Building Entrepreneurial Skills in Tree Nursery Management

Village Enterprises Foundation Organization [VEFO]

Project Location: Eastern Region, Uganda
Project Partner: Village Enterprises Foundation Organisation (VEFO)

Start Date: July 2016

Est. completion Date: June 2017

In 2016 VEFO plans to Build Entrepreneurial Skills in Tree Nursery Management, supporting 6 tree nurseries to become small businesses and raise 170,000 seedlings for the local community

VEFO is a community based organisation working in villages in six parishes scattered across a rolling agricultural landscape in eastern Uganda. Over 85% of the population live in rural villages. They practice mainly peasantry subsistence farming as the main economic and livelihoods earner.

Kungu Augustus was trained in 2015 by VEFO.

Augustus Kungu was trained in 2015 by VEFO. Read more stories here.

Local people describe the drivers of an ongoing process in which the tree cover has been over time depleted. This has been due to the conversion of trees, woodlands and wetlands to farming, increasing demands for poles and timber for house construction, fuel wood for cooking and brick making, charcoal burning for sale and other human activities.  They are increasingly noticing the combined effects of environmental degradation and climate change in this area, where it used to be possible to grow almost any tropical crop in the two farming seasons that were supported with high rainfall regimes annually.

Despite this realisation, there are very few tree nurseries in the area able to supply good quality tree seedlings. This contributes heavily to continued reliance on the remaining patches of natural trees and woodlands, rather than the development of a strong local tree planting culture. Rural demand is high for seedlings, and so it was clear to VEFO that there was a potential to support villagers in creating small businesses to supply these young trees.

ITF supported VEFO to run a project called Skilling Rural Communities through Integrated Tree Planting in 2015, and due to the success of the project, we are continuing to support the creation of small tree nursery businesses in 2016.

Encouraging a local tree planting culture

In 2015, VEFO organised meetings to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the local environment and adopting strategies to deal with a changing climate.  They trained six local groups and families to establish tree nurseries to supply tree seedlings to the local community. More than 5,600 people were given basic skills in tree planting and care. The aim was to establish the tree nurseries as a focal place where people could learn about trees. Almost 20,000 people become involved in total. They report that more than 34,000 survive from the seedlings planted in 2015 within gardens, around homesteads, on farm boundaries and along footpaths and roads, and in school compounds.

VEFO Director Martins Waliwulya recognises that the project faced many challenges.  It was difficult for women to become involved – women farmers do as muchas 85% of the work in the fields but do not have rights over land or trees.  ‘Some communities still exhibit the belief that trees and fruits are supposed to grow by themselves in the field and they had never seen their forefathers planting trees before’, says Martins Waliwulya. The only trees that they have seen planted are Eucalyptus and Pine, which are not compatible with crops on small farms. There is also a trend to plant Eucalyptus around wetlands that have been converted to agriculture, almost certainly with negative environmental effects on biodiversity.

Yet a striking achievement of the project is that it identified and supported keen young people, families, and groups who have the interest and enthusiasm to set up tree nurseries which become centres of excellence for the surrounding community. In 2016, VEFO will continue this work and build upon the success they have had so far.

Kamukago Charles Kateu’s story

One of the success stories is that of Kamukago Charles Kateu, a farmer who was involved in the project in 2015. Kamukago set up a good tree nursery on his farm with help from VEFO and distributed about 15,000 seedlings last year of Citrus sp, Mahogany sp, Markhamia sp, Maesopsis eminii, Grevillea sp, and Mvule sp. Initially, VEFO provided him with seeds, polybags and watering cans and offered him training, monitoring and supervision.  After a period of working in Kampala, Kamukago Charles Kateu returned to his farm to convert his land into an agroforestry enterprise. He has established several good woodlots and is now establishing a successful small business out of grafting Citrus and Mangoes which are sold locally. You can read more success stories from the project here.

Building the capacity of young model farmers

In 2016 VEFO will build on these success stories by supporting young people to ‘start managing nurseries as business entities so that there will be an adequate source of a tree and fruit seedlings for the community’. The selected model farmers will be empowered with skills to manage nurseries to generate seedlings that will be sold at cheaper and affordable prices. VEFO will oversee and supervise these model farmers for two years, to enable the youth and model farmers to improve their skills over time.’

ITF will ensure that VEFO itself receives support and guidance from in-country experts and other partners such as MADLACC to build their agroforestry capacity.

The project expects the six tree nurseries to raise more than 170,000 seedlings of 30 species.

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