly strategy meeting which is normally held every Monday morning. This is meant to plan and coordinate all the activities that will be taking place during the whole week.

During the week, I was also introduced to the woodlot program which is to target private institution in Uganda and just to make sure that they become sufficient and self reliant through fuel wood production. This program generated substantial amount of interest in me such that I decided to join the working group and now we are still in the infant stage of developing a brochure which we intend to circulate to stakeholders to read through and get us a feedback on their views. I was also introduced to GIS, timber market study as well as SPGS communication channels.

The R&D component of SPGS took me through their problem oriented research program where it emerged that the future of private investment in commercial tree planting will rely almost entirely on the kind of relationship that will exist between the public and private domain of Uganda. I also tried to share with SPGS about the Kenyan experience with Eucalyptus spp controversy. I shared that in Kenya there are a lot of concerns regarding the growth of Eucalyptus spp close to water catchment areas and near wetlands as a result of conflicting policies from different environmental management and regulatory agencies. In fact, In the recent past a senior government official in-charge of environmental coordination directed all environment inspectors working under him to lead the community in process of uprooting all Eucalyptus spp near wetlands and even those on their private farms reason being the trees take up a lot of water leaving very little in the underground reservoirs and hence worsening the case of water scarcity. On the other hand KEFRI and KFS are busy telling the same communities to plant more trees on their farms for social and economic empowerment as well as increasing the national forest cover which stands at 2% at sit. I found a totally different picture here, that Eucalyptus spp is one of the best species being promoted.

Chisika Sylvester

 

Typical Sawmill Plant: Uganda

My second week of placement with SPGS has been full of presentations and one-one discussion with key staff. I was involved in one-on-one discussion with key staff of SPGS in order to grasp comprehensive knowledge of SPGS missions and visions and how they are translating same into action in promoting commercial forestry in Uganda. I had interactive moment with SPGS plantation officer in charge of nursery; Mr. Alex, I discovered how SPGS is promoting commercial nursery in Uganda via implementation of standards in nursery operations. SPGS has developed criteria and standard which they employ in certifying nursery operators across Uganda. The aim is to ensure that the nursery produces seedlings of high quality. SPGS facilitates the delivery of quality seeds to these nursery operators so that they don’t use seeds that will not produce good quality seedlings/timber. Through the certification exercise SPGS helps in ensuring that the operators adhere to good standard in their operations. 

My interaction with SPGS staff in charge of GIS and IT revealed SPGS planning strategy in promoting commercial forestry in Uganda. Since most of the current clients of SPGS are private individuals who owns several tens and hundreds of hectares of plantations. SPGS have grouped them into clusters for easy facilitation of development of forest industries. Currently SPGS has six clusters; they aimed at increasing concentration of individual planters within these clusters so that each cluster can have enough hectares of plantations that can sustain forest industries. SPGS is also encouraging co-operative actions among individual stakeholders within the clusters for ease administration and management of their plantations.  

Timber Sale at Timber Market: Uganda

SPGS is also promoting investors interest in Uganda forestry through information sharing on Uganda timber market. SPGS produces quarterly article on Uganda timber market which gives an overview/ outlook of Uganda timber market. My interaction with SPGS plantation officer in charge of market study; Mr. Peter gave me a first hand experience of how this is carried out. I also had interactive moments with SPGS plantation officer in charge of woodlot; Mr. Thaddeus; and plantation officer in charge of community works; Mr. Charles Odeke as well as plantation officer in charge of research and development; Miss Celia.    

The discussions I had with the SPGS staff gave me a good understanding of SPGS strategy in promoting commercial forestry in Uganda. SPGS is currently on phase two of her existence which will end by 2013. Most of the activities been carried out at the moment are targeted toward achieving SPGS objectives within the frame of her existence (2013). Indeed SPGS is doing a great work in facilitating development of forest industries and establishment of commercial forestry in Uganda. SPGS also do organize excursion training for her clients and staff in South Africa to under-study forestry operations and management strategy so that they can have practical experience of commercial forestry and be able to think properly on what the future holds for commercial forestry in Uganda.

Chidiebere Ofoegbu


Age distortion within plantation as a result of ‘late beating-up’

WEEK 3

My third week of placement has been full excitement and field work. The bulk of my activity this week was field visit and inspection of SPGS clients. The main purpose of the visit was to ascertain whether the clients are complying with the terms of their contract and also to inspect the state of the plantations.

 

In one of my field inspection visit this week, we visited a client at Mukono in Eastern Uganda. The clients are generally enthusiastic about learning more about forestry business and are generally delighted about SPGS visits. SPGS have done a great work in helping the clients to determine what specie to plant on each site, SPGS also provides them with planting guideline and also with information technical guidance on how to tend and maintenance the planted stock.

 

A private nursery at Mukono; one of SPGS clients

However despite SPGS efforts, there are still some lapses that are readily visible on the sites. In some instances the clients fail to do ‘beating-up’ as at when due which resulted in distortion in the age of the plantation. In some instances also the clients fail to comply with SPGS standard on demarcation of wetlands, but the team noticed this and recommended immediate remedial action.

 

Chidi on field inspection of a gum plantation at Mukono

It is still a learning curve for most of SPGS clients as regard to commercial tree plantation establishment in Uganda. ‘But I can see light at the end of the tunnel.’ The commitment and enthusiastic spirit of the stakeholders in Uganda is something that is unparallel and very encouraging. Some plantation holders are really doing things right and getting great result. I can comfortably say that establishment of a viable and competitive forest industries and plantations in Uganda is only a matter of time.

Chidiebere Ofoegbu

 

Sylvester on field inspection of a gum plantation at Mukono

Let me deliberately compare this moment to the kind of fever that grips a football fan when there are only two minutes left for your favorite football and the ball is now in the opponents team’s penalty box next is just a kick and there you cling the championship after a period of raids and struggle. Although this might not be one of the deliverables of this report please just allow this sneak preview everyone in Kampala is vibrating, bellowing, whistling and dancing like crazy people and chanting slogans of their favorite candidate. Uganda is just about to hold its elections! At one point I was forced to pinch my cheeks and stay in traffic jam for more than 30 minutes while travelling back to the apartment from town. Anyway that is a tale for another day.

Have you ever come to a point in life when you were to remove your gloves, fold your sleeves and start chewing bones? Now, the third week of placement at SPGS was full of such moments. First, I had take on a round table discussion on administrative policies of SPGS with the Finance and Administration Manager. I discovered that part of SPGS results oriented success was anchored upon stringent financial management skills brought on board by well seasoned personnel and building a personal relationship with all employees in the organization. SPGS has one of the most progressive career development schemes for its employees ranging from organized safaris to other African countries which uphold best forestry management practices and providing forums for exchange of both indigenous traditional knowledge and that gained through formal institutions.

