How to Start Growing Commercial Trees in Kenya

So, how do you start a eucalyptus farming or commercial tree project? Here are some steps to follow

Find a piece of land

Land is the most essential requirement for anyone aspiring to start a growing trees for commercial purposes. Typically, you need at least an acre of land. There are several factors to consider when selecting land for your investment, but your most important considerations are government regulations and climatic conditions. For our Kenyan readers, you can visit the Kenya Forest Service website or this article guidelines on commercial tree planting.

Select the type of tree to invest in

There are many types of trees you can choose. Infonet-biovision.org has a long list of options you can choose from. However, it is worth mentioning that you don’t want to wait too long before you can start reaping from your investment. Therefore, I recommend choosing a fast-growing tree species while also considering important factors climate, type of soil, and local rules.

Get the RIGHT seeds or seedlings

Most commercial trees like eucalyptus grandis, jacaranda, and Melia Volkensii are grown from seedlings. The good thing is that you can get seeds in many ways once you decide on what kind of tree you want to venture into. However, before you even think of getting seeds, I highly recommend that you choose between having your own nursery to produce your seedlings or buying seedlings from an approved nursery operator? Of course, the answer to that question depends on your unique situations like your financials, availability, and skills. However, my experience is that having your own nursery is the best path to take because you want to keep it cheaper. This is the option I opted to and here are some photos I took a week after I set up the nursery. It doesn’t look beautiful, but it’s really cost-saving because I did not spend a cent setting it up.

Prepare your land

Now that you have made a decision on whether to buy seedlings or begin your own nursery, the next task is to start preparing your land. It is important to plough at least three months prior to sowing your seeds. Some of the key activities you may need to accomplish regards to preparing your piece of land include ridging, harrowing, and leveling. I never did any of these because my budget was extremely tight, but at the same time, I didn’t think they were necessary for my specific case. In fact, I just hired a tractor to plough my land three times before I transplanted my seedlings. As the preparation was ongoing, I was busy working on my nursery to ensure seedlings were ready for transplantation three months from the date I sawed them. Anyway, your land preparation activities should complete early enough so you can begin transplanting at the onset of the longest rainy season. Once you finish transplanting, make your farm weed and stubble free until the seedlings are 6-8 months old.

Prepare and manage your nursery properly

As I already stated, having a nursery is the best option. However, you should learn how to manage your nursery first. In case you are completely new to nursery setup and management, my recommendation is that you hire a nursery operator to help you. Basically, your nursery should be located near a permanent water source because you will need to water your seedlings frequently. Also, make sure you provide sufficient protection from storms, excess sunlight, human traffic, and sunlight. To avoid water logging, choose a location with an adequate drainage system. Finally, you would want to reduce your expenses by having your nursery set up in an area that is easily accessible relative to your farm.

Zoomed: You can see the seedlings emerging

Transplant

You are now at the point of putting your ready seedlings to the actual land you have prepared. How you transplant will depend on the kind of tree you have selected. Spacing is very important in this process. For eucalyptus grandis, your pits should be 30cm x 30cm x 30cm or 45cm x 45cm x 45cm with manure added to provide vital nutrients for your plants to develop. Yet, you need to choose the kind of spacing that will maximize your earning. A spacing of 2 x 2 meter accommodates near about 1200 plants per acre while 1.5 x 1.5 meter gives plant population near 1690 plant per acre. I find 1.5 x 1.5-meter spacing a good choice though I didn’t choose this option either. See this article for how I chose spacing for my eucalyptus trees. Note that if you want to do some intercropping, which is possible during the early years of your plants’ life, your spacing will need to be relatively bigger. The Kenya Forest Service recommends 2m x 2m in that case.

Maintenance

Many fast-growing commercial plants –specifically those meant for timber or pole production –do not need much maintenance. Usually, weeding will be your major task and this is where you will need to spend. These plants are not prone to pastes and diseases. Some are even self-pruning which means you don’t need to spend money on pruning.

Summary

Commercial tree are very profitable. The best aspect of this business is that it does not require high initial investment provided you do it right. Yet, some farmers have incurred massive losses because they did not follow the right procedure. As an investor myself, I am confident beyond reasonable doubts that commercial trees are profitable, following the right procedure is vital. That’s why I urge anyone entering into this industry to do an extensive research beforehand.

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