A Better Globe Forestry team visited the districts of Dokolo, Kaberamaido and Alebtong in Northern Uganda in 2017, to assess the start-up of an outgrowers program with smallholders. A first visit took place in May, and another one in September. This area is situated north of Lake Kyoga, in the center of Uganda. Compared to Kenya, it rains a lot there, with a Mean Annual average of 1200-1300 mm. The area counts with a mostly flat topography, and deep soils.
The species of interest in this case is (not surprisingly) another member of the mahogany family, called Melia azedarach, the Persian Lilac, or Chinaberry, locally called The Giant Lira. It grows fast and produces good quality wood, of mahogany quality. Local farmers have adapted it for both woodlots, boundary planting and agroforestry. They know the tree well, and have developed management measures like “topping” the tree, meaning cutting of its crown at a height of 4 to 5 meters, resulting in faster “fattening” of the stem. Indeed, we have seen trees of impressive girth (50 cm DBH) of barely 11 years old. Commercial life time for producing such trees (40-50 cm DBH, clean straight bole of 5-6 meters) is estimated at a maximum of 15 years. Contrary to Melia volkensii, closely related to this species, it is not difficult to propagate in nursery and seeds are commercially available. There is even possibility to grow teak (Tectona grandis), although its rotation period is longer (25-35 years), depending on the genetic material and silvicultural care applied.
The district authorities showed a strong support for such a program, and a local farmers’ organization is willing to get engaged. The program will need a good dose of investment, to set up nurseries, develop extension work and lots of training (planting techniques, protection, spacing, pruning, weeding), but it will count on strong grassroots support from the locals.
Five-year-old Melia azedarach (the Persian Lilac or Giant Lira) in agro-forestry layout in Dokolo district, Uganda.Photo courtesy: Better Globe Forestry