I also participated in a plantation inspection exercise at Mukono in the outskirts of Kampala City. This monitoring and evaluation exercise is aimed at gauging the performance of clients’ contracts by way of comparing their output to SPGS laid down guidelines relating to crop establishment and later harvesting. I visited two SPGS clients who have raised a variety of healthy tree crops established from high quality seed provided under SPGS support phase II which targets to support the planting of 30,000 ha of commercial tree plantations by the private sector in Uganda by 2013. The crops we visited were healthy and the species were correctly matched to site as a result of the provision of technical assistance by SPGS. I will be presenting my report to SPGS on the finding of this inspection.

I was also involved in a brain storming exercise at SPGS office where, the community officer led two of us in a discussion where we planned   a study tour for Muzira Community which is one of SPGS beneficiaries. The purpose of this tour will be to facilitate interactions amongst and between community members by way of encouraging people to learn from what their neighbors are doing and replicating the best lessons learnt into their situations. The world is changing fast and better be part of the change is the message that SPGS is sending to the community by demonstrating to them new methods and techniques of executing forestry management activities.

Otherwise, thank you let me sample some of the best roasted meat joints now; I hope to see you next week.

Chisika Sylvester


WEEK 4

Sylvester estimating tree height of a 1.5 Yr old Eucalyptus spp plantation at Mukono in Eastern Uganda  

This week was basically a continuation of most of the preceding week’s activities. While working together with other SPGS staff as a team, I was involved in more of one on one discussion on general operations of the project as well as highlighting the areas that need improvement and how to do the upgrade. Together with SPGS staff, I refined a program guide for the proposed study tour for Wala Community tree planting group to a similar community group in Western Uganda. Such forums do provide opportunities for local implementors from one community management site to learn through the experiences of another by visiting field sites and engaging in dialogue with local and national actors. Inter-community exchange visits aim to attain horizontal interactions (e.g. between local implementors in different communities) and strengthen vertical relations (e.g. among community, local government, and policy makers).

Visitors and host teams are strategically matched. This is done in such a way that both can relate to themes of mutual interest which are of direct use to them. SPGS has mastered this art by way of seeking to forge a warm relationship between and amongst project stakeholders.

I was also involved in planning for clients meeting which is to be held next month (March 2011). At this point in time I would like to divulge that one of SPGS’ success secrets is that employees work as a team and plan for their activities ahead of time.

 

Sylvester traversing through a Eucalyptus spp.  Plantation in Eastern Uganda. Alongside photo: a 2yr old Eucalyptus clones plantation at Masaka in Uganda

Yes, the team has heeded to the wise ‘men’ saying ‘preparedness is the key to success’. This is also the forum where SPGS shares a moment with their contracted clients with the intent of updating them on project support status; contract review for those with special needs and in general share a light moment with clients while documenting their challenges as well as opportunities.

 

A 3 yr. old Pinus caribea H in a client’s private forest in Eastern Uganda where I participated in inspection so as to either recommend establishment payment or not

At the moment, SPGS clients base continues to expand day by day as a result of the professionalism, high standards of work, provision of needed technical and financial support as well as the feedback option available and reachable by clients. I will not bring out exactly how they do if I don’t mention that due to enhanced customer focus, satisfied clients have been at the forefront at broadcasting the good works to their neighbors and all I can say is, the strategy is paying off.

Now, you realize that last week during forest plantation inspection in eastern Uganda I did not accompany my update with enough photos. I have decided to provide more together with this report as shown below.

Chisika Sylvester

 

 

 

Poles at Green Resources pole treatment plant

It has been an exciting week for me wiith lots of activities and preparations towards the forthcoming SPGS clients’ meeting. The clients’ meeting is an SPGS initiative during which SPGS briefs her numerous clients on update about her activities and also exposes them to latest/best practices in forestry operations. The clients’ week meeting also involves a field visit to a forest industry whereby the clients are exposed to the principles and practicalities of sustainable forest industry management.

 

Pine and eucalyptus seedlings at Green Resources Nursery site

The fourth week of my placement involved critical planning towards the clients’ meeting. I was involved in preparation of presentations on various forestry operations such as; lining-out, marking, pitting, planting, thinning, pruning, and fire fighting. We also underwent a field visit to Green Resources pole treatment plant (A Norwegian forest industry based in Jinja, Eastern Uganda); in a bid to get everything set for the clients’ meeting.

 

Clones of Eucalyptus at Green Resources Nursery

We also visited Green Resources nursery site; in a bid to understudy their nursery operations before the actual clients’ meeting day. We went through the various activities being carried out there. And also have the opportunity to assess ergonomics and health and safety measures. The nursery is a medium scale and they are involved in the raising of various species of pine and eucalyptus tree. They are also involved in the raising of clones and hybrids of eucalyptus plants.

 

Marking for thinning preparatory class with SPGS staff

At the end of the fourth week, we were able to get everything set for the clients’ meeting. All the fire fighting equipment for the fighting course were tested and found to be in good order. It was indeed a very exciting and busy week for me. I am looking forward to the forthcoming fifth week for the clients’ meeting and to have a practical experience of how SPGS disseminates information/practical assistance on latest best practices in forestry operations to her clients.

Chidiebere Ofoegbu


WEEK 5

 

I will start this week’s update by just saying I am very passionate and excited about my work experience at SPGS in Uganda. This week I have been occupied with office work. I didn’t have any field work because all the attention had shifted towards a clients meeting which took place on 3rd and 4th of March 2011. It was during this period of serious commitment that a thought came across my mind like, have you ever been a recipient of bad customer service? Did you wonder if the company representative was mad, having a bad day, or just generally unhappy? Well, a psychiatrist will have sufficient grace to delve into the finer details of performing psychoanalysis to understand the mystery behind this behavior; an area which I am not gifted in.

 

Despite the above picture, some organizations have been able to overcome the shortcoming and are headed strategically to achieve their objectives. To take you home quickly, there is one thing which SPGS does which I think very few corporates have discovered, that’s Customer Satisfaction; it can make or break an organization. The world is growing ever more accustomed to substandard service when interacting with companies. An organization that properly aligns itself with the customers it serves, internal and external, can reap huge rewards over the long term. With the gap between inferior and superior service ever increasing, a properly trained organization can ready itself for more positive impacts. Companies may flounder if proper measures are not planned and implemented. Substandard customer service can cause an organization to plummet quickly and force it into closure.

 

According to SPGS “Customer Focus" is the ultimate goal in excellent management. Since the customer is the only reason you have a job, if you are not willing to satisfy the customer…then you might as well go home; you are not needed. An organization without customer focus, there is no clear goal on which to hang organization's work. 

