2012 reste jag ner för andra gången till Östra Afrika för att följa upp mitt första besök av Better Globes plantager och verksamhet. I det här klippet får du möta Jan Vandenabeele i Kiambere som berättar om sin bakgrund, plantagen i Kiambere, Mukau-träden och utmaningarna.
Nedan följer några höjdpunkter från videon – var god och observera att den är från februari 2012:
- Trädet som Better Globe planterar heter på latin Melia volkensii. På swahili heter det Mukau. Det är ett mahogny-liknande träd som klarar torkan i östra Afrika väldigt bra. Läs gärna mer på WorldAgroForestrys hemsida.
- Planterar man under regnperioden så behöver man inte vattna träden. Men Better Globe planterar året runt och i torkperioderna vattnar man således för hand.
- Better Globe har tagit fram protokoll för hur mycket vatten och med vilken frekvens träden behöver vattnas för att överleva en plantering under torkperioden.
- Plantagen hade i februari 2012 över 72.000 plantor redo för att planteras ut.
- Kiambereplantagen hade i februari 2012 ca 205.000 planterade Mukauträd och ett antal tusen Jatropha, Nimm och Acacia Senegal.
- På plantagen arbetade i februari 2012 150 personer. Better Globe är den största arbetsgivaren i området. Det är inte heller max utan det brukar öka i samband med plantering. Vid flera tillfällen har det varit mer 200 anställda.
- Better Globe har mer än 30 % anställda kvinnor.
- Utmaningarna är både torkan och friska och högkvalitativa plantor att plantera ut.
- Better Globe har världens största produktion av Mukau-träd.
- I februari 2012 var Kiambere plantagen 380 hektar och över de kommande åren ska den växa med ett par tusen hektar.
Lägg gärna märke till det som Jan säger vid ca 09:43 in i videon där han säger att det är viktigt att pengarna till verksamheten kommer in kontinuerligt eftersom att när man sätter igång med utplantering av plantorna så kan man inte pausa en månad för att det blev mindre sålda träd. Plantorna är ju där och behöver skötas om, annars dör de. Det betyder att vi kunder kan hjälpa till genom att på månadsbasis köpa träd och donationspaket eftersom det är ju det som finansierar verksamheten.
Jag kan bara också hålla med om Jans sista kommentar om att investera i träd eftersom träden faktiskt växer – oavsett vad som händer runt om i världen. I år 2013, har vi haft en tjurrusning på börsen och träden växer i exakt samma takt som de alltid har gjort. Om vi får dollarkrisen som många förutspår med ett ändrat monetärt system vad kommer träden göra då? De kommer att fortsätta växa precis som vanligt.
PS. Jag står bakom kameran… :-D DS.
Nedan följer en transkription av intervjun:
Jan: My name is Jan. Jan Vandenabeele. I’m from Flanders, in Belgium. But I live in Kenya. And I am employed by Better Globe Forestry. It’s foresters. That’s what I studied. I worked my whole life in forestry. And here in Kiambere, we plant a tree species, melia volkensii. It’s called Mukau, in the local language. And this tree species produces a very valuable wood, it is mahogany. People normally associate mahogany with the rain forest of the Congo or West Africa or Central America, and this species of the mahogany family grows here in East Africa. Of the whole family of mahogany, this is the species that supports best the drought. And, dry areas in Africa, we have plenty. And –
Interviewer: And how is it possible to plant these here on these dry areas?
Jan: Well, we have a rainy season. And we plant during the rainy season. But that is not enough for us, because we want to do this on a massive scale, and we also plant in the dry season and we water them. When you are through with your lunch year, we’re going to make a walk in the plantation, and you will go to our trial area, where we have done trials, years ago, how we would plant in the dry season. We had never done this before. So, we worked out how to do this, which basically was the amount of water and the frequency of water, and we know that. And we apply this now.
Jan: Well, this is the nursery, this is the nursery which at this very moment contains 72,000 seedlings.
Jan: 72,000. Right?
Jan: And this is all going to be planted in the next months.
Int: In the next months?
Int: But how many trees do have in this plantation?
Jan: Now we have some 205,000 Mukau, plus some Neem trees which you have seen, plus some Jatropha, and these thousand Acacia. Yes? So this is now a plantation which is growing strongly, and for this year, by the end of this year, we will have planted I think, yeah, I must think because we have combined this together with ________, altogether, this year, in total, we have planted at least 450,000 trees. Right? And part is at the coast, which you will visit on Tuesday, and part is here.
Int: How many people work here?
Jan: For the moment, it’s 150 people.
Jan: 150. So, we are the biggest employer of people here in the neighborhood. And this, as you can see, is not exactly a rich neighborhood, so we are very welcome here by the local community, because they get their salaries, and they get them on time, they get them regularly. There’s nothing else.
Int: And the people who work here, do they live just around the plantation area?
