An assessment of Jacaranda mimosifolia as an alternative wood carving tree species: the case of Machakos and Nairobi, Kenya
Mwenda, Nduta Angelina
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The Kenyan wood carving industry is highly dependent on indigenous tree species for its survival. However, continued harvesting of these species is threatening natural forests, as the estimated rates of harvesting are much higher than the regeneration rate of these relatively slow-growing indigenous species. This calls for a shift in focus from such tree species to others that would achieve the dual purpose of sustaining the industry and conserving the environment. This study was conducted in Machakos District and Nairobi Province. It aimed to assess the possible contribution of Jacaranda mimosifolia in the wood carving industry, as an alternative resource to more commonly utilized indigenous tree species. This was carried out by estimating and comparing standing volumes of J. mimosifolia in Machakos and Nairobi; investigating the extent of its utilization as well as present owners willingness to sell to the wood carving industry; investigating evidence of its being re-planted; and suggesting measures towards saving Kenya's indigenous tree species while sustaining the wood carving industry. Stratified random sampling was used in sample selection, while socio-economic as well as inventory methods were used in data collection. The study findings indicated that there was no significant difference in standing volumes of J. mimosifolia between Nairobi and Machakos. The study also revealed that uses of J. mimosifolia by owners in Machakos were based mainly on shade functions, and in Nairobi aesthetic purposes. Concerning sale of J. mimosifolia to the wood carving industry, the study indicated that a majority of private plot owners in Machakos (70%) were willing to sell to the wood carving industry. On the other hand, a majority of institutions (75.9%) and private plot owners (41.9%) in Nairobi were not willing to sell J. mimosifolia to the wood carving industry. No private plot owner in Machakos was seen to have re-planted J. mimosifolia after felling. Standing volumes of J. mimosifolia estimated in this study are relatively low, considering current estimated consumption rates in the wood carving industry - average 208 m3 per annum countrywide (Choge, 2000). Planting of J. mimosifolia should therefore be encouraged if its populations are to sustain the needs of the wood carving industry, thereby preventing further depletion of Kenya's indigenous forests. The findings suggest that tree nursery personnel be trained in seed collection, preservation, sowing methods, and tree management practices, as well as encouraging wood carvers to plant J. mimosifolia. Further, strategies should be put into place where plot owners willing to sell their J. mimosifolia to the wood carving industry can come together with wood carvers to promote its utilization and re-planting. Finally, Government policies that encourage planting and utilization of J. mimosifolia alongside regulated utilization of indigenous tree species should also be formulated. Finally, J. mimosifolia is seen to be a potentially important wood carving raw material, especially that from Machakos. Its adoption will save the indigenous tree species currently in danger of extinction.