 

It is now clear that focus on three pillars of effective management is important if SPGS is to remain relevant here in promoting private investment in commercial tree planting. A forum such as Clients meeting is one of the strategies employed by SPGS and has worked to realize association as a precursor for enhancing collective voice and lobby for improvement. This platform for learning and information sharing has also given confidence to clients, besides preparing them for challenges ahead. The meetings have enabled the clients to bring into open the fundamental questions, which raise a lot of policy implications. An offspring from the SPGS and clients’ meetings has been the formation of Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA). Key among its objectives are: (i) to promote commercial tree planting by the private sector and attract additional funding so as to develop a viable and vibrant commercial forest plantation business in Uganda, and (ii) to improve the standards and skills in managing tree plantations, in line with internationally accepted norms.

Next week I will have the opportunity to attend SPGS organized clients meeting to be held at Mayuge in the outskirts of Jinja Town which is located in the eastern part of Kampala in Uganda. I hope to get some nice pictures from the function for you and later share with you my experiences.

Otherwise, thank you I am really enjoying working with you.

 

Chisika Sylvester

 

The fifth week was indeed a very important one for me. It was the week where I participated in one of SPGS major activity; the clients’ meeting. The client meeting was a huge success; it was attended by 100 forest investors who are being supported by SPGS.  Usually the clients’ meet takes two days and because of the huge client numbers, it is run twice with two separe groups of clients. The first week’s client meeting happens to coincide with my fifth week of placement and was the bulk of my activity during the week.

 

The client meeting involved a field visit to Green Resources nursery and Green Resources (Also Known as Busoga Forestry Company) pole treatment plant. The meeting also involved field demonstration of best practices in forestry operations being promoted/ recommended by SPGS  staff to their clients.

 

The Project Manager; Alan Amupe addressing Clients/Investors at Green Resources Nursery site

At the Green Resources nursery site SPGS practically showed her clients; the best practices in nursery operation, the importance of good planning in nursery establishment, the place of good hygiene in raising quality seedlings, the merit, principles and practicalities of raising clones and hybrid seedlings for plantation establishment was also demonstrated.

     

 

Clients briefing at Green Resources Nursery site

 

On-field demonstration of best practices for lining, marking and pitting for plantation establishment was also demonstrated. SPGS introduced the investors to the use of ‘cross head’ in lining out. The clients were also introduced to the use of wire chain for marking and pitting. The new methods were found to be very interesting to the investors as it was demonstrated to be more cost effective and have numerous advantages over the previous methods being used.

 

Plantation officer; Alex Atuyamba explaining the new method of lining out and marking to the clients

 

The clients were also introduced to the use of ‘aqua soils’/ planting gel in plantation establishment. They were shown how to prepare and use the planting gel. The planting gel has numerous advantages when used in planting. It can help to extend planting window, reduces die back of planted seedlings and helps seedling to survive in the field especially when there is unexpected delay of rainfall. The clients were very excited about the prospects of using planting gel in their planting operations as it would help them to plant more seedlings during the planting season and reduce the cost of ‘beating-up’.

 

 

Already prepared planting gel/Aqua soils ready for planting operations

The clients meeting was capped with a workshop at sunset beach in Jinja. At the workshop, SPGS further explained to her clients on the need to adhere to SPGS standards in order to fulfill the terms of their contracts. SPGS also introduced them to the silviculture and advantages of raising teak plantations. Also the major problems/challenges that affect the clients were discussed with SPGS helping to facilitate the dialogue platform with relevant stakeholder (government official/public) necessary for finding a lasting solution to the challenges. In conclusion I can say that the clients meeting provides good platform for dialoguing on the way forward for commercial forestry in Uganda.

 

 

 

Chief Technical Adviser; Paul Jacovelli addressing the clients during the workshop

Green Resources Area Manager; Isaac Kapalaga addressing the clients during visit to the pole treatment plant  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chidiebere Ofoegbu

 


WEEK 6

 

It has been a quiet week for me, no field work, but more of routine office work. Though the week was a continuation of SPGS clients meeting, I wasn’t part of the clients’ week meeting organizing group this time around. The second phase of SPGS clients’ week meeting continued this week with the target audience being the forest managers. But I was part of staffs that were mandated to see to the smooth running of SPGS daily activities at the office here in Kampala while others were at Jinja for the clients’ week meeting.

 

Chidi going through filling work at the office

The quiet atmosphere I experienced during my normal office duty this week was indeed a moment of discovery for me. Having the luxury of enjoying the cool environment in the office while doing some desktop research and going about my routine work enabled me to refresh from the stress of previous field trips and long distance travelling. I was also able to reflect on what I have learnt over the weeks and also infer on the way forward.

 

This placement has given me an opportunity to experience the practical role of forestry in poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Lessons learnt so far from this placement shows how active people can be in fighting environmental degradation while striving for sustainable development through tree planting when given adequate support. Via my interaction with some clients at SPGS office this week, I can say that a lot of people are very willing and eager to go into tree growing business if given the right support. The unfortunate side of the story however is that SPGS funding is limited and there is thus a limit on the number of tree growers it can support.

 

Desktop study; a typical busy day at the office

I can thus comfortably say that there is big hope for forestry development in Africa. If active supervision like what is obtainable here at SPGS can be introduced to other African countries, ensuring that supports gets to the grass root, to the real tree growers, I believe that the dwindling and stagnant forestry sector of most African countries will be revived. The conclusion of my finding this week thus is, a lot of people are willing and eager to go into tree growing business in Uganda, with continuous support, I believe the forestry sector in Uganda will grow to be a major employer of labour and earner of foreign exchange. Forestry in Uganda is an ‘under-exploited’ avenue capable of contributing greatly towards poverty alleviation and sustainable development especially in the rural poor communities.

 

Despite the quietness of this week; I look forward with great excitement to next week. I will have the privilege of being part of SPGS staff that will be running some training classes for clients on forest business and tree plantation establishment.

 

Chidiebere Ofoegbu

 

Busoga Forest Company Tree Nursery

This week I attended a clients meeting hosted by Busoga Forest company in collaboration with SPGS at Mayuge in Eastern Uganda near Jinja town. The purpose of this event was to build a personal relationship and confidence between the project and all the phase II private investors in commercial tree growing as well as correct distortions such as the one I highlighted above. Despite the prolonged dry spell being experienced in Uganda currently, the area around Busoga forest Company had received some rains. Thanks to the significant role played by forests in influencing precipitation.

I was actively involved in a number of activities for the two days period. First, we visited a large tree nursery well designed owned by Busoga Forest Company. At this point elated clients were introduced some of the best nursery management practices, eucalyptus hybrid clones which are being introduced in Uganda with the hope of increasing productivity from forest plantation and  the SPGS nursery certification scheme.

 

Clients standing by Eucalyptus spp. clonal hedge

Clients were encouraged to try out hybrid Eucalyptus clones since they are advantageous as planting material because uniformity can be increased, there is wider adaptability to specific site conditions, increased disease resistance as well as the opportunity for rapid multiplication of the planting material. One point was very clear that good seed (planting material) doesn’t cost it pays and further to this was that quality seed plus best nursery practices will provide high quality planting stock and eventually high quality end products.

