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International Forestry Review Vol.11(1), 2009
Uganda’s Sawlog Production Grant Scheme:a success story from Africa SPGS, P.O. Box 5244, Kampala, Uganda The Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) has supported private sector tree planting in Uganda since 2004. The project has been the catalyst for attracting substantial investment into timber plantations from small-medium local growers to large foreign investors. Over 10,000 hectares have been already established with huge interest to do much more. Many rural jobs are being created and the foundations are being laid for a sustainable, commercial forest industry in Uganda. The SPGS has evolved into a robust model that successfully engages private growers: and this is in a country where tree planting on a commercial scale was always considered the State’s business. The background and modus operandi of the project are detailed in this article as well as the challenges encountered. With the project creating considerable interest from other countries, the key elements that have contributed to making the SPGS a success are discussed to encourage its replication elsewhere.
Keywords: SPGS, Uganda forestry, timber plantations, grant scheme, private sector Projet d'aide à la production de rondins en Uganda: histoire d'un succès venant d'Afrique Le projet d'aide à la production de bûches (SPGS) soutient un secteur privé de plantation d'arbres en Uganda depuis 2004. Le projet a été un catalyseur attirant un investissement substantiel dans les plantations de bois passant de planteurs locaux petits et moyens a de larges investisseurs étrangers. Plus de 10 000 hectares ont été déjà établis, et il existe un intérêt très fort d'en faire davantage. Beaucoup d'emplois ruraux sont crées, et les fondations pour une foresterie industrielle durable sont posées en Uganda. Le SPGS a évolué pour devenir un modèle robuste qui engage les producteurs privés avec succès, et cela, dans un pays où la plantation d'arbres à l'échelle commerciale était toujours considéré comme une affaire dont l'état devait s'occuper. L'origine et le mode opérationnel du projet sont détaillés dans cet article, ainsi que les défi s qu'il a rencontré. En se souvenant que ce projet suscite un intérêt considérable dans d'autres pays, les éléments clés ayant contribué au succès du SPGS sont examinés pour encourager sa reproduction ailleurs.
Programa de Subsidios para la Producción de Maderos: un éxito ejemplar en África El Programa de Subsidios para la Producción de Maderos (SPGS) ha apoyado la plantación de árboles por parte del sector privado en Uganda desde el año 2004. El proyecto ha servido de catalizador para atraer inversiones importantes en plantaciones de madera, de cultivadores locales de escala pequeña y mediana hasta grandes inversionistas extranjeros. Ya se ha plantado más de 10 000 hectáreas, y existe mucho interés en extender el programa. Se está creando mucho empleo en zonas rurales, y se está estableciendo los fundamentos para una industria forestal comercial y sostenible en Uganda. El SPGS ha llegado a ser un modelo robusto que atrae con éxito a los cultivadores del sector privado, y esto se ha logrado en un país donde la plantación de árboles en escala comercial se había considerado hasta ahora trabajo del estado. Los antecedentes y el modus operandi del proyecto se describen en este artículo, además de los desafíos que se ha tenido que afrontar. El proyecto ha suscitado un gran interés en otros países, y se analizan los elementos clave que han contribuido al éxito del SPGS con el fi n de promover su duplicación en otros lugares.
European Union (EU) and Government of Uganda project that offi cially started in 2004, though it was a few years in the Uganda’s Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) does planning phase prior to that. In just four years, over 10,000 what you might expect: it gives grants to people establishing hectares (ha) have been established by private growers (both tree plantations primarily for timber production. It is a joint large and small scale) and the demand has been created to multiply this many times over. The project has not just phenomenal growth rates achievable in many parts of the stimulated the planting of timber crops throughout the country. The combination of a bimodal rainfall pattern and country but has kick-started the development of many areas generally fertile soils in many areas, results in some Mean which are essential to support the emerging sector – especially Annual Increments (MAIs) that many visiting foresters commercial forestry research, training and larger nurseries. cannot believe. On good sites MAIs of 60 and 30 m3/ha/yr In doing this many thousands of rural jobs are being created, are possible with Eucalyptus grandis and Pinus caribaea both directly in plantation establishment and maintenance respectively. Of course, this is only the case where the and indirectly in the support services mentioned. right silvicultural techniques are applied – especially good In a country with massive rural poverty and rampant weed control and the use of improved genetic material. In deforestation, the SPGS is proving to be a winning formula. a country where there had been virtually no planting for 35 It is also attracting substantial private investment into the years this presents quite a challenge, with little experience of sector, from both within and beyond Uganda’s borders. The many ‘modern’ commercial plantation practices.
