Home' Partners : Partners: Focus on Africa Contents 24
NOVEMBER 2010 FEBRUARY 2011 PARTNERS
BY MANDY GYLES
ACIAR recently farewelled forestry
research manager Dr Russell
Haines after nearly 6 years
of service. During that time,
Dr Haines created a forestry
research program that sought to bring
economic return to smallholder farmers. The
sustainability of those gains was another key
concern, with Dr Haines strategically investing
to build the forestry management capacity of
developing countries. In the process, he was
instrumental in bringing 34 forestry specialists
to Australia to take part in postgraduate studies
... an achievement that will forever remain a
source of pride.
How do you think ACIAR can contribute
to the development of forestry industries?
What I think has great potential in our partner
countries is smallholder forestry---particularly
agroforestry, where people grow a small plot of
trees mixed in with agricultural crops. This is not
an unusual practice. In places like Papua New
Guinea (PNG) or the Pacific, people have been
practising agroforestry for hundreds of years
In PNG, people are quite happy to grow
betel nut, pandanus and sago with their
other crops and are adept at managing these
agricultural systems. There is a lot of potential
for building on that, integrating some of
the high-value timber trees such as teak
This amounts to a smallholder agroforestry
business, where people grow a small
number of trees to use as a 'green bank'---a
low-maintenance crop with a high return
How much of a challenge are long-growing
trees for smallholders?
It is a challenge but there are mitigating
factors. One is that growth rates for these trees
are faster than in Australia---you can grow a
reasonable size teak tree in Solomon Islands,
PNG or Laos in about 15 years.
If you use an agroforestry approach then
smallholders are not waiting all that time until
they get a return from their land. When the
trees are eventually harvested they provide
an injection of cash. So once again, it is the
concept of a 'green bank'---farmers make small
deposits along the way in terms of looking after
the trees and harvest when they need money.
There are also land-tenure considerations.
Large plantation estate such as we have in
Australia, with trees planted over several
thousand hectares of land, is a scenario fraught
with risks in our partner countries, where it is
not as easy to acquire rights to a large land
area for an extended period of time. There is,
however, a generally accepted principle that if
you plant a tree, you own it. So integrating trees
into customary agricultural systems avoids land
tenure issues, since people own the trees just as
they own their coffee plants.
In what way have ACIAR activities
enhanced people's lives?
I am a great advocate of teak and have worked
with it in a number of countries. I think it is
a species of great promise: high value, low
maintenance and it grows well.
We started some work looking at improving
silviculture in northern Laos where there are
about 15,000 hectares around Luang Prabang
of smallholder teak holdings. What we are
doing is setting up experimental plots and
demonstration sites to showcase the impact of
spacing and thinning on both tree size and log
quality. So the project is making management
practices available to smallholders to help them
get more volume per hectare of quality trees.
The project attracted interest from third
parties, such as the Tropical Forest Trust, who
are now helping farmers to get certification for
their teak plantings and to market in Europe.
As a result, the price smallholders are getting
FAREWELL TO THE
'GREEN BANK' ADVOCATE
ACIAR's outgoing forestry research manager Dr Russell Haines discusses
the role his forestry program has played in improving the lives of smallholders
and the capacity of partner countries
for their teak has already doubled.
We are also working in Laos on a timber-
processing project to improve the efficiency
of processing and manufacturing. Some of the
timber factories and commercial organisations
with whom we are working have already
improved their procedures. The intention is to
improve timber value across the whole value
chain of the final product, which will feed
back benefits to the people who are growing
What have the outcomes been in PNG?
We took a similar approach, where we are trying
to promote tree planting by communities.
On a recent visit, I was encouraged by the
enthusiasm of the people involved in our
project at the grassroots level. It is quite
heartening to see and I am confident that they
will do well out of that activity.
The work on canarium---the galip nut of
PNG---is going well. We are working on ways
to process (crack and dry) the nut. Even though
that project has only been going two years, we
have encouraging results. The Australian group
on that project has a lot of experience in the
macadamia industry and they have adapted a
macadamia nutcracker for use with the galip
nut, which has attracted a lot of interest. The
European Union is now setting up a pilot plant
at Keravat in East New Britain to process nuts
using the technologies developed in the ACIAR
project. I expect this development to lead to a
much larger industry.
Additionally, the cocoa pod borer, which has
had a dramatic impact on the coca industry of
East New Britain, has obliged people to use a
more intense management system. As a result
the area managed for cocoa will decline, so
people will be looking for other crops to plant.
Canarium is a very good option for them.
But to build a large industry, people need to
grow the best varieties and ensure sufficient
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