Jan: Yes, they do. They’re just from around here.
Int: Just from the area.
Jan. Yeah. We also made an effort to re-stimulate female employees. Because they are more reliable in the use of salaries than male employees. A male employee, he can get paid, and then, fine, he just goes to the local bar and he finishes his salary. Which a woman will not do, she will go home and to a shop, and buy food for the children. And I think we have more than 30% of female employees, female people working here. But this 150, it varies. It will not go down. It goes up. And it goes up in times of very intensive work, when we really put in people for planting, the transport of the seedlings, the planting, then immediately afterwards the watering. Then we have here, times last year we had 200 people, and we will be there again.
Int: And what do the people do that work here?
Jan: Well, a lot of things. They work here in the nursery, they must clean the area so that some bushes are not there. They must do the marketing. This is a place for planting a tree, this is a place for marking a tree. Then on these marks there’s another thing that comes for pitting, making a little pit. And then the people have come and put the seedlings, they are being transported from the nursery. And then we have the maintenance. We have the watering, we have the weeding, so that the weeds do not overgrow the seedling, and we have the pruning. And then we have people in the administration here, this is little store, we fill in the forms, because we have records of what we do. People have to sign when they receive a tool. And we have a security team of 21 people that is around the plantation to guard against anything so that we don’t have goats, we don’t have fires, we don’t have people that come to damage the plantation. So, different jobs.
Int: What do you see as the biggest challenge?
Jan: Well, definitely, the drought is a very big challenge. Though, here at the lake we have water, and now we are going to put into place our new watering system, so that will diminish that challenge. After that, I would say that the biggest challenge is to produce healthy seedlings in the nursery. And that is really the key. Without seedlings you cannot plant. And that is now the biggest challenge, the quality of seedlings, and to improve this quality.
Int: I’ve got a lot of questions about, people in Sweden talk about the risk for fire at this plantation…?
Jan: Not big.
Int: Not big?
Jan: Not big. No, no, no. That would not worry me personally. As I said, well, you asked me for my big challenge, it’s seedling production and seedling quality. That’s my biggest challenge. To produce trees in a continuous genetic improvement program, that get better and better. We take precautions against fire, but that’s not my biggest challenge.
Int: And like, you have bugs? Or like, the trees getting attacked…?
Jan: In the nursery, we have some attacks from fungi. But, as I said, nursery production and nursery – we have, this is the biggest nursery in North Kenya, and this is the biggest nursery production of the world. It’s 72,000 Mukaus! And we can go higher, we can. In the nursery, we know how to do this now. It has taken us quite some time, and nothing is ever perfect, and we try to improve continuously the quality, but that is not what would keep me awake at night.
Int: So if you take this time, from one year to two years from now, do you see a picture of how large this plantation would grow to then?
Jan: I don’t get you.
Int: Like, how big is it in acres?
Jan: Ah. Hectares.
Int: Yes, hectares.
Jan: Some 380 hectares.
Int: 380. And will it, like, grow larger?
Int: Will it grow larger?
Jan: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely.
Int: So if you look forward one or two years from now, how does this plantation look then?
Jan: Well, we should have a couple of thousands of hectares. I think in the years to come, here around the lake, this is not the only lake, we have more lakes, there is some thousands of hectares that we will have planted. And we can plant this pretty fast. We don’t have this basic problem here, we have enough seedling production. An important thing is, however, that the money comes in regularly.
Jan: Yeah, because see, when you start up a production in the nursery, you must have some funds. And then, you cannot have a situation in which suddenly the funds dry up. You understand? Like, there is a drop, and suddenly you have less funds, and then after a while they come back again. You have to work level, huh? Meaning, for now, we have all the seedlings here. Imagine now, that suddenly, one month or two months from now we have half of the money that we are supposed to get. Well, the seedlings are still here. And they have to be planted, we cannot keep them eternally in the nursery. So, that is something that is important.
Int: Yes, good. So, if you would give our customers – the tree buyers – some message, like if you would tell them something. Why should they buy trees?
Jan: You know what I’m going to say? I was in Uganda, a couple of weeks ago, because of Miti Magazine, to select a representative for Miti in Uganda, because also Miti Magazine has grown. And always, when I’m there, I’m visiting some local growers as well. I have some local contacts. And I talked to a businessman there, and I had visited his plantation, and I’m going to say to you what this guy told me. It’s completely what I feel myself, as well. This is a solid business. There is no stock market crash that can influence the growth of trees. The banks, when they have a problem and they increase interest rates, these trees continue to grow. And they increase. And whatever happens, they are just there. And they grow. Right? This is what this guy told me. And he was putting his money in his own trees, just like your customers do. That is the message. It is the truth.
Int: Perfect. Thank you very much!
Jan: And you are an economist, huh?
Int: No, I’m a physicist, an engineering physicist.