 

After the above discussion, contracted clients were divided into four groups while I had to rush for a lining out practical within Busoga Forest estate. Although the site for demonstration was rugged and rather unfriendly to unsuspecting participants, knowledge had to be acquired or transferred in one way. Together with other SPGS staff we made it known to clients that a properly lined out planting site was important as it ensures the right stocking per hectare, determines the plantation layout apart from easing subsequent operations including weeding,planting,thinning and eventually harvesting. The facilitator made introduced lining out with a cross head. This new method borrows from the scientific fact put forth by plane table surveyors that any two objects will always appear to be in a straight line. It is

SPGS staff leading investors through lining out operation in Busoga Forest estate

relatively fast compared to the conventional method of lining out by use of a tape and it also minimizes the number of people to be engaged to line out one hectare of land for plantation establishment. In total we handled four groups of enthusiastic and passionate clients who registered their interest in acquiring forestry knowledge by asking as many questions as possible. You might have realized that I have spent more time on this, certainly yes, this is where I actively facilitated the clients learning and experience in commercial forestry.

 

Other topics tackled by SPGS during the two field days include planting with acqua soil where clients were reminded that unreliable rainfall was the most limiting environmental factor for tree growth, and for that matter soil additives such as acqua soil come in handy in the process of retaining or at least regulating the soil moisture levels. A new method of thinning that utilizes a nine (9) M long nylon rope to establish a temporary sample plot was made known to clients. The purpose behind this was to boost the efficiency of this operation and to drive down labour costs during this silvicultural operation. Clients were also reminded about the importance of keeping there forests safe and being prepared to handle fire incidences when they occur.

 

Pole treatment cylinder at Busoga Forest Company

Sylvester standing beside treated poles at Busoga Forest Company Pole Treatment plant

Together with the rest of the team, we also visited Busoga forest Company Pole treatment plant, one of the few pole plants in Uganda. We were exposed to their pole grading system as well as the preservation and eventual distribution to the available markets. The low number of pole treatment and other value addition plants in Uganda can be attributed to the infancy stages at which private sector commercial tree planting is at. Although with time the future of private commercial tree planting in Uganda looks bright going by the number of hectares of commercial forests established under the technical and financial support of SPGS.

 

At the tail end of the field day we gathered for a general in house discussion of challenges and opportunities that lay a head in private commercial tree planting. A major presentation on the prospects of introducing Tectona grandis as a commercial timber species for Uganda was made by SPGS and from the smiles and the look on their faces I could perceive what they were thinking about, the contents of the bag alongside.

 

Chisika Sylvester

 


WEEK 7

I have been traversing Uganda for quite some time since I stepped foot on this soil. I have noted that a huge gap exists in terms of purchasing power and lifestyle between those who stay in major towns and those in other parts of the country especially rural areas, with the later surviving entirely on peasant farming as well as production and sale of charcoal. However, this state of affairs is not unique to Uganda; most annex III countries continue experiencing such a disparity largely because of lack of decisive leadership which is keen not to maintain status quo. Despite these bottlenecks, whether you want business or pleasure, Uganda remains a country of destination for those who have discovered this like me. To give you a sneak preview of my discussion, did you know that Ugandan Women will kneel down when greeting a man as a sign of utmost respect? I got you.

 

This week, SPGS in collaboration with private tree plantation supervisors and managers held a basic plantation establishment course in the western region of Uganda at Kasunga Training and Conference Resort (KACORE) in Kyenjojo District within Toro Kingdom near the town of Fort Portal. History has it that extremely undisciplined citizen of Uganda especially those from urban areas would be ferried to Fort Portal town for short placements designed to expose the subjects to rigorous training on ‘how to behave’. Sorry, this might not be part of your expectations but I had to let it out.

 

The objective of this establishment training was to equip the participants with the principles behind silviculture on site selection, site preparation and planting. We covered a number of course themes during the four days training. The organization was such that we began by way of brainstorming about the importance of commercial forest plantations in the tropics, I am telling you ten minutes into the high octane discussion, the participants had generated a long list of social, economic and environmental advantages that outweighed the disadvantages of commercial forestry. Just to emphasize on one of the key points which dominated our day was the crucial role played by commercial tree plantations in creating rural jobs and quick yielding sideline occupations that enhance societal development.

 

Practical field work took a giant share of this training exercise with substantial emphasis on the importance of proper planning of operations as the mother successful plantation establishment. Factors of production which includes land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship ought to be organized in a way that will deliver to the tree investor the desired results for our case a high yielding commercial forest plantation. Planning ensures the smooth running of activities under commercial forestry setting given that resources are scarce while human wants are limitless. The most interesting part of the training exercise for me was when we were divided into three groups and given a small task to compute a budget and eventually perform labour balancing for a forest contractor who wants to establish a 300Ha commercial forest plantation in two planting seasons of the same year given that he only had 25 workers. At first I kept on scratching my head and figuring out how this could be possible without the intervention of human robots!

 

I can only describe the second last day of the training as one that brought a real piece hell on earth in wet weather. Please take note of the words of the facilitator, ‘Before us is half a hectare piece of land, we want to begin with site clearing then progress to lining out, marking, pitting and finally planting. So people! people! Pick any tool from the ones before you and break a sweat’. I was hesitant at first because the site which we were to clear have some huge stump I asked the facilitator whether he was going to avail a bulldozer; he later confirmed that I was one of the bulldozers. You might have to take a deep breath at this point in time but to bring the picture closer to home I had developed blisters all over my hands and really worked up  at the end of the exercise.  I want to authoritatively add to the existing forestry skills, experience and knowledge that as a forest manager before you handover any tools and equipments to your laborers try them out if you can work with them then rest assured that it will take your workers half a day to clear one hectare of land in readiness for tree planting and not one week.

 

The private commercial tree planting sector in Uganda should be very indebted to SPGS for taking them such trainings. This will serve to boost the productivities of their commercial forests by ensuring maximum utilization of the available resources to achieve their objectives in commercial tree planting.

 

Chisika Sylvester

 

Mr. Walter; SPGS Technical Director presenting the planning and budgeting module

This is indeed a unique and different experience for me. The seventh week of my placement presented me with the opportunity to be engaged in one of SPGS training courses. I was part of staff at the SPGS plantation establishment and management course at Kyenjojo. The day one of the course started with introductory session on the course content and method of assessment, this was followed by participants expressing their motivation, expectation and aspiration with regard to participating in the course.  

 

The course entails teachings on importance, advantages and disadvantages of plantation forestry. The cream of the day was when SPGS technical director; Mr. Walter Mapanga took us through the principles of planning and budgeting with regard to plantation establishment and management. It was a very thrilling experience as I was able to experience and access SPGS method of teaching. The participants were equally excited and enthusiastic about the teaching as it exposed them to the application of business principles combined with forest science in sustainable commercial forestry.

