Tree nurseries increase availability of quality seedlings
In growing numbers, smallholders in Gorontalo, Indonesia manage tree nurseries as an alternative income source. The World Agroforestry Centre through the AgFor Sulawesi project is sharing new knowledge and experience for the benefit of farmers.
Tree nurseries are a new type of enterprise for farmers in Gorontalo Province on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. In the past, when a farmer needed agricultural seeds or tree seedlings, there were two options: first, wait for the government to distribute some or; second, buy them. For many farmers, this wasn’t a problem until the need arose for seeds or seedlings of specific species and consistently high quality.
Distribution of germplasm (that is, seeds and seedlings) by the government isn’t conducted regularly; it is completely dependent on the provincial budget and workplan, which have their own cycles. Typically, the germplasm distributed was of one type only: maize seed. Only occasionally were other species distributed, depending on the recommendations of expert advisory staff and the particular type of landscape.
Farmers bought germplasm from growers in distant Buol, Palu or Manado. Even though this required more effort, the prices were lower than buying in Gorontalo.
‘From the time I moved here in 2011, I noticed that seedling availability was low’, said Mrs Suhartini, a tree-seedling producer in Gorontalo. ‘Now I produce around