Tree planting in Africa

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership is helping with tree propagation and planting schemes in Africa. During 2010, nearly 62,000 seedlings of 203 tree species were produced in the initiative.

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30 Jun 2011

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Farmers planting seedlings of Carapa procera, Gardenia sokotensis, Khaya senegalensis and Senna alata in a communal garden in Mali for use as natural pesticides (Image: M.Sacande).

Farmers planting seedlings of Carapa procera, Gardenia sokotensis, Khaya senegalensis and Senna alata in a communal garden in Mali for use as natural pesticides (Image: M.Sacande).

The United Nations has declared 2011 as the  International Year of Forests to raise awareness of sustainable management and conservation of forests. In Africa, as in many parts of the world, communities are highly and directly dependent on a diverse range of useful forest products and services for food, health and a variety of livelihood activities.

In vitro propagation

In a recent paper in Plant Cell Reports, researchers at Kew, the Natural Resources Institute (UK) and the World Agroforestry Centre (Southern Africa Programme) review the roles that phytochemical screening and in vitro propagation techniques have to play in reducing over-harvesting of medicinal and pesticidal plants and generating income for the rural poor.*

These wild resources are often being over exploited, so the domestication and cultivation of forest species is necessary to address the needs of the local people and reduce the pressure on natural populations. However, the complexity of this process, requiring biological and ecological research on candidate species, has long been a factor limiting the planting programmes of many forestry and horticulture departments in developing countries. 

Supporting local tree propagation and planting schemes

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) is a repository for the seed of over 10% of the world’s flowering plants, and by 2020 the MSBP intends to conserve 25% of plant species as seed and make seed available for sustainable use in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and habitat restoration (Strategy 5 of Kew’s new Breathing Planet Programme — ‘Save Seed and Prosper’). One use of the scientific knowledge generated from the MSBP seed collections is to solve impediments to wild plant propagation. In a recent initiative the MSBP, through its African partners, has been using its expertise in seed handling and germination to support local, government and NGO-led tree propagation and planting schemes by the provision of advice and training.

Farmers in Mali receiving training in nursery techniques (Image: M.Sacande).
Farmers in Mali receiving training in nursery techniques for seedling production (Image: M.Sacande).

62,000 trees planted

During 2010, nearly 62,000 seedlings of 203 tree species were produced in the initiative, and over 90% of these seedlings have been planted out. In Mali, tree seedlings were planted in village woodlands, sacred forests, schools and home gardens to mark the 50th anniversary of independence of the country from France, and in Ghana (where the Vodafone Foundation has helped support the MSBP programme) seedlings were planted in cocoa farms. Species planted in these countries included Securidaca longepedunculata, Erythrina senegalensis, Garcinia kola, Tetrapleura tetraptera, species of Terminalia and Spondias mombin. Some schemes resulted in certain tree species, such as Pseudocedrela kotschyi, Pterocarpus santalinoides and Gardenia nitida, being cultivated for the first time.

Helping people benefit from native useful tree species

The planting schemes will enable communities to benefit from their native useful tree species in a sustainable way. Following the initial success of MSBP involvement, discussions are underway to scale up the initiative. This would consolidate the opportunity for the MSBP to play a significant part in the afforestation, restoration, preservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of wild tree species, and contribute to the International Year of Forests 2011. 

Item from Dr Moctar Sacande (International Project Co-ordinator, Seed Conservation Department, RBG Kew)

Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 39


Article reference

* Viswambharan Sarasan, V., Kite, G.C., Gudeta W. Sileshi, G.W. & Stevenson, P.C. Applications of phytochemical and in vitro techniques for reducing over-harvesting of medicinal and pesticidal plants and generating income for the rural poor. Plant Cell Reports, in press, doi: 10.1007/s00299-011-1047-5


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