 

Mr. Chidi in a discussion group during the training session

The day two of the training program involved field works and lectures. The lectures were on climatic, soil and site factors that affects plantation establishment. This was followed by practical demonstration of soil depth analysis with regard to site and specie selection for plantation establishment.

 

Later in the day we took field visit to some nursery sites at Fort Portal. There we were able to witness some examples of good and bad nursery management. We also visited the Gatsby nursery where they are raising clones of eucalyptus plant.  

 

The training program lasted for four days, and was rounded-up with practical training sessions on lining out, marking, pitting and planting. The attendees were also taught how to plant with aqua soil (planting gel). The importance of aqua soil in planting, and how to prepare and use aqua soil was also emphasized. The training course was very much practical oriented and enabled the attendees to demonstrate what they have been taught.

  

At the end of the training session the student were assessed and the best student won a book prize from SPGS. In conclusion, the entire students were very much pleased with what they have learnt and were eagerly looking forward to the next training session.

 

Getting the hands dirty; soil depth analysis at Orua forest reserve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Overgrown seedlings at one of the poorly managed nursery at Fort Portal  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Lining out and pitting operation  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best student (Mr. Udaki) receiving the book prize from SPGS Senior Plantation Officer (Mr. Thaddeus)

Planting with aqua soil  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chidiebere Ofoegbu

 


WEEK 8

 

SPGS is just about to reimburse plantation establishment costs encountered by its phase II contracted clients but not yet until SPGS ascertains that their operations and practices are in tandem with the minimum laid down establishment standards and that their activities will result into fast growing and high yielding timber plantations. It is the time for pre-planting inspections of the sites of all the investors in the business of private commercial tree planting.

 

This week I was part of SPGS staff that went on an inspection tour in Kiboga and Hoima Districts located a few Kilometres from Lake Albert in Western Uganda. We visited 30 clients in total who leased land from National Forestry Authority (NFA) with the following check list of themes on mind:

 

1.     site treatment(areas to be planted, bush clearing,pre-plant application of herbicide, lining out marking  and pitting)

2.     planting stock(source of seedlings whether from own nursery or SPGS accredited nurseries, bookings and the intended handling of seedlings)

3.     social issues including labour force in terms of availability and productivity

4.     preparedness in the event of occurrence of risks such as fire, wildlife damage

5.     challenges being experienced

 

 

Sylvester admiring a 3yr. Old Pinus Caribea var. Horundensis crop established from high quality seed.

Yes, through the numerous needed trainings and knowledge exchange forums such as clients meetings that SPGS organises for its contracted private tree planting customers have served the intended purpose of converting investors attitudes  from just investing to investment in high return venture, commercial tree planting. Majority of the visited clients are generally doing things right apart from a few lapses here and there which can be corrected with time. As a consequence of the nature of convergence of Uganda’s geography as well as favourable edaphic and environmental conditions, most of the planting or planned planting is dominated with Pinus caribea var. Hondurensis on sloppy areas and Eucalyptus spp. on valley bottoms where the soils are quite deep and favourable for its fast growth.

 

Those who were doing it wrong on the other side was as a result of lack of proper planning. Some were still on initial bush clearing and yet the rain season had started, we expected that by now they should have pitted their areas. Forest fires had destroyed a lot of hectares of private plantations. In one way or another, this was as result of lack of proper preparedness to make their forests safe for instance they did not have any fire breaks in place lacked proper fire fighting equipments, they did not maintain a policy of zero tolerance to weeds or they were to hard on their neighbours.

 

Eucalyptus spp. Intercropped with food crops (beans) which is against SPGS standards.

For those with old crops a few incidences of pest infestation were witnessed, especially attacks by leptocybe invarsa on Eucalyptus which was planted off site. Some areas of old crop had been planted with more than one species in one compartment which is against SPGS planting guidelines.

 

Visited this Pitted area bound by the rectangle

Rainfall patterns and distribution this year has also complicated the planting schedules of some investors. Uganda has just experienced a very long dry season which sent some investors into panic mode. The other challenge for private investors is the security of their land tenures in relation to their contract to plant in the central forest reserve, terms and conditions for lease might change along the way hence hurting the private investor. There is also challenge of human encroachment in the forest reserve which complicates management of private commercial tree plantations in these areas. To overcome some of these challenges I will be suggesting to SPGS some of the ways we could try on including the use of short message service to alert planters when it due to begin preparations for planting.

 

Sylvester in Blue T-shirt on a site newly planted with PCH in Kiboga District.

Otherwise, despite a few personal challenges which I encountered during the exercise such as getting in the wrong direction, tripping, rolling over very steep slopes and supporting myself with a stick like an old man this was a unique learning experience for me because at the end of all this efforts I learnt that it is the citizen and the whole country who will emerge as winners as they smile all the way to the bank at maturity of the plantations. This will also stimulate industrial development thereby creating jobs and ensuring sustainable development.

 

Chisika Sylvester

 

‘Implementation time’ that is what this eight week is all about; it is the time for SPGS to inspect the implementation of what the clients leant during the plantation planning and establishment training course. The rains have started falling and everybody is finalizing their planting preparation. Some have commenced planting as well. The question then is: are they doing it correctly according to SPGS speculated guidelines? This week SPGS set out on inspections of clients preparations for the planting season.

 

Lining out operation in one of the visited site

This week, SPGS staffs were on inspection tour of all their clients’ sites. I was part of the group that was on inspection tour of Mityana and Mubende districts. We visited twenty clients in these districts. We were able to assess how well they carried out their land preparation (site clearing, lining out, marking and pitting) for the planting season. 

 

During the inspection tour, we also inspected the plantations the clients planted during the previous planting season in order to ascertain whether they complied with SPGS standard. Most of the clients’ plantations that were planted the previous season were indeed done up to SPGS standard. However, there some clients who failed to comply with SPGS standard. A readily example was a client who was inter-cropping eucalyptus with food crop; a practice SPGS strongly opposed.

 

Intercropping Eucalyptus with food crop, a practice not supported by SPGS

Other issue emanating from inspection of previously planted plantations centered more on management. In one of the sites, the clients failed to prune their plantations as recommended by SPGS. They seemed to have use cutlass to slash the branches resulting in the trees having the stumps of the branches still hanging to the tree. This might affect the quality of the end wood product.

 

The inspection tour was very informative and educative for me. The experience was very enriching. It enabled me to witness the act of commercial forestry operations in Uganda. Most of the clients we visited were planting in the degraded Ugandan central forest reserve. This is indeed a ‘win-win’ situation as it offered them business opportunity while also helping to re-forest their country.