project is poised to receive substantial further support from both the EU and the Norwegian Government from mid-2009 to 2013. It is not really surprisingly, therefore, that many other countries in the region are now asking how the SPGS is achieving such results within a modest budget (ca.US$5.5M The reform process in Uganda’s forest sector has been to date). This article describes briefl y how the project works written about exhaustively in Turyahabwe and Banana but focuses more on what the author considers are the key (2008) so here I offer a more personal view on the process reasons for its success. Whilst every country (even within and highlight where it has impacted on tree planting and on Africa) is different, the SPGS has developed a model which could be transplanted to other countries provided some of The weaknesses of the UFD became clear in the 1990’s, the fundamental issues described here are taken on board.
with rampant deforestation and many failed initiatives to expand the plantation resource. The Government of Uganda (GoU) and the donors who had supported the UFD for many years (notably EU and Norway) called time and insisted on a reform of the whole forest sector if they were to continue Before describing the modus operandi of the SPGS it is their funding. By 2004 - a long fi ve years after the reform important to understand the background situation in the process began (funded largely by the UK’s DFID) – the country. Around 20% of Uganda’s land area is classifi ed as UFD was axed and a new, semi-autonomous National Forest forest, though the majority of this is woodland. The forest Authority (NFA) created. Additionally, a District Forest that remains is severely threatened largely from clearance Service (DFS) and a GoU watch-dog – the Forest Sector for agriculture (subsistence and commercial) and charcoal Support Division (FSSD) – were also created. production (>90% of Ugandan’s depend on wood for The NFA’s core role is to manage the country’s 1.2M ha of energy). A recent study showed that Uganda lost 92,000 ha Central Forest Reserves (CFRs). There are 506 CFRs across of forest in 2007 alone. The country’s economy is growing the country, ranging from Tropical High Forest (including fast (albeit from a low base) and this, coupled with a very the famous Budongo and Mabira Forests) to highly degraded high population growth rate (3.4%) is creating a demand for or sparsely wooded areas suitable for commercial planting. timber predicted to be 1M m3 per year by 2025. There are Long-term tree-planting licenses (permits) are being made also fast developing markets in neighbouring countries – available to private investors in some of these CFRs. The notably Rwanda, Kenya and Southern Sudan. NFA has planted ca.5,000 ha itself since 2004 and has Despite the Ugandan Forest Dept.’s (UFD) warning-bells plans to establish up to 50,000 ha if it can source suffi cient that started ringing well over 50 years ago, the country is funding. The NFA also has commercial nurseries and offers now in dire straits with regard to timber plantations. The private growers other services such as mapping and writing plantation establishment efforts of the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s (when some 15,000 ha of pine was planted) were unfortunately never built on. These over-mature plantations are now almost fi nished (<1,000 ha left) and the sad fact is that serious new planting (or replanting) only started around fi ve years ago, with the EU support to the UFD. The The idea of a Plantation Fund (which evolved into the generally accepted target for Uganda is 150,000 ha of timber SPGS) to attract the private sector interest into commercial plantations by 2020 - the bulk of which will be established tree planting, was originally part of a larger EU initiative by the private sector. There are currently only around 20,000 – the Forest Resources Management and Conservation ha of plantations countrywide, and >80% of these are under Programme (FRMCP). The FRMCP was a 5-year, €12M fi ve years old. Whilst this scenario is worrying at a national programme which started in 2002. It was the culmination level, however, it is a great opportunity for those investing in of over 10 years of EU support to the Ugandan forest sector, all of which had been directed at conservation of those One of Uganda’s USPs (Unique Selling Points) is the CFRs considered to be biodiversity ‘hot-spots’. For the Uganda’s Sawlog Production Grant Scheme fi rst time, however, the important link between plantations protection from livestock and fi res etc. and conservation was made and the FRMCP included a • The project’s support period covers the fi rst two years component of ca.€2M for ‘compensatory timber plantations’ to be established by the private sector. • The grant is set at a fi xed rate countrywide It took nearly two years to come up with the right formula (UGX600,000 – ca.US$350 – per ha).
