Tree Improvement and Research

FDT demonstration site at Kisolanza

Supporting the development of a multi-partner, long-term tree improvement programme that benefits all scale of tree grower, leading ultimately to sustained domestic production of improved planting material, informed by a responsive and dynamic research base relevant to the market.

The challenge

The overall competitiveness of commercial forestry in Tanzania is hampered by poor genetic material which severely limits plantation productivity and quality. High quality planting material originates from other countries with established tree improvement programmes, which is not necessarily best adapted to local growing conditions, comes at high cost, and leaves growers susceptible to market and production fluctuations. Small growers lack sufficient access to improved planting material as the cost associated with improved seed is often beyond their reach, and even larger private actors and government plantations are not reaping the potential benefits. Further, heavy reliance on few species with a narrow genetic base (with pine accounting for 80% of Southern Highlands planting, mostly Pinus patula) makes the entire sector vulnerable to pests and disease.

FDT strategy

Our goal is to develop a long term tree improvement vision and programme for Tanzania which promotes collaboration between private sector actors and public institutions. The Trust, as an independent knowledge broker and source of considerable technical expertise, can play a key role in coordinating this collaborative venture and ensuring that smallholders and SMEs have their voices heard and can benefit fully from the products of the programme.

The Trust is developing strategy and institutional arrangements for long-term tree improvement, providing targeted training to build capacity in tree breeding, and supporting the implementation of species trials, seed orchards and breeding populations with public and private sector players.

Working with several partners, trials now represent >110 species and clonal hybrids (with many sourced from multiple locations) on 14 sites ranging in altitude from 200-2400 m, making them advanced portfolio in East Africa in terms of species diversity and ecological representation.  Breeding populations of the two flagship species, Pinus patula and Eucalyptus grandis, were established with Tanzania Forest Services Agency in 2016-2017, with plans to establish seedling seed orchards during 2017-2018. Click here to download a document showing the Eucalyptus, Pine, Corymbia and Casuarina species that are being trialed across different sites in Tanzania with FDT support. The map below shows the sites of 36 species trials established in ten locations across the southern highlands.

During 2016, the multi-stakeholder Tree Improvement Research Working Group adopted a Tree Improvement Strategy for the Southern Highlands to help guide collective efforts. The Working Group is now developing Standard Operating Procedures while the results of species trial measurements will soon be distributed to all members.  The Trust is also collaborating with the membership-based organisation, African Forestry, given their strong interest in tree improvement.

Sector vision for tree improvement

Sustainable institutional arrangements covering mandates, financing and governance of tree improvement, with private and public participants having the necessary skills to deliver their roles.

Trials (and breeding populations) of a wide range of commercial species and clonal varieties are effectively delivered across a wide range of priority agro-ecological zones. This includes species and clonal varieties selected for their potential to enhance the competitiveness of a wide range of timber value chains (improved volume yield, specific density, form and wood quality), enhance resilience to environmental risks (pests, disease, drought and fire) and utilisation of marginal areas.

Research results are effectively captured and feed effective information dissemination channels to growers of all scales to inform strategic decision making at seed orchards as well as prior to planting.

High quality germplasm is produced within Tanzania from commercially viable and/or sustainably financed seed orchards (species and provenance suitability and orientated to market needs and growing conditions) supplying local and international markets. Enhanced quality assurance exists at national level.

Map showing FDT’s activities in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania

Map showing FDT’s activities in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania – click to enlarge