 

Degraded central forest reserve, prepared for planting with pine

Poor pruning practice

The inspection tour also enabled us to capture some social conflict issues that threaten the success of the tree growing business. Some clients are faced with the challenge of security of tenure for their planting right in the central forest reserve, while some are also faced the challenge of issues associated with encroachers on their property. The activities of the encroachers seriously possess a threat to the sustainability of the clients business. However, we were able to document these challenge for reporting to appropriate authorities for immediate action.

 

Chidiebere Ofoegbu


WEEK 9

 

‘Report writing and literature study’, that was the order of the day for me this week. The week provided me an opportunity to relax and recuperate from the field work of last week, while also preparing myself for another challenging task coming up next week.

 

Next week, I will be on field inspection of SPGS planters in the Victoria cluster. Specifically we will be visiting clients at Masaka, Rakai, Wakiso and Mpigi areas. It is going to be an interesting and challenging trip. But I am equally looking forward to it, it will surly afford me the opportunity to witness forest practices in these area while giving me a broad overview of forestry operations in Uganda.

 

The week was also an opportunity for to recap on the experiences acquired so far. I have decided to shear with you a pictorial presentation of forestry practices in Uganda that I have collected over the period that this fellowship started

 

Assessing fire damage at a recently burnt plantation
Inspection time, Chidi with SPGS’ Andrew during a plantation inspection
Walter Mpanda (SPGS Technical Advisor) explaining the importance of good root development in seedlings

Chidi at a Eucalyptus clonal nursery belonging to Green Resources in Mayuge.

Planting of clones can provide the answer for expansion of the geographical planting area for exotic species in Uganda

 

Chidiebere Ofoegbu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sylvester at his work station at SPGS

This week the weather has been wet and relatively cold compared to the week that has just passed. It is a rainy season for most parts of Uganda including Kampala City; nonetheless people must work to build the nation despite the temptation to staying longer between their bed sheets. I did not have any field work this week even though there was a team of SPGS staff that went out to facilitate a Nursery management training course targeting operators and potential investors. I was part of SPGS staff that remained in office with the responsibility of attending to inquiries and the smooth running of the office.

Sylvester perusing a book in the SPGS library

It was during this period of office interactions with some of the clients and after moments of critical reflections upon the experiences and lessons learnt from the field that I came to understand how people can decide to end poverty and environmental destruction when they realize that commercial tree planting is a worthwhile investment when incentives are provided. I need to sum up this in one sentence and say a huge part of the population is now elated about tree planting but the dark side of these efforts  is that SPGS’s capacity to support all of them is limited by funds

In addition to the foregoing, the serene office environment that prevailed over during the week was not just an opportunity for sitting back and letting thing to happen, I was busy with desktop literature search with the intention of developing content for the woodlot support scheme which is one of the projects under SPGS.  This new form of support for the establishment of woodlots during Phase II (2009 – 2013) will supplement the planting grant and the community planting initiative. It is aimed at contributing towards solving the fuelwood and charcoal problems in this country, considering that over 90% of the Ugandan population relies on wood for their cooking, baking, tea curing and other needs. It is anticipated that it will involve helping interested groups establish trees mainly for fuelwood. Woodlot support will therefore go a long way in providing for the fuelwood needs for Uganda. During SPGS II (2009 – 2013), 1,000ha of woodlots will be established.

Sylvester checking out on the location of private planters under SPGS on the map of Uganda

I believe that Uganda and the rest of the East African region have great potential for economic prosperity especially with the awakening of the forest sector with the innovative idea (SPGS). These efforts together with active citizens in the private sector who are fully committed to the implementation of commercial forestry should steer not only East Africa to a state of self actualization but also the rest of Africa as well, as we endeavor to achieve a state of sustainable development.

Next week I will be out for monitoring and evaluation of community tree planting activities in Northern Uganda. Existing geographical reference materials indicate that this is the driest region of Uganda.

Chisika Sylvester


 

WEEK 10

 

The inspection work continues. This week was a continuation of the SPGS pre-planting inspection. I was opportune to witness forestry operation in the western part of Uganda this week. We inspected clients at Rakai and Masaka areas. We visited 12 clients in this area on the bank of lake Victoria.

 

The clients were quite on course with the planting preparation. In most of the sites visited, the bush clearing, burning and pre-planting spraying were well done according to SPGS standard. The lining out and pitting were also correctly carried out. The clients in this area appear to be learning fast and are generally carrying out their activities very well.

 

Technical discussion with one of the client during inspection

Corrective action; Thaddeus showing the planters the right way to plant seedlings

 

 

However, there are some instances where we were necessitated to carry out corrective actions. In some of the sites we discovered that the planting pits were very shallow and would support survival of planted seedlings. In such instances we corrected the workers and showed them how to make the correct pit size (25cm by 25 cm). In some sites we showed the planters the correct way of planting trees. In other sites we had to discuss with the clients on the right specie to plant given their site condition.  Our entire inspection visit was very timely as it helped the clients to take on-time corrective action with regard to their plantation establishment project.

 

 

 

We also visited some of the plantation sites that were established in previous years in order to ascertain the management status. One of such plantation that we visited which is  about five years old, we found that the plantation was been well managed, the pruning was neatly done and weeding operation was neatly carried out. All the plantations that were established last year planting season that we visited was found to be thriving excellently well. The survival rate on the average was found to be around 90%.

 

Good management practice; pruning being carried in one of the previously established plantations under SPGS scheme

Stressed pine plat as a result of strong weed competition

 

 

However there were plantations where we observed the tree growing under stress as a result of poor management practice. In most cases inadequate weed control measure were observed to be a major obstacle to optimal tree growth.

 

 

 

Improper pit size, poor site selection and wrong site-specie matching was found to be the major cause of die back and poor species survival in a few of the plantations visited in this area. This again emphasized the need for more enlightenment of the planters on the need to consult with SPGS and seek proper technical guidance concerning every operation to be carried out in their plantation establishment projects.    

 

Poor site selection; seedlings planted in flood prone area.

Safari to the equator and Lake Victoria

 

The inspection tour was a thrilling one for me. We also took time out to visit places of interest. A visit to Lake Victoria; the world-second largest lake, and a visit to the line equator point at Uganda were very relaxing and interesting to me.

Chidiebere Ofoegbu

 

This week I was part of SPGS team that went out to Northern Uganda for a follow up mission on communities being supported by SPGS. The area is generally flat but relatively dry compared to other areas of Uganda. The major economic activity of the inhabitants is small scale peasants with a few heads of domestic animals.  

