Thursday, June 7, 2012

Changing livelihoods at very little costs : the tree nursery in Zefie watershed

In Zefie watershed, the NGO Tana Beles (  has instated a tree nursery based on a very interesting concept. The government has given some of the communal land to the NGO to set up a tree nursery near to the river outlet. As the river is perennial, water can be carried from the river to water the seedlings. The 3 employees are paid by the NGO. As their wage is very little, the employees are allowed to use the unused land for their own purpose. The employees plant garlic and onions. These are high value crop they can grow in the dry season by irrigating the plots. In this way the employees can improve their wages.
The tree nursery
The nursery produces grow multi-purpose tree seedling, namely Saglina, Lucerne and Sesbania. Multi-purpose trees as its name indicates fulfills different purposes such as nitrogen binding (and therefore increasing soil fertility), providing timber/fuel, providing high quality fodder for livestock. In addition, trees increase water infiltration when planted on the slope. Despite of these benefits, adoption of multi-purpose trees is low. It might be because alternative land uses such as crop production provides more immediate benefits than trees that need time to grow.
Tree seedlings

Nonetheless, there are smart option for multipurpose trees, such as planting them on the contours or to stabilize gullies or soil bunds. Multipurpose trees might also be a key in farming systems in which livestock intensity is increasing. Indeed, it can provide protein rich fodder that is crucially needed when local cow breeds are replaced by improved breeds that are more productive or to address some fodder shortages during the dry season.
Access to water for the nursery (and outlet of the watershed)
Accessing multipurpose tree seedlings is one of the biggest challenge for farmers and one of the reason why farmers do not adopt multipurpose tree. Tana Beles addresses this gap by promoting the tree nursery. It is good example on how development work can possibly change farming systems and livelihoods of smallholders without costing a lot of money. The tree nursery initiative is very recent, only time will show if it will bring the hoped benefits.

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