Chikweti Forests taking off in Mozambique
Chikweti forests is funded by the Global Solidarity Forest Fund (GSFF), a Swedish based investment fund focused on the forestry sector in Mozambique and was founded in 2006.
by James Luckhoff, Forestry Manager, Chikweti Forests
|Research manager Dr John Mudekwe with 13-month-old Euc. grandis. Average height of stand 4,4 m. Biggest trees 6,5 metres in height.||Chikweti Forests is situated on the Lichinga plateau in Northern Mozambique.|
Chikweti manages ±19,000 ha of plantation, both pine and eucalyptus, which is currently being re-evaluated for stocking and quality. Operations are situated on the Lichinga plateau at an altitude of 1 300m with an average rainfall of 1 100 mm per year. The temperature is moderate to cool with the rain season beginning from December to the end of March.
Future development will be to extend the planted area of the company to 100 000 ha over the next 10 years, planting mostly eucalyptus species for fibre production on an eight-to-ten-year rotation.
Only open and degraded land is utilised for commercial forestry. No converting of pristine indigenous forestry is done. The workforce comprises 1 200 local people and 19 expatriates from South Africa, Portugal, Zimbabwe, Sweden and Guatemala. A well-equipped workshop ensures that vehicles are maintained in-house.
The company operates a container nursery with a capacity to produce 10 million plants per year. Seedlings from seed are produced for own use as well as sale to other forestry companies in the area. This year, a total of 6 million seedlings were produced in the nursery. Growing medium is coco peat, which is produced locally in Mozambique. The nursery is in the process of converting to a bio-degradable paper pot system over the next two years to ensure that better quality plants are produced for the harsh planting conditions.
Species currently produced are P. maximinoi, P. tecunumanii, E. grandis, E. urograndis and E. dunnii. Being a member of Camcore, the company is testing various new species for future production. Clonal forestry will be the next major step of development in the future as soon as suitable genetic material has been selected from field trials.
The company is following an intensive land preparation programme where soils are ripped and ridged to an effective depth of 60cm by bulldozer. The rip lines are spaced 3,5m apart and are ploughed just before planting to ensure a well-cultivated area for root development and to break the clods that were created by the bulldozers. Deep ripping is critical to ensure good root development in the deep red soils.
Detailed studies have been done by Keith Snyman and Associates on the soils of the plateau and they have recommended deep ripping to improve root development. The high clay content (up to 50%) in the soil, which dries out during the long winter months, has resulted in a very structured top soil. This top soil has to be shattered to ensure adequate root development. This high clay content is also the main reason why growth is sustained throughout the year as the soil releases moisture during the winter. Rippers behind Komatsu 85 dozers have been fitted with a duck's foot to ensure maximum soil shattering in which the roots can develop.
Soil and leaf analyses have been carried out to determine what fertiliser mix is needed. Current fertiliser used is a NPK mixture with high P component and various micro-nutrients at the rate of 150gms per tree for eucalyptus. The first plantings done with the intensive land preparation have reached a height of 4,4m at age 13 months with an expected MAI in excess of 25m2 per year. Research is being done on various fertiliser mixes and application rates. This includes applying a second fertilisation at age 12 months as well as the use of controlled release fertilisers.
Intensive weed control ensures free growing trees which are critical for good growth, especially due to the rapid and aggressive growth of the vegetation in the Mozambique climate. Grass is the main species to be controlled with some indigenous broadleaves. Chemical spraying with mainly glyphosate is done mechanically by tractor and wind box or manually. The Nomix system of weed control where the herbicide is mixed with oil and applied by special applicator is currently being used successfully by Nomix Agriculture Mozambique. Chemical weed control is combined with manual and mechanical slashing by agriculture tractors.
Planning of the new plantings have received a lot of attention. Ripping is done on the contour to minimise soil erosion. Roads are placed around all compartments as far as possible to ensure adequate access for fire protection. Good access during the fire season is essential, especially in a country that is dominated by a slash and burn culture during the winter months.
A MicroForest planning system has been implemented to manage the growing stock. The company is busy with a detailed inventory survey of all growing stock to evaluate the biological asset and update all maps. A fully functional GIS system is implemented with all the necessary plotters and high quality GPS to back the system.
In future, the success of this project will be measured against the growth of the trees in the field. Management is confident that the first steps to success have been taken by implementing good land preparation and weed control.
|Sorting plants in the nursery before being transported to the field.|
|Komatso 85 buldozer with ripper and ridger to close the rip lines in one pass. The ducks foot on ripper is 250mm wide and 350mm long with an angle of 22 degrees for maximum shattering of soil profile.|
|Two-way disc harrow for use on rip lines to ensure a good planting environment for young Euc seedlings.|
|Root development in the rip line of Euc. grandis after seven months showing well developed tap root.|
Published in Feb 2013