Forest cover in east Africa is declining rapidly due to lack of tree breeders and seed technologists, a scientist said on Thursday.
Heriel Msanga, lecturer and head of department of nature conservation and eco-tourism at Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University in Tanzania, said that apart from Kenya that has eight tree breeders, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi do not have qualified breeders.
“There is need to award scholarships to at least two tree breeders with Philosophy Degree (PhD) in each country to help tree improvement programs in the region,” Msanga told delegates attending a regional workshop on sharing of information, knowledge and experiences in African forestry.
Msanga said that the state of tree breeding is getting worse in the region as people who are currently selling seedlings simply collect seeds from the old trees.
He decried lack of seed orchards in the region with exception of Kenya whose seed orchard produces 5 percent of improved orchards in the region.
Besides offering scholarships to upcoming scientists, Msanga suggested that countries embark on short courses on tree breeding and seed handling for technical staff.
Msanga noted that the region is characterized by high rates of deforestation which are not matched with tree planting, hence there is a net decline in availability of forest products including timber.
Msanga observed that the only solution to the problem is for the regional governments to establish standard tree breeding grounds for quality seeds equipped with trained personnel to solve the regional demand.
He hailed the introduction of biotechnology production of planting materials in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda to support clonal forestry as a decision that could help improve seed availability in the region.
“When genetically modified superior imported seeds were used trees with better quality phenotypes were produced as evidenced in the young plantations,” he said.
The scientist, however, noted that the region shares a number of common seed species that should be exchanged for research and commercial trade.
According to the scientist, Tanzania demands 40 tonnes of seeds, but has a supply of 13 tonnes, Kenya demands 30 tonnes, but has a supply of 8 tonnes while Uganda demands 30 tonnes and has a supply of 16 tonnes. Enditem