|In this programme, BGF partners with small-holder farmers to plant melia trees in their fields. Its geographical location, called Seven Forks, is the area around a stretch of river Tana where the government has created 5 man-made lakes, for electricity generation. From west to east these lakes are Masinga, Kamburu, Gitaru, Kindaruma and Kiambere. The latter, of course, is where BGF established its first plantation. This area is really the home of Melia volkensii or mukau as the tree is called in the local language. It is a big expanse, over a 100km long and some 30km wide, with well over 30,000 farmers. |
How does it work?Farmers are approached through various means, like Chief’s barazas (public meetings), through farmer-to-farmer contact, and they are made aware of the programme through posters put in public places. Then a first assessment takes place, and the farmer and his farm are judged on several criteria. If positive, the farmer signs a contract with BGF. In this contract he/she agrees to a number of conditions such as spacing, area to be planted, quality care for the seedlings and trees, and in return they receive the seedlings for free, as well as technical training, and a guaranteed market once the trees are mature. This might sound simple, but it is the result of quite some technical and managerial input & thinking.
The programme is unique. No other company does this, although they might be working with farmers, but this is AGROFORESTRY, with widely spaced tree planting, minimum seven meters apart, and allowing food crop production for a good number of years
The execution of the programme is done through an experienced and well-trained team of extension agents, called AAs and CAs, short for respectively “Agroforestry Agents” and “Contracting Agents”.
All are stationed in their area of work, spread over Seven Forks, and are fully mobile. Currently they number 20, and are supervised by a site forester and assisted by a logistical officer, and this number is continuously scaled up according to necessity. Each AA in turn is in touch with Community Representatives, men and women truly belonging to the grass-root level of the area, who intricately know their fellow farmers. They are not employed by the company, but are paid for services rendered, e.g. per contract signed, or farmer visit. To help dealing with huge numbers of farmers, they are encouraged to organise themselves into Self-Help Groups. Since last year, the contract signing is digital.
The different steps of filling a digital contract are shown below.
Seven Forks Farmers Programme PHOTO GALLERY