for the SPGS: after the inevitable stakeholder workshops and • The rate was calculated at 50% of the average full much deliberation, it was decided that the best approach was conditional grants rather than loans. Initial attempts to get an • Payment is split into three tranches over the two-year external body to run the initiative had failed, with fi nancial institutions nervous about commercial forestry (having no • No grant funds are paid up-front: SPGS ‘clients’ experience of it and alarmed by the time-scale). Eventually must thus start with their own resources. it was decided that the FRMCP should run the SPGS, under • Payments are only made after a site inspection the supervision of a separate Steering Committee. It took has confi rmed the area planted and the standards some time for people to consider investing in tree planting, since it had always been considered the State’s business. • Technical support is largely free – in terms of advice However, after a slow start in 2004, the interest from the given on-site (or in the offi ce) and many useful private sector took off exponentially, even threatening to swamp the newly launched ship, with questions being raised in Parliament about why the project does not support more The current SPGS team comprises a Project Manager (a non-forester) with fi ve young forestry graduates and The SPGS initially operated within the NFA but it was administrative support staff. There are two long-term TAs considered inappropriate for the organization to be also (Technical Advisors, the author included) attached to controlling a fund for private sector planting, especially the project, both seasoned by many years experience of given that they were actively seeking funds themselves to commercial pine and eucalypt plantations in Southern and fi nance their own commercial planting. Although the SPGS East Africa. The young graduates had little or no experience was always kept separate from core NFA operations, the of commercial forestry when recruited but have been project offi cially moved from the NFA in 2006 and was intensively trained and ‘mentored’ by the TAs as well as placed under the supervision of FSSD, within the GoU’s being exposed to the commercial forestry culture in other Ministry of Water and Environment. In practice, however, countries. Over a four year period, the SPGS has achieved the SPGS team has been left to run their business, reporting substantial results and learned some valuable lessons which to a Steering Committee every three months, which has will be of interest to anyone considering starting a similar representatives of GoU, EU and the private sector.
project elsewhere. These thoughts are summarized over the following sections. The protracted gestation period of the project turned out to be a blessing in disguise since it gave time to consult with Ten thousand hectares of plantation have been directly many people – from both inside and outside the country. supported (i.e. fi nancially and technically) by the project to When the SPGS was offi cially launched in 2004, it had clear date (Sept 2008). Of the 10,000 ha total, 79% was planted guidelines for potential tree growers. The main components on public (CFR) land, 21% on private land. The breakdown by size of planter is shown in Table 1. There has also been • Support is only for private sector individuals, substantial (to date not quantifi ed) private planting outside of the SPGS and many of these have benefi ted from the • The SPGS contracts are for a minimum 25 ha and project’s advisory and training support. One of the interesting things about the SPGS has been the • The land for planting can be privately owned or CFR way it has appealed to a wide cross-section of investors. • A formal Contract must be signed before support can TABLE 1 Breakdown of SPGS Planters 2004-08 • The Contract must include an approved Forest Plantation Size
No. Planters
• The SPGS only supports trees grown primarily for • The Contract includes basic standards that must be achieved – e.g. species planted as per FMP; use of approved seed sources only; minimum 80% stocking after three months; basic 1m diameter ring-weeding; The project’s main benefi ciaries are the small-medium All the above publications (and Seminar proceedings) are entrepreneurs, many of whom had no background experience of tree growing: the SPGS incentives were enough to get them started with what they see as a good investment. The larger growers (four companies) would probably have started planting without the project’s support but the SPGS’s other roles (especially technical support and general promotion of The SPGS has always had a very commercial outlook, which the industry) have been more important to them. These larger is believed to be the best way to help develop a sustainable growers are now planting beyond the SPGS supported areas.
