Shortage of native species, seed, hamper tree planting

Monday September 25 2023

Workers planting seedlings in an area located on the southwestern side of the 95,000-hectare Rio Preto-Jacunda State Nature Reserve, in Rondonia State, Brazil, on January 28, 2021. PHOTO | AFP


While there is strong political will and international support for tree restoration, new research points to a big seed, planting material shortage to make tree planting commitments a success, in Sub-Saharan countries studied.

For example, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, and Kenya, have committed to restoring 24 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, but while some components of the restoration plan are in place, others remain unresolved. The most pressing issue is sourcing and planting sufficient material from native tree species, such as seeds, seedlings, and cuttings.

In a study, conducted by the Alliance of Biodiversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, and published in Diversity last week, in the four countries, many stakeholders in the public and private sectors were found to be unaware of the available resources.

As part of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), the four nations represent almost 25 percent of its target.

Read: Greening sector’s carbon footprint

Due to the high reliance on forests for food, timber and other essential ecosystem services (by 60 percent of the population), Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a significant loss of forests, (10.4 percent) in the 20 years preceding the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, along with extensive degradation of other tree-dominated ecosystems.


Ongoing deforestation

“The four countries are making substantial progress toward their reforestation goals but risk falling short of their targets,” the principal investigator for the study. Despite ongoing deforestation, there are still intact forests from which planting material can be sourced sustainably. However, local communities, who live closest to these seed sources, are not fully engaged in the restoration efforts, Chris Kettle, said.

The study emphasizes the importance of involving local custodians of tree biodiversity in seed systems to ensure reliable seed availability, create job, and incentivise biodiversity conservation.

The study points out that restoration projects in the region often rely on non-native trees, such as teak, pine, eucalyptus, and acacia, which are in high demand for various purposes. However, these trees do not effectively support local flora and fauna, have limited carbon storage capacity, and strain water resources, and shifting away from these business-as-usual practices is crucial for successful forest landscape restoration projects.

Read: Stopping most invasive species of tree in Africa

This requires filling gaps in the “enabling environment”, including policies, investments, capacities, and incentives aligned with native tree diversity. Knowledge of native trees, especially those traditionally used, can provide valuable insights for successful propagation.

Therefore, local participation and the accessibility of information are key.

To support FLR efforts, two partnerships have been established namely My Farm Trees incentivizes communities to increase tree cover using native biodiversity and provides the necessary documentation, verification, and quality control, while Diversity for Restoration (D4R) is a decision-making tool for selecting trees and finding seed sources.

“What’s clear is that to meet restoration targets, Africa will require social movements empowering everyone to do their part, tools like these enable everyone to have the information, and resources to make the best science-driven decisions to maximize impact,” said Kettle.