The many benefits of tree nurseries
- Category: Jese News
- Date: 21-11-2022
The Mpanga gorge is located right at the north-eastern tip of Queen Elizabeth National park, allowing the river Mpanga to empty into Lake George.
Join For Water and JESE – Joint Effort to save the Environment – have been working in the area since November 2014 and have already achieved some success through the installation of a water RAM pump and cattle trough, tree seedling nurseries and carrying out public education on the need to restore the degraded ecosystem and protection of the Mpanga Cycad. The noticeable improvements are in the reduced destruction of the landscape as farmers participate in the conservation more than they used before.
The distribution of indigenous trees, fruit trees, the replanting of over 20,000 Cycad seedlings and installation of demarcation pillars have helped to raise the plant profile as well as stabilize the steep slopes and the river bank.
Mpanga gorge is the home of the last remaining population of the critically endangered Mpanga Falls Cycad, Encephalartos whitelockii. Cycads being gymnosperms represent one of the earliest forms of plant life on Earth and have existed for over 340 million years. However, there are currently only 344 species of cycad left in the world and nearly all of them are facing extinction due to loss of habitat and poaching. Furthermore, the Mpanga Falls Cycad’s status changed from endangered to critically endangered in the last 10 years.
Seedlings are the foundation for many earthly ecosystems and are a critical consideration and investment for implementing global forest and landscape restoration programs. Join For Water in partnership with JESE have pledged to restore degraded sites in Mpanga gorge during the next 5 years (up to 2027), necessitating many millions of established plants. Although natural regeneration and direct seeding will likely meet a portion of that need, large quantities of high-quality, nursery-grown seedlings are also required. Join For Water and JESE have already established Nursery beds in Mpanga catchment to produce high-quality plants to meet the desired program goal.
The role of the nurseries
The misconception that growing plants is easy is widespread. In reality, however, plant production requires specialized knowledge and attention to many important factors to be able to deliver adequate quantities of high-quality plants from appropriate genetic seed sources, in this case the scientifically managed nurseries where high quality seedlings are obtained.
When propagating quality seedlings, nursery attendants must be knowledgeable in the bodily part functions, size, shape and structure of plants, phenology, genetics, and ecotype of each species through its nursery stages of germination, active growth, and hardening. Based on those characteristics, they can choose to propagate from seeds or from vegetative material and apply specific culturing techniques (e.g. irrigation, fertilization, pest management, etc.) accordingly to achieve target specifications based on conditions at the out planting (transplanting) site. This is exactly the professional input into the established nurseries in the Mpanga Gorge with most of this professional assistance provided by Tusiime Lawrence, the JESE Forester who works and guides all the nursery attendants on the important techniques to produce healthy plant seedlings.
These plant nurseries provide extension services to educate landowners and nursery attendants on selecting appropriate species and provenances, establishing target plant characteristics, ensuring genetic diversity, maintaining seedling quality, and using proper planting techniques to optimize long-term out planting success in the landscape.
Notably and very important, such a professional input in community nurseries inadvertently turn around the livelihood tides for prosperous livelihoods of local farmers that actively participate in the activities of the plant nurseries. The nurseries offer significant employment prospects of the actors involved.
Original text: Lawrence Tusiime, Christopher Busiinge, JESE staff members