forest industry in Uganda. It was intended from the outset, The SPGS only funds plantations grown for timber however, that it would be prudent to extend the project’s and/or large poles. The main species promoted are Pinus support to some of the smaller growers in the vicinity of caribaea var. hondurensis (PCH), Eucalyptus grandis and the main commercial growers, thereby ‘sensitizing’ these the indigenous Maesopsis eminii. Limited areas are also communities about tree growing. For these small, community- being planted with P. patula, Araucaria cunninghamii based people, the project developed a different approach and Terminalia superba and (from early 2008) Eucalyptus than that for its main clients. Interested communities with hybrid clones. P. oocarpa was planted at the start but the some spare land for growing timber trees are encouraged seed quality available in Uganda is so poor that the project to form an Association. SPGS staff then conduct on-site does not now promote it. Expected rotations are 18-20 years training in the basics of tree establishment and provided for PCH and 12-15 years for E. grandis, provided the heavy, these community groups prepare the land adequately, the early thinning regimes recommended by the SPGS are project then delivers seedlings at a time coinciding with the rains. No funds are given to the community planters – just free advice and seedlings.
The interest in this community planting initiative took us by surprise and over 500,000 seedlings have been delivered from 2005-08. The demand is there for much more support During the project’s lifespan enormous interest has been in the future too. Given that the people have already shown created in growing trees for timber in Uganda. This has been interest and put in some effort to prepare the land for planting, achieved through numerous communication and training it is a reasonable assumption that most of these trees were subsequently planted out (the project is currently following • A highly regarded, quarterly Newsletter: this is a up on this), which adds up to a signifi cant contribution to glossy, full colour publication used to keep people the cause (and of course, important income for the growers informed about the project and the sector. It is also used as educational and motivating tool, with pictures of good and bad practices from Uganda and beyond.
• Field-based clients’ meetings are organized every three months: these have become immensely popular and a great way for people to share experiences. After Many people have recently asked us this question and like a full day’s tour of various plantations, there is a half- many aspects of forestry, there is not a straight answer. It is day formal meeting always with a lively question and down to a combination of factors many of which have been mentioned in this article. However, it will do no harm to • Many SPGS Plantation Guidelines have been printed and freely disseminated: these are practical, well • The provision of grants is an obvious attraction for any grower but the provision of sound technical • The project saw the need early on to provide practical training courses aimed at the clients’ supervisors and • The project’s fi eld staff must have sound experience fi eld managers. These are mostly 4-day, residential of commercial forestry plantations, preferably in the courses, only partly subsided by the project and run by the project staff: the key ones being Plantation • Not paying any funds up-front sorts the chancers Planning and Establishment and Plantation from the serious planters pretty quickly. Maintenance. All clients are strongly advised to send • The 25-500 ha range appealed to a wide range of investors and the smaller growers have clearly • The project has for the last three years organized benefi ted from the experience of the larger ones.
