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    Timber sellers contracting farmers to grow trees

    Timber companies in East Africa may from June start contracting farmers to grow trees  to enable them meet the rising demand for the wood product.
    Farmers from Western and Rift Valley regions are expected to be the first beneficiaries of the project, which is at pilot stage.
    The move is expected to formalise commercial agro-forestry  since the farmers will be sure of market after signing supply contracts with the companies.
    The booming construction sector is     forcing timber suppliers to incur high costs of importation. Timber production in Kenya is way below the annual consumption demand of 38 million cubic metres.
    Growing markets
    Once the programme takes shape, farmers interested in this agroforestry business would also make a killing from the direct and assured markets.

    One such company is Raiply. The company is partnering with smallholder farmers to grow trees alongside other perennial crops.
    Kenya Timber Manufacturers Association says the country imports hard and soft timber worth Sh3.9 million ($37.5m) annually from Congo and Tanzania.
    Under this programme, farmers will be receiving seedlings and other inputs from contracting companies throrogh regional groups.
    The farmers will later sell the timber to the same company that supplied them with these inputs at competitive prices.
    READ ALSO: Retired General Harvesting Millions From Trees
    This would bridge the gap which is not filled by timber from the industrial plantation besides offering farmers alternative source of income. This initiative reaffirms a 2010  Food and Agricultural Organisation report showing that forests where humans have intervened can still hold important biodiversity values that contribute significantly to environmental sustainability.
    Commercial tree farming is rivaling popular cash crops like tea and coffee in terms of revenue collection, with some farmers already earning millions of shillings from the venture.
    Apart from economic gains, the study by the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) shows that commercial tree farming can be the viable solution to mitigate the devastating impacts of global warming.

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