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Sandalwood should be commercialised

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Allowing for commercial cultivation of sandalwood in Kenya could shield the ‘golden’ tree from extinction besides giving farmers a new source of revenue.The tree, which is poached for export to rich markets in Asia and Europe, is endangered and laws prohibiting its uprooting and logging have borne little fruit. Oil from sandalwood is used in manufacture of perfumes and medicines in pharmaceutical industries in India, Indonesia, France, Germany, among other countries.
Trade in sandalwood is illegal in Kenya and in countries that are signatories to the Conventional Trade in Endangered Species of world fauna and flora. The Sandalwood business was declared illegal  in Kenya following a Presidential ban in February 2007.
The Kenya Forestry Research Institute guidelines for tree growers, 2014, say that the tree has been over-exploited to meet rising international demands in the pharmaceutical market.
“The nature of exploitation of sandalwood in Kenya raises concern on its survival in the wild as it involves uprooting of the whole tree. The mode and scale of harvesting has made the tree to be locally endangered, which threatens the survival of the species an sustainability of products from the species,” the guidelines read.
Growing sandalwood has the potential of meeting demand for the oil extracted from the golden tree and changing focus from exploiting what is available in nature to cultivation for economic gain. It is suspected that export from Kenya is done through Tanzania from source areas such as  Makueni County’s Chyulu and in Taita Taveta County.
 Reports indicate one kilogramme of sandalwood costs between KSh4 and KSh7 to middlemen, who sell it at about KSh80. The institute notes that growing of the crop is curtailed by lack of cultivation outlines. A research by Kenyatta University on the conservation of the sandalwood indicates that 64 per cent of Kibwezi, where Chyulu is, use the plant for commercial gain. At least 21.2 per cent others use it for medicinal value.
“Domestication of the economically viable species through community sensitisation can be the long-term solution. Vegetative propagation can also be seen as an option since the tree is semi parasitic and may require a nurse plant for it to survive, to enable better management of the tree. At the same time, it would enable households generate income from the sale of sandalwood products,” the guidelines say.
The thoughts contained in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Farmbiz Africa or its publishers.

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