a national Commercial Forestry Seminar in order • The project’s many communication channels and to raise the profi le of the business. Importing high its fl exible attitude have been important (with a profi le Guest Speakers has helped immensely here (in supportive Steering Committee too). The project 2008 - John Spears, ex-World Bank Senior Forestry initially excluded Eucalypts (thinking growers Advisor; in 2007 - Mike Edwards, ex-ED of Forestry would take the grant and then cut them for poles and fi rewood); it had a 100 ha lower limit (lowered to 25 Uganda’s Sawlog Production Grant Scheme ha early on after listening to the pleas of many smaller by-products and end-products that will be also produced. growers) and offered growers no support beyond the Given the history of the sector, there is currently very little in 2-year contract (small pruning and thinning grants terms of modern processing facilities in Uganda and thus the whole issue of timber processing and marketing will have to • The SPGS is basically a forestry extension service: be the focus of more attention in the near future. but having well trained and motivated staff has made The project has clearly raised awareness of the great potential of commercial forestry not only as a sound • The project setting and enforced clear standards from investment but as a great tool for rural development. It has the outset, despite signifi cant pressure to relax the also left behind a permanent legacy in terms of training a new generation of foresters – and changing people’s attitudes • A number of ‘best practice’ demonstration plots from the rigid practices of the past to a more dynamic and were established in strategic areas close to some exciting environment that is forestry today. of the country’s main arterial roads in 2002/03. These created a huge interest within just a few years (a combination of Uganda’s fast growth rates with modern silvicultural practices not seen before certainly helped the cause). These plots are still It will come as no surprise to hear that the recent surge of interest in commercial tree planting in Uganda has placed a • The project used some early successful growers as severe strain on a range of support services in the sector, most role models, which not only fostered a competitive notably seed and seedling supply and the need for practical spirit but eventually created a ‘peer pressure’ research and training in commercial forestry matters. Indeed Uganda is proving to be a fascinating case study for setting • From the start, the approach of the project was not up a commercial forestry industry almost from scratch.
to reinvent the wheel by trying out and adapting For various reasons we don’t have suffi cient space appropriate practices that had been developed to discuss, the country has lost nearly all its best genetic successfully elsewhere. The TAs’ experience and the material, with virtually all trials and seed stands converted trips with growers to Southern Africa helped foster into planks. The SPGS made it clear from the start that the vast majority of local seed was not of suffi cient quality for commercial planting. On the one hand the project was fortunate that its principle species – Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis (PCH) was the focus of Garth Nikle’s and his team’s excellent breeding programme in Queensland. Thus The most frequent criticism leveled at the project has related we were able to import high quality, seed orchard PCH direct to its sustainability. Donor-funded projects invariably have from Australia (at a price of course!). On the other hand, a short lifespan - unlike timber trees (even with Uganda’s we have been unfortunate insofar as PCH is not a prolifi c growth rates). This means that many potential planters have seed producer and thus have not been able to source enough been disappointed not to get support. The SPGS however, improved seed (a private supplier from Brazil has kept us developed a momentum of its own and the results along with going). Improved E. grandis seed has also been imported the huge private sector interest, helped persuade the donors from South Africa, though this is also in very short supply. and the GoU that this project was working well and needed The nurseries in Uganda have also struggled to cope with to be supported longer. The EU’s initial funding for the two the rapid increase in demand. There are no large, modern year period (2004-06) was then extended by a further two nurseries here yet (though some of the larger companies years (2006-08) and there is now a strong likelihood of an have plans for them) and thus the highly ineffi cient poly- extension (and considerable expansion) up to 2013 – to be pot and top soil system prevails. Whilst this nursery system funded jointly by the EU and the Norwegian Government. can produce high quality, robust plants and is certainly more Another very important achievement has been to facilitate forgiving than modern nurseries, as production level soar, the formation of an independent, voluntary growers’ it requires huge quantities of soil to be moved around the organisation – the Uganda Timber Growers Association country. The project is looking into ways of encouraging (UTGA). UTGA has in a very short space of time, become private entrepreneurs to invest in improved, larger nurseries, respected by the GoU and others as representing the private which after all, have a much quicker pay-back than growing growers (they already have over 60 members signed up to date, including all the medium to large growers). UTGA will hopefully be around for a long time after the SPGS has closed.
