Where is Better Globe Forestry Ltd registered?
Better Globe Forestry Ltd (BGF) is a limited company registered and incorporated in Kenya (Nr.c. 113360) in 2004 as a part of the Better Globe Group. The mission of Better Globe Forestry Ltd is to make Kenya a greener, healthier and wealthier place in which to live, by focusing on the development of profitable, commercial tree plantations that will deliver environmental as well as humanitarian benefits.
BGF adheres strictly to all mandatory, statutory and legal requirements to allow it do business in Kenya and interact with investors worldwide.
What trees do you plant?
BGF plants indigenous trees very well adapted to the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) in which the company's projects are located.
1. Mukau (Melia volkensii)
The species is an East African member of the Meliaceae family. It typically occurs in dry bush land or dry wooded grasslands, where it often stands out because of its height. It is fast-growing and produces high quality timber, comparable to mahogany. Moreover, the species is resistant to termites and drought. BGF's trials have shown that it can be planted year-round, provided it receives adequate care and irrigation. The growth is excellent, with trees reaching 3 metres in height after barely one and a half years.
2. Indigenous acacias (Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal)
Both A. senegal and A. seyal produce gum arabic. Both species are very drought-resistant and occur in the so-called "gum belt", a swathe of land between latitude 12o-16o N (about 300km wide) stretching all along Africa, from the Atlantic to the Red Sea coast. A. senegal also grows further to the south, down to Angola, Zambia and South Africa, and is found even in the Arabian and Indian peninsulas. Gum arabic is a valuable, stabilising agent with many industrial applications in the food, beverage and printing industries. After extensive studies, planting at BGF's site is scheduled to start in 2015.
3. Neem (Azadirachta indica)
BGF has planted a limited number of neem trees whose oil will be used as a biological pesticide in BGF's plantations. The neem tree originates from the Indian subcontinent, and is well adapted to African conditions. It is very drought and termite resistant, and is capable of fast growth.
The tree's value lies in a complex mix of chemical substances found in the leaves, bark and seeds. The most important one is Azadirachtin, a very promising and essential ingredient in insecticides. The tree also has medicinal properties hence the Swahili name "mwarubaini" meaning it can cure forty diseases.
BGF has established a large-scale industrial mango plantation near its mukau plantations in Nyongoro. Mangoes are a part of BGF's strategy for providing cash flow in order to guarantee sustained income for the early days before the mukau reach maturity. The project is managed through Better Mangos Ltd; a company owned 100% by BGF.
The tree has been planted on a large scale to provide windbreaks for the mukau at the Nyongoro site. Both mangoes and casuarina have short-term commercial value.
Where are BGF's projects?
All BGF's projects are situated in Kenyan arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL). BGF has plans to extend its operations to neighbouring East African countries.
The planting area is around Lake Kiambere on Tana River, and lies in two districts, Mwingi and Mbeere, both in Eastern Province. Tana River forms the boundary between the two districts. The site is about 200km away from Nairobi.
BGF's plantations are meant to form a protective buffer between the artificial lake, created for electricity production, and the surrounding land-use (mixed subsistence farming with a high potential for erosion).
2. Sosoma Ranch
Sosoma Ranch is located in the south-eastern corner of Mwingi district, bordering Tana River District at its eastern side. It is roughly 230km east-northeast from Nairobi, along the highway to Garissa. The land belongs to the Sosoma Cooperative Ranching Society (SCRS) and covers 60,705 hectares. The land is flat and contains easy-to-work-with, mostly deep soils. The area is truly dry but a natural home to both mukau and Acacia senegal.
3. Nyongoro Ranch
The total ranch occupies 32,000 hectares, two-thirds of which is under a lease agreement and of which an estimated 17,000 hectares can be planted. It is located in Lamu district in the lowlands of Kenya's north coast. Co-ordinates are approximately 40o 24' east and 2o 14' south. The ranch can be reached by road from Nairobi down to Mombasa, then following the coast northwards to Malindi and then in the direction of Lamu. It lies approximately 750km from Nairobi.
A significant advantage of the ranch's location is its proximity to Lamu port, which is being upgraded to allow the entry of big vessels.
4. Kibwezi Mukuyu Farm Ltd
The 20-hectare Mukuyu farm is situated in Kibwezi District, on a plot alongside Kibwezi River, 20km from Kibwezi town. It is 220km from Nairobi, along the Mombasa highway. BGF wants to prove that East African drylands can be exploited sustainably and profitably, creating added value and jobs for rural populations. As such, Kibwezi Mukuyu is rightly considered a model farm, and welcomes guided educational tours by farmers and learning institutions.
Why are BGF's projects in some places and not in others?
Better Globe Forestry Ltd concentrates its activities in ASAL where there is plenty of sparsely populated land and where tree-planting does not compete with food production. BGF is only interested in large-scale plantations that enable the company to concentrate its operations and achieve economies of scale. Such areas need to be under management that is receptive to tree- planting.
Is BGF in other countries apart from Kenya?