 

In total we visited twenty (20) communities located in Lira, Gulu, Dokolo and Apac to evaluate their readiness for planting as well as to train them so as to equip them with basic plantation establishment as well as to provide technical advice on best practices in commercial forestry. It was during this foray of trips on these communities that I came to learn that community forestry means different things to different people. Whilst political activists may see it as a means for mobilisation of the people in a political movement, environmentalists may see it as a means for more effectively conserving the forest biodiversity of Uganda’s middle hills – otherwise poorly served by protected area status. Similarly, SPGS views their community initiated forestry as a forum for local decision-making and addressing issues of day-to-day concern meant to uplift livelihoods; a poor householder may be interested in the opportunity that SPGS provides as a vehicle for having some voice in the community or providing forest products; academics may be interested by what community forestry can teach them about social process and changes in society; economists may be interested in how community forestry can contribute to national wealth and economic development. All these viewpoints are valid and yet different.

 

However, one thing is common; amongst the differing view points that in one way or another when a country is capable of providing direct or indirect incentives to the private sector especially to those held under the poverty trap and is able to sustain the efforts by creating an enabling environment for other development partners to seize such involvement as an opportunity to promote societal development, such a country is bound to realise sustainable development.

SPGS community support is an example of success story not just in Uganda but in East Africa and the entire African continent. The provision of technical and material support for community driven tree planting packaged as trainings, community planting guidelines, community exchange visits, inspections and free seedlings has proved to be one of the best ways of uplifting communities’ livelihoods.

 

Most of the groups visited were on track doing the right thing despite a few challenges here and there; like lack of adequate labour to execute operations on time, poor timing of silvicultural operations some were pruning at age 1(one) which is against SPGS community planting guidelines which are very clear on this operation that this can begin from year four or when the lower branches begin to fall off. We had to intervene and correct this by training them on timing of operations plus encouraging them to keep open channels of communication as one way of getting it right. Furthermore, minor interference by domestic animals especially goats was witnessed as well as wild animals especially rodents that could cut the young stem of Pinus caribea var. Hondurensis (PCH) from the base. I suspect this could be a variety of beaver. To minimise these we stressed it to the communities that for them to gain much from their forestry investment they should maintain a policy of zero tolerance to weeds as this harbours wild animals, is a fire hazard and could choke their trees in completion for soil nutrients and sunlight.

 

By the end of the exercise I kept on reflecting on the future of Uganda’s private forest sector and that despite its longevity, community forestry in Uganda is still evolving and changing for the best of the society. I could not resist a smile as I could see economic development coming and painting a bright future on the country’s development path. I will attach some photographs during next weeks report.

 

Sylvester Chisika


WEEK 11

The week was a quiet one for me, in which my daily activity was more of desktop and literature study. The bulk of my activity this week was a desktop analysis of tree plantation operations in Africa. I was aiming to compare milestone in plantation forestry in African countries.  This culminated in a book review of Eucalypts for Planting published by FAO. The book is quiet interesting and contains a lot of information on the establishment and management of eucalypt plantations. I am aiming to complete this review by next week.

 

But down the line, I have made a lot of amazing discovery on the history of eucalypt plantation in Uganda.  its quiet surprising how things can turn quickly from good to bad as a result of bad governance. Uganda started on a very good note with eucalypt provenance trials and establishment of eucalypt plantation. As at 1975 Uganda had one of the largest eucalypt plantations in Africa. Commercial forestry was on the rise at this period in Uganda history.

 

But disruption in government, corruption and poor governance has turned everything around and now the country is back to square one. I sincerely do hope that we can learn from history and mistake of the past in creating a better future for commercial forestry in Uganda.

 

The history of plantation forestry in Uganda should also serve as a learning point for SPGS, so that they can put great measure in place in securing the successes recorded so far under SPGS scheme.

Unsustainable conventional tree harvesting practice in Uganda

High quality plantations being developed under the SPGS scheme

Chidiebere Ofoegbu

 

This week, the on goings at SPGS can be likened to those that take place in a beehive. Most of my colleagues were out for either routine or special assignments. There was no field work for me so I focused my energy on developing the SPGS woodlots guidelines for Uganda together with SPGS staff. We have achieved substantial success at the moment as we have been able to collect species information on several tree species based on their suitability for provision of fuelwood.

In the process of generating all this information we had to bear in mind that firewood performance can differ from species to species. The type of tree you use for burning can vary widely in heat content, burning characteristics, and overall quality.

Trees considered to be deciduous and more specifically hard hardwoods tend to be a more dense wood and will burn hotter and longer than trees considered being evergreen or softwood (there are some exceptions). Firewood also tends to burn hotter when seasoned to reduce moisture. Wood heat value is measured in BTUs or British Thermal Units. The higher the value, the more heat you get per unit of wood.

 

Markhamia lutea tree

Sylvester (Left) and Justus  from SPGS (Right) at Gaba Beach

Currently in Uganda, the information on the appropriate fuelwood tree species is in limited circulation thus at the moment the species to be supported under the woodlot establishment scheme in the Ugandan environment will include Eucalyptus grandis, Eucalypt hybrid clones and Markhamia lutea.

 

This woodlot support guidelines will come in handy for private investors especially in harmonizing the existing knowledge about the applicability trees in providing multiple benefits as well as provide the much needed technical information on woodlot establishment, silvicultural operations and eventual harvesting of the mature crop.

 

Apart from what has been highlighted above I also  had an eventful weekend well spent at Gaba beach close to Fifteen (15) Kilometers South west of Kampala City where I had the chance of freely interacting with fellow East Africans.

Sylvester admiring mango fruits in Gulu              

An attentive class during community training

In my last report I promised to provide some photographs from Northern Uganda where we went to check for community planting preparedness, here are the pictures.

 

Sylvester (Centre) mediating talks on

improving tree planting practices

Sylvester in a community tree planting meeting

                                                        

                             

Sylvester Chisika


WEEK 12 - Going home

 

My journey to winning the young forester award started in 2005 when I first learnt about the award while perusing the Commonwealth Forestry Association website. I decided then that the position was a challenge I am willing to undertake someday. Finally I got the opportunity to apply in 2009, what a thing of joy it was for me when I got the news in 2010 that I have won the award. Winning the 2010/11 Young Forester Award of the Commonwealth Forestry Association is a dream come through for me. I have been working towards winning this award ever since I first learnt about it and discovered what a huge potential it holds for my career advancement.  You can then imagine how excited and delighted I was when I finally got the news that I have won the 2010/11 edition of the award. I was more delighted with the prospects and opportunities associated with the award.

 

Winning the award also necessitated adequate preparation on my part in order to take maximum delivery of the benefits associated with the award. Having never travelled to the Eastern part of Africa before, I had to do a lot of fact finding search about my destination in order to avoid any form of culture shock or difficulty in settling down. Finally the D- day arrived, after months of preparation, I arrived Uganda on the eve of 31st January 2011. The flight was about five and half hours from South Africa to Uganda. The excitement, expectation, and uncertainty of what the placement will hold for me kept me pondering and guessing all through the flight duration.