The SPGS is aimed at helping the private sector to lead the development of a sustainable forest industry in Uganda. As a consequence of no new planting for the past 35 years The focus to date has been on producing quality sawlogs or so, there has been little commercial forestry research or and large poles, though there will inevitably be many other training going on in Uganda. This is clearly evident from the lack of many silvicultural advances considered as standard in many countries - such as ‘new’ species and clonal The staff must be equipped with necessary skills to testing, detailed site-species matching techniques, weeding confi dently and professionally give sound advice to people: research, spacing and thinning trials. The need for focused, such skills do not come overnight (or from attending a short applied research is fast becoming critical. The private sector course on plantation forestry) so time must be allowed to investors are increasingly worried about the lack of support build up the team’s skills. They need to be well motivated too. The country’s offi cial research and training institutions to achieve their tasks: in this regard, the SPGS’s trips with are now under the spotlight but are generally not used to the staff and growers to countries with a large commercial results-orientated, demand-driven environment that is now forestry sector (like South Africa and Swaziland) have paid In order to stimulate some action, the SPGS has initiated Selecting foresters based merely on their seniority from a Steering Group called COMFORT (Commercial Forestry Forest Departments or Authorities will not necessarily Research and Training). This has all the key players from the reproduce the SPGS’s results in Uganda. Experience with sector – including public institutions and private growers’ the private sector and also commercial tree plantations representatives. Through COMFORT, the private sector are essential: if there are few such skills in country, it have set out their priorities and the fi rst research projects would be wise to bring in proven private sector managers, were funded by the SPGS in 2008 – one on pests and supplemented with experienced forestry advisors for a period diseases, the other a tree growth study. Another early result to build up the skills. The SPGS’s ‘catch ’em young’ policy from COMFORT was fi nding fi eld placements for students (i.e. recruiting young forestry graduates and intensively from the local forestry college (Nyabyeya) to gain valuable training them) is highly recommended also. practical experience with private growers during their long Finally, the best Eucalyptus plantations in Uganda for vacation. Hopefully this will be the start of a major private many years were those established by non-foresters from sector-driven, research and training initiative that will the mid-1990’s onwards, in James Finlay’s tea estates in Western Uganda. The vast majority of the SPGS’s growers are not foresters either, but entrepreneurs with land, who are eager to learn how to grow trees well. Makes one think With the anticipated expansion of the SPGS it is a good time to refl ect on the fi rst phase and to plan carefully for the next phase. Likely changes could be: expanding the successful community support (hopefully in partnership with selected The SPGS management team of Allan Amumpe, Bric community-based organisations); raising standards of Milligan, Celia Nalwadda, Charles Odeke, Thaddeus growers (the current SPGS is already piloting a small Group Businge, Zainabu Kakungulu, Alex Atuyamba and Scheme application under the Forest Stewardship Council); Josephine Mbogga. Gershom Onyango (GoU); Cornelius scaling up support for commercial forestry research Kazoora (Sustainable Development Centre); EU personnel and training facilities in the country and even bioenergy – Otto Mőller, Christer Hermansson, Margaret Kasekende plantations. Further efforts will also have to be made to fi nd and Véronique Lorenzo; the initial planning team who the most appropriate ways to get the message across to the conceptualized the project: notably Pat Hardcastle (LTS country’s decision makers about the huge socio-economic International), Bill Farmer (now with Uganda Carbon potential of a sustainable forestry industry based on fast- Bureau) and Tony Finch; David Hopkins, ex-MD of Agrisystems Ltd. (now Cardno Agrisystems); Jossy Byamah (Busoga Forestry Co., a subsidiary of Green Resources ASA) and Brenda Mwebaze – just two of the early success stories of the SPGS. Jossy is also the inaugural Chairman of the Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA); Brenda With the best will in the world, having a solid (and is Secretary of the Kamusiime Association in Bushenyi - the proven) project design is only part of the battle. As with all role model community group. The tremendous support given successful organisations, the key lies in the management to the SPGS by private companies and organizations in South team. To succeed the team needs to have a results-orientated, Africa and Swaziland over the last few years is gratefully private sector approach to their business. This infers having acknowledged. And fi nally to the IFR Editor, Alan Pottinger, adequate (and timely) funds and clearly defi ned targets. The for badgering me to write my thoughts down.
reporting systems - fi nancial and physical - must also be rigid and deadlines adhered to. Any grant scheme is open to abuse, with some people willing to ‘persuade’ project staff to sign off their plantations, even though they did not make the grade. Thus checks must be built into the system – TURYAHABWE, N. and BANANA, A.Y. 2008. An for example, a self auditing system with random checks on overview of the history and development of forest policy Uganda’s Sawlog Production Grant Scheme and legislation in Uganda. International Forestry Review 10(4) 641-656.


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