Abundance and potential use of grevillea robusta in the wood carving industry. a case of Embu district, Kenya
Wamboi, Jane Franciscah
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Closed canopy forests cover about 2% of Kenya's total land area (Crafter, Awimbo and Broekhoven, 1997) with an annual deforestation rate of 54km2 between 1980 and 1990, but rank high as one of the country's most important national assets. Presently, there is intense pressure on forests due to increased demand for land for alternative uses like farming and high demand for tree products in the growing economy. Today, the wood resource is in a critical state of overexploitation, particularly with respect to targeted tree species in the wood carving industry (Choge, 2000). This study was carried out between September, 2000 and January 2002 to determine the abundance and potential use of Grevillea robusta in the wood carving industry. The main aim of the study was to investigate the potential contribution of Grevillea robusta towards alleviating the pressure on indigenous species in the wood carving industry. The specific objectives were to determine the volume, density and distribution of G. robusta in Embu district; to find out current and potential uses of G. robusta by farmers in Embu and to determine customer and consumer preference of wood used in carvings and the volume of G. robusta required by the carvers annually. Seven Agroecological zones (AEZ): Upper Midland 1 (UM1), Upper Midland 2 (UM2), Upper Midland 3 (UM3), Upper Midland 4 (UM4), Lower Highlands (LH), Lower Midland (LM3), Lower Midland 4 (LM4) of Embu District, where, both indigenous and exotic tree species are grown were used for this study. Both primary and secondary sources of data were used. A sample of two hundred and ten households in seven agroecological zones was drawn using random sampling technique. Data was collected by means of questionnaires, checklists and observation schedules. Tree heights and diameters were taken using a suunto hypsometer and a diameter tape respectively. Data was analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Carvers and traders in the wood carving industry were also interviewed using checklists. The results show that the highest number of Grevillea trees are found in UM3 this being 22% of the total number of Grevillea in the seven agroecological zones. The results further indicated that the forest department nurseries supplied the respondents with 24.3% of Grevillea seedlings. It was further found that 19% of farmers are not willing to sell their trees since they are used for soil conservation and household needs such as firewood, timber, construction and fodder. The farmers also have alternative sources of income such as the livestock. The study findings revealed a problem of lack of awareness of the option of using Grevillea robusta as a wood carving species among most farmers and carvers. The rate of cutting of the trees per month varied among the respondents. Those who cut between 1-5 trees were 67%. This may have been as a result the ban on logging in the national forests and therefore middlemen were buying Grevillea for the timber industry. It is clear from the study that Grevillea has a medium potential as an alternative wood carving species and that carving of Grevillea wood is currently minimal. From the study not even one trader sold carvings made from this tree species. The study recommends moving the carving sites close to the farmers as this may encourage carvers to use Grevillea and also reduce on the transportation cost of the logs. This may be applicable when the carvers have a specific order on carvings made from Grevillae. There is need to create awareness among buyers on the need to buy carvings made from 'good wood' species such as Grevillea so as to conserve forests for the sake of biodiversity for future generations. Such interventions will enable the government to develop workable farm forestry policies and hence achieve the goal of protecting and conserving the natural indigenous hard woods.