Thanks for your positive comments and the experts inputs for our submission.
On your first question on potential barriers, the main one is the accessibility of seeds from public forests and private ranches. Although the forest adjacent community has unrestricted access to these resources as provided in the Forest Act, 2015 and Forest Policy 2016, the government might become interested when the revenue stream from NWFP is concretely demonstrated. If this happens, they might begin imposing tax on seeds collected and this may complicate the whole process. The project intends to try a win-win benefit sharing model, where all the major stakeholders in the forestry sector including the Kenya Forestry Services (KFS) and Community Forest Association (CFA) gain financially from seed collections according to their contributions to the sector. For example to what extent will KFS and CFA provide security for the youth collecting seeds in the forest from wild animals? What is the value of this protection and how will it be paid to these institutions.
On collecting seeds from private ranches, the project will lobby for unrestricted access as part of their corporate social responsibilities, but also with possibilities of financial gain. A plan will be worked out where the seed collectors will be protected from wild animals.
However, the long term sustainability of seed supplies is hinged on the ability of the stakeholders (HSHC, KFS, County government, NGOs, private sector) to convince the land owners to integrate the growing of economic trees on-farm in ago-forestry systems. It is noteworthy to mention that the seeding of these trees is fairly predictable and the seasons are known. The most critical factor is how much you collect in the season to cater for the market demand during the year. The biggest obstacle here is the availability of cash during the harvesting season as the industry requires on-site payment of the feed stock. This might pose a problem if the cash is not available and de-motivate collectors. A number of hypotheses will therefore be tried to test the viability of the payment system, where seed collectors will be paid a certain percentage of the value of seeds on-site while the rest is paid when the oil is sold. HSHC will also connect with a local financial provider (SACCO), to advance money as loan to pay suppliers immediately, while being provided time to sell the oil to pay back the loan.
As per the second questions, (On the question of collaboration and design with our users), the product being promoted, is known internationally yet rarely used in the local context. We intend to market the product to both markets, but vigorously target local users. To enhance early uptake of the product, we will use a number of strategies including exposing as widely as possible the initiative social impact, bringing the market to the processing site, asking market comments of the market on the brand and the packaging and doing trials of the product and recording comments. We will also request the international market on the design packaging materials (bottles and labels) and make adjustment accordingly. This will all be done mostly at early design stage, before attempt to mass market the product. However we will keep an open mind during the implementation and incorporate any idea from users that bring added value to the acceptability of the product and the business as a whole.
On the third issues you raised, it is very well known, even locally that trees nurtured through vegetative propagation, takes less time to mature than those done through seeds. Whereas sexual reproduction by seeds provides opportunity for variation and evolutionary advancement, vegetative propagation aims at the identical reproduction of plants with desirable features such as high productivity, superior quality, or high tolerance to biotic and/or abiotic stresses. An important reason for vegetative propagation is the shortening of the reproductive cycle of a tree. This is particularly important when the flowers, fruits or seeds are the desired products (Vegetative Tree Propagation in Agro-forestry Training Guidelines and References, ICRAF 2002). Trees that have been successfully propagated through cuttings by a number of institutions include Prunus Africana, Warbugia ugandensis, Figs, croton megalorcarpus
A trial carried out by HSHC in collaboration with KFS and local tree nursery owners, successfully propagated cape chestnut from well selected cuttings. The trials which involved green houses and substrate comprising rooting powder, sand and forest soil achieved 75% rooting. The problem was that only 30% of the seedlings were successfully transferred from the green houses to the nursery and the farm. Of those transferred, they took 4 years to produce seeds, while in the wild cape chestnut takes 6-8 years to mature, depending on the condition of rain and soil.