Today, BGF's active projects are in Kenya. However, the company plans to extend its operations to the larger East African region in years to come. Initial contacts have already been made in Uganda where the company has a permanent representative working on Miti magazine.
From where does the money to finance industrial tree-planting come?
Better Globe Forestry's projects in Kenya are funded from different independent marketing ventures in other countries. Individuals and firms buy trees from these companies as safe and long-term investments. These marketing companies use BGF as a contractual agent for the planting, maintenance and finally, harvesting of the trees.
Who owns the trees?
Based on the contractual relationship between BGF and the marketing companies, the trees belong to the buyers until they mature after 17 - 20 years. BGF will then buy back the trees at agreed prices according to contractual agreements with the marketing companies.
Does BGF have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme?
From the onset, BGF had tree and water donations as well as micro finance in its programme.
These activities have now been brought together in the Better Globe Forestry Foundation, whose mission is to take care of the communities around its projects in different ways. The fundamental educational support is outsourced to the NGO Child Africa that has been active in Uganda since 1991and more recently in Kenya.
Where does the money for CSR come from?
Who owns the land?
Better Globe Forestry Ltd does not own the land on which its projects are located. The land is acquired through long-term lease agreements with the legal administrative guarantee that the trees belong to BGF.
How big are BGF's projects?
In industrial afforestation terms, one always talks about very big projects. The Sosoma Ranch is 60,705 hectares, the Kiambere project would cover 5,000 hectares and the Nyongoro Ranch is 21,000 hectares. In Uganda, BGF has a letter of intent for 50,000 hectares.
What are you going to do with the trees when you harvest them?
The product from the trees, be it timber, gum or fruits, will be processed on site, up to the finished stage. Better Globe Forestry, or its daughter companies, will therefore set up processing plants at its different sites. When gum or fruit producing trees are no longer productive, they are cut and replaced. This is the case for the acacias and the mangoes.
What if others want to plant the same trees as BGF?
BGF has started to actively encourage farmers around its projects to plant the same trees and thus become out-growers. A big incentive is that BGF guarantees the market for the farmers as the company signs a contract through which it will buy the trees at a fair price after 17 - 20 years in the case of mukau. When it comes to acacia trees, BGF intends to make agreements with the nomadic peoples who traditionally harvest the gum in the wild for sale. BGF will also look into the possibilities to set up an out-growers scheme for acacia.
Do you get carbon credits?
No, today carbon credits are not in the picture. However, BGF is following carefully the evolutions in this domain. In future, the BGF Foundation aims to help its out-growers to access carbon credits for the farmers' benefit.
How long do the trees take to mature?
In the case of mukau, a first thinning is done after eight years. The remaining trees are felled between ages 15 - 20 years, depending on the rainfall and soil fertility of the site.
Neem trees start giving fruits and seeds after 5 - 8 years and then annual harvesting can take place. As this is non-destructive harvesting, the tree can grow quite old, over 60 years, before losing vitality.
A. senegal and A. seyal can start being exploited for their gum after 3 - 4 years. Gum yield reaches a stable level by 9 - 10 years. The trees keep on growing until they reach the end of their productive life, which is about 25 years.
Do you water the trees?
It is critical to water the trees in the first year, since BGF aims to plant the whole year without waiting for the bi-modal, at times unpredictable, rains. As all the species the company plants are indigenous, they are adapted to the arid circumstances in which BGF works and are able to grow on their own after that initial period. Moreover, BGF is now using a water-absorbent soil conditioner to increase the efficiency of the watering.
What other attention do the trees need?
Survival of the trees depends on weeding, pruning and mulching, among other activities. These activities need to be performed with great care and following the correct schedules.
Are you in the charcoal business?
BGF does not produce charcoal. However, the Witu Nyongoro Ranch has also attracted investors who have set up a licensed, professionally and sustainably run charcoal operation that is meant to use the bushes cleared by the bulldozer. In addition, some indigenous acacias, namely Acacia zanzibarica and Acacia nilotica, have been selected for planting on the edges around siwa, which are temporarily waterlogged areas, where mukau would die if planted. These trees will be sold to the charcoal firm.
Where do the BGF workers come from?
BGF has an employment policy of giving priority to people from around its plantations. However, sometimes this presents a challenge as the available workforce is not always enough.
How does BGF handle gender equity?
BGF tries at all times to hire at least 40% women. More than that is not realistic because women are heavily engaged in family activities in rural areas and are therefore not available for other work. BGF will never hire children.
Where does Miti magazine come in the picture?
Miti magazine (The Tree Business Magazine for Africa) is part of BGF's corporate social responsibility (CSR). It is a way to gather information about sustainable afforestation and to bring the knowledge to the larger public.
What are the risks related to the project?
Site per site, the risks are the usual related to afforestation. Fire, pests, diseases, political risks, and so on. In the case of BGF, this is mitigated by the fact that the plantations are in different areas and soon, in different countries. BGF aims to plant more trees than the number paid for, so as to cover possible losses.