From politics to tree-growing: Adison Kakuru’s story

Adison Kakuru is a forester by profession and Director of Lincoln Consultsam, a private commercial forestry company in Uganda. Before embarking on tree planting, the 56-year old worked in various organizations and considers a job to be a service to humanity; helping to improve other peoples’ lives. So, at the turn of the millennium, he decided to join politics to serve the people of Kabale, becoming District Chairman of Kabale District, South Western Uganda in 2002. He served until 2010, after which he was elected Member of Parliament representing Rukiga County, present-day Rukiga District. However, after an unsuccessful bid to retain his parliamentary seat, Kakuru left politics in 2011 to actively engage in commercial tree planting. “I went into politics to serve people and even though I left, I still continue to serve in a different way by planting trees which are beneficial in conserving the environment”, he says. Kakuru has planted over 400Hectares (Ha) of trees in Kyankwanzi District-majorly for production of timber and poles and to help conserve the environment by helping to mitigate climate change. Kakuru notes that he has planted he Eucalyptus clones, which are fast maturing and therefore absorb a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Establishing a forest plantation

Kakuru, who delights in his newfound passion and now retirement investment, used his savings and planted his first block of trees- 94Ha in 2013, in Taala Central Forest Reserve, which he leased from the National Forestry Authority. He notes that commercial tree planting is an expensive and risky venture, with one incurring costs for land clearing, lining and marking, pitting, spraying and weeding among other operations. The cost of establishing and maintaining a hectare of a planted forest for the first three years is about 2.5Million Uganda Shillings (UGX) and the cost of seedlings accounts for about 30 percent of this entire cost. Seedlings are expensive and are in high demand, necessitating growers to book at least three months in advance of planting. Kakuru commends SPGS III for certifying tree nurseries to guarantee high quality planting materials for growers and cautions against buying cheap and poor quality planting materials. During his first year of plantation establishment, Kakuru was solely depending on buying seedlings from other nursery operators. But due to high demand, it was difficult to get enough seedlings at the right time. This scarcity and high demand motivated his company to establish a tree nursery in Kakiri, Wakiso District. After a rigorous inspection and audit process, SPGS III certified the nursery as a four-star commercial tree nursery. He now has a guarantee of reliable supply of seedlings for his planting- but also can sell to earn some income from selling to other growers.

Support for tree growing

Kakuru is one of 500 commercial tree growers that have benefited from a financial grant and technical support from FAO’s SPGS III Project. In this Phase of the Project, he has been supported to plant 215Ha of trees and received a grant to support pruning and thinning operations on his plantation. He also benefitted from previous phases of SPGS, during which he received a grant to establish his first crop. The SPGS III grant covers about 50 percent of establishment costs at about UGX 900 000 per hectare. Kakuru notes that he would not have managed to establish such a big plantation without this grant. Kakuru is confident that he will be smiling all the way to the bank soon. He has thinned his trees as recommended, leaving 700 trees at first thinning, which he did after two years. Now, after four years, he is doing the second thinning. Thinning is done to reduce competition and allow a few remaining trees to increase in diameter. From the second thinning he has secured market for 100 000 fencing poles, selling each pole at UGX 2 000, hoping to get about UGX 200Million. Kakuru is optimistic that even after he harvests the mature eucalyptus trees for timber in a few years, he will make money. To elaborate on the growing demand for wood, in its report title: The role of forests in a green economy transformation in Africa, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that by 2050, domestic demand for industrial round wood in Africa could double or even triple from the current annual level of 96.2 million cubic meters. For Kakuru, learning continues and he has learnt a lot from the FAO/SPGS team. He has been able to train the locals in the area, some of whom he employs. He has helped enhance their skills in plantation establishment and maintenance and nursery management, creating pathways for them to uplift their lives. Some have been able to pay school fees for their children and have improved their welfare. Kakuru advises tree growers to adhere to forest management quality standards in order to reap from their investments.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018