The article on Acacia xanthophloea generated plenty of feedback from readers. This week, I answer your questions on acacia and others.
Where can one find Acacia xanthophloea seedlings and can they do well around Njoro?
The trees will do well in Njoro, according to the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) guide on tree planting in the country.
Acacia xanthophloea grows best in highland regions of altitudes of between 1,000 and 2,000 metres above sea level and rainfalls of 800-1,400mm a year.
Njoro falls within this ecological zone. Please check in nurseries around Njoro or Nakuru for the seedlings. If not available, you can also visit the nearest Kefri or Kenya Forest Service station.
Where can I get acacia seeds? What is the recommended spacing between the trees? What is the expected charcoal yield per mature tree or per acre of land planted with acacia?
You can get acacia seeds from any Kefri stations across the country. You will also be advised on pre-sowing preparation for the seeds.
When planting, Michael Meso, the assistant manager of the Kefri Seed Centre at Muguga headquarters, advises that the ideal spacing between the trees is five metres. A mature tree can yield up to 10 sacks of charcoal.
I come from the dryer parts of Meru where acacia trees have been growing naturally but now I would like to start growing them. Where can I get seedlings. I would also like to visit your farm and learn the best practices. And have you dealt with Acacia senegal that produces the highly valued Gum arabic?
Please check out tree nurseries around Meru and see if they have acacia seedlings. If not they are available around Nairobi, especially Kajiado. You can also inquire from your nearest Kefri or KFS stations.
Acacia senegal grows wildly in semi-arid regions and is useful for its Gum Arabic, which is used in adhesives, pharmaceuticals, inks and confections.
In Sudan, one of the biggest producers, the tree is now grown by farmers on plantations. This can also be done in Kenya, especially in semi-arid zones like your part of Meru.
I have been planning to plant acacia trees. I went to Kenya Plant Health Inspection Service (Kephis) early last year and I was told about Xanthophloea and polyacanta. Where is your farm? Your spacing of the trees?
My farm is in Soy, near Eldoret. The spacing is five metres between the trees. This gives them enough room to grow given that they have a fairly wide branch span.
But this can reduce to three metres for those on the farm perimeter that provide security against intrusion.
I have five acres in Eldoret on which I want to grow trees but I am torn between planting eucalyptus, wattle and acacia. Which one would you advise me to plant?
The species of tree you choose to plant will depend on your end use objective. Do you want timber, poles, fuelwood or charcoal? If you want timber and poles, eucalyptus is the tree.
If you want fuelwood and charcoal, acacia and wattle will be more suitable. For acacia, the ideal spacing is five metres between trees, which should give you about 500 per acre. Wattle is planted by broadcasting seeds so it is difficult to estimate the number in an acre.
I have over five acres in Suswa, Saikeri and I need to make it useful. What would it take in terms of money to put it under acacia?
The seedlings cost between Sh30 and Sh70 each depending on their age. In five acres, you will need about 2,500 seedlings.
If you were to buy seeds from Kefri and make your own nursey, you will need a quarter kilo, which costs about Sh800.
A mature tree can yield up to 10 sacks of charcoal. I will advise that you till the land and even intercrop the trees with short term crops in the beginning. Acacia are very good with crops because they fix nitrogen in the soil.
How can I harvest acacia trees sustainably?
One acacia tree can has as many as 10 branches. Essentially, this is like 10 trees in one. So during harvest, you can cut off the branches while leaving the main trunk which will grow other branches.