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Friday, 25 April 2014

Forest officer conducts woodlot training for farmers

By Bob Aston
Farmers have been urged to set aside a section of their farms for woodlot. Speaking during a tree training day on April 23, 2014 convened by Lariak Forest Area Conservation Project at Ndaragwiti, Francis Kanuthu, Laikipia West Forest Manager said that woodlot is a long term investment that can improve the livelihood of farmers.
Kanuthu demonstrating how to set up a woodlot
Woodlot is a tract of land of any size and shape that contain naturally occurring or planted trees. Vegetables or crops are often intercropped in the woodlot in the early stages of establishment, but with time wood production is the most important use.
“Establishment of woodlot is a long term investment that deserves proper planning. Spacing between trees will be of economic importance,” said Kanuthu.
Kanuthu encouraged farmers to use microcatchment method when setting up woodlot. Woodlots are particularly relevant in areas where light-demanding crops are grown.
A natural woodlot requires maintenance through selective bush clearing and protection in the early stages.
“You can set up a woodlot for conservation benefits, for harvesting or to manage forests for sustainable income,” said Kanuthu.
Establishment can be from seedlings or by direct sowing of seed. Spacing should be between 2-3 metres depending on tree specimen. Gradual thinning will then enable the trees to grow to the desired size, while at the same time small-dimension wood can be harvested.
Centre of the farm where spacing will start from
“The amount of rainfall normally determines the spacing. The drier the place the bigger the spacing. Spacing in Laikipia is slightly larger because of the dry condition,” said Kanuthu.
Kanuthu advised woodlot owners to initially start by intercropping with crops or vegetables as it will help in protection and weed control. Pruning and thinning must also be continuous.
The Microcatchment technique provides a lot of benefits like: Improved tree establishment, increased yields, Improved farm income, conserves soil by improving moisture storage and most importantly it harvests water for the trees.
Kanuthu said that when setting up woodlot one is advised to start at the centre of the farm. Pythagoras theorem method can be used. One will have four different directions of 900 . Pegs can then be used as a stabilizer. Once this has been done a rope can be tied at the centre pointing at one of the four directions.  Pegs can then be placed 2-3 metres apart depending on the type of trees to be planted.
“Ensure that you follow spacing properly. When the trees are near you will not be able to get a good economic value,” said Kanuthu.
Pegs placed in farm indicating where trees are to be planted
If the trees are too close together, the trees grow tall rendering pruning, spraying and harvesting difficult. There is root competition and inadequate nutrition. Tree root will spread over a much larger area than top and there should be proper room for the roots to feed without competition.
“Once seedlings are planted, they require nurturing to ensure that competition from weeds for water, soil nutrients and sunlight is kept at a minimum,” said Kanuthu.
Farmers have also been urged to ensure that they dig an appropriate hole for the tree. The most appropriate size is three (3) ft by 3 ft. This will absorb a lot of water and fertilizer.
Kanuthu said that in a one ha piece of land at a specimen of 2.5 metres a total of 1600 trees can be planted.
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