Conservation and management of sandalwood trees: (osyris lanceolata hochst & steudel,) in Chyullu hills Kibwezi district, Kenya
Ochanda, Khasenye Valentine
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Sandalwood trees are valuable because of their highly priced aromatic oil and durable wood. Sandalwood can be found in Africa, Asia, Europe and Central America. As a result of over-exploitation, Sandalwood is now an endangered species with countries banning its trade. This study sought to establish whether there were any efforts to conserve sandalwood within the Chyulu hills in Kibwezi division. It also sought to study sandalwood morphology, growth, development and distribution within the division as well as the propagation methods adopted by the locals in an effort to come up with better management of sandalwood trees, including domestication. Other objectives were to assess local and international utilization of Osyris and how the market forces of the demand and supply of its products was driving its harvesting. The study also sought to find out the role of policy and legal framework in the conservation of sandalwood within Chyullu Hills. Data were collected through questionnaires and field surveys in individual farms and within Chyullu hills where quadrants were laid to establish the density of sandalwood in the area. The measures of central tendency were used to present the results. The study found that although the tree is dioecious and it produces seed three times a year, the community members have been trying to propagate it using the seeds, and the main challenge was low survival rate as most of the seedlings died in the nursery and after transplanting. A large population of the residents (64%) of Chyulu hills used sandalwood for commercial purposes; and 21.2% use the tree for medicinal purposes for the treatment both for animals and human beings such treatment of snake bites. The study also established that internationally, the tree is mainly used in the perfume industry as a fixative since the oil produced from the tree is an essential oil. Due to illegal harvesting, most of the mature trees have been removed but young trees are now sprouting from the stumps. The study found out that sandalwood was available in Kibwezi although scattered in smaller portions and under threat from wood collectors, loggers and poachers, due to the ready market in Tanzania. There is underground harvesting, which are being driven by exports for the production of sandalwood oil. The study also established that in harvesting, the entire tree was uprooted, as the roots were the main targets. In Kenya for instance, trade in sandalwood is now illegal following a Presidential ban in February 2007.1t is imperative however, that the domestication of the economically viable species through community sensitization be the long-term solution, vegetative propagation can also be seen as an option since the tree is semi parasitic and may require a nurse plant for it to survive, to enable better management of the tree at the same time enabling households generate income from the sale of sandalwood products.
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