 

On my arrival at Uganda through the Entebbe/Kampala airport, I was received by the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) where I was placed for the duration of my placement. My integration program started with series of discussions and presentation with SPGS staffs on the vision, mission and operations of SPGS. The whole activities that I underwent in my first week were centered on my integration into SPGS team. I was thrilled to observe how SPGS is actively promoting commercial forestry in Uganda. My integration into the SPGS team was made easy by the great contributions of Ms. Bridget Mbabazi, SPGS finance and administration manager, and Ms. Celia Nalwadda who doubles as SPGS Senior Plantation Officer and Commonwealth Forestry Associations’ Youth Officer.

 

The SPGS concept is a joint partnership project between the Government of Uganda, Government of Norway, and the European Union aimed at supporting the development of commercial forestry in Uganda through the provision of grants and technical assistance. The SPGS grant is equivalent to the 50% of the cost per hectare of establishing plantation in Uganda. The technical assistance is mostly in the form of training courses and technical advice during field inspections. My experience in Uganda was a very thrilling one, something I will ever cherish. I got a lot of exposure working with SPGS for the thirteen weeks duration of the young forester’s award scheme. It gave me a new perspective of commercial forestry.  Unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria where commercial forestry is solely practiced by corporate bodies; SPGS has successfully enticed private individuals into commercial forestry practice in Uganda. The SPGS experience has shown that given the right support individuals even at small scale can be very successful in the forestry business.

During the course of my placement, I was able to participate in all of SPGS activities including the clients/investors meeting, field inspections, and training courses.  The SPGS courses cover all the core areas of plantation forestry including, site and specie selection, silvicultural practices, forest finance and investment management, and tree plantation maintenance and management. One of the astonishing impacts of SPGS is how they have helped many of their clients to succeed in the forest business most of whom had no formal or prior knowledge of forest science.

Overall my experience has been nothing short of amazing.  I have learnt much about plantation forestry and commercial forestry in Uganda. I have also learnt a lot about the Ugandan people and their culture.  The skills that I have gained through the Young Forester Award will remain with me as I continue my career as a Forester.  I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth Forestry Association and Sawlog Production Grant Scheme for giving me this wonderful opportunity; and a special thank you to my coordinator; Celia Nalwadda for her patience; and to all the Staffs of SPGS who made my stay worth it and very enjoyable, I say a very big thank you.  To the Commonwealth Forestry Association, I say keep the good working. My sincere wish and desire is for this scheme to continue so that other young foresters can take delivery of the inherent benefits for their career development and advancement.

 

Signing off,

 

Chidiebere Ofoegbu

 

The first time I got wind of Commonwealth Forestry Association was in 2009 during an informal conversation with a close friend who happens to be an old member of the association. I was informed that CFA promotes the professional development of the next generation foresters but more importantly and of direct impact to me was the fact that it sponsors young foresters below 35 years of age to acquire skills and knowledge in professional forestry  by hosting short designated placements in a commonwealth country other than their country of citizenship. This information swept me off my feet and prompted my submission of application for membership and young forester award.

 

Six months down the line after the application I had not received communication from CFA or an indication on the progress of the award. I kept on guessing what could be happening and especially given that along period of time had passed. Despite these thoughts I kept on focusing on the ultimate prize, three months of placement with a prestigious organization in a foreign country. It was not long before I was announced as one the winners of the Young forester award 2010/2011 and had secured placement with SPGS. Quickly, I began to prepare for departure by making sure that I acquire the necessary travel documents plus inquiry on general information about lifestyle in Uganda as this could enable me to understand how to relate with the natives.

 

Finally, the D-day of placement with SPGS became a reality on 2nd February 2011 when I landed at Entebbe International airport a few minutes to 11 pm. I received a warm welcome expressed by the hospitality and smiles I saw on the faces of those who came to pick us at the airport. I was later taken to a comfort zone next to the capital city, Kampala a place where neighbors can afford to say hi to a foreigner and embrace him as well.

 

After a few weeks of integration with SGS community which was made smooth by the leadership of two shrewd principals Paul, the Chief Technical Director and Alan, the Project Manager, SPGS life at SPGS was worth calling for more. The professionalism, office etiquette as well as the open and sincere communication between seniors and juniors was worth noting. Ms Celia, a senior plantation officer with SPGS who doubles as the CFA youth officer was also instrumental in making sure that I had a comfortable stay in Uganda with SPGS.

 

I participated in most activities being undertaken by SPGS including trainings on basic plantation establishment skills, monitoring the performance of contracted clients as well as general routine office work. It was very exciting to be part of a team that as providing upto 50% reimbursement of plantation establishment costs and at the same time providing needed technical advice on what to plant, where to plant, how to plant, when to plant and what to plant for. This all round initiative has revolutionized the way Ugandans look at the private sector. They can now fully appreciate that empowering the private sector to engage in commercial forestry has had a huge impact on the social, economic and environmental status of Uganda by stimulating the creation of additional rural jobs, industrial growth as well as opportunities for further financing of the initiative from carbon markets. All these successes attest to the fact that the populace and especially the private sector in Uganda has received the message being passed to them by SPGS that money grows on trees. The results have been admirable, 20, 500 Ha of serious commercial plantations have been established by over 200 SPGS contracted clients. Cheer SPGS!!

 

Every activity has been a unique learning opportunity for me. One on one interaction with hardworking SPGS staff together with contracted clients and office visitors has taught me how provision of incentives can change people’s perceptions towards commercial forestry. Thanks Charles Odeke, Senior Plantation Officer SPGS for constantly bombarding me with the lesson that it is possible to deliver needed results even under pressure with minimum supervision.

 

Throughout the placement I kept on reflecting about the applicability of lessons drawn from the success of SPGS in Kenya and the rest of Africa despite the fact that we are unique in aspects of geography, climate and infrastructure. Let me highlight for instance Kenya, large scale commercial forest plantations are owned by the government and there is minimal involvement of the private sector. Land for forestry development on private lands is also limited due to the competing uses for land especially agriculture. The situation is further complicated by the rising population which stands at 38 Million people that necessitates conversion of more land from forestry to agriculture. All has not been lost yet due to these challenges, replicating efforts such SPGS community support in Kenya is one of the effective way of enticing the private sector into commercial forestry.

 

Provision of a mix of incentives whether direct or indirect such as free seedling coupled with regular follow ups backed with technical advice has the potential of revolutionizing private sector involvement in commercial forestry in Kenya.

 

Overall, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Commonwealth Forestry Association, Commonwealth Foundation and Sawlog production Grant Scheme for their unwavering support during thirteen (13) weeks of placement. You have immensely contributed to my career development. You have just sparked of my full participation in development of forestry. I envisage transforming the existing community forest associations in to vibrant institutions with the full capacity for petitioning the government to provide incentives for development of commercial forestry in Kenya.

 

Chisika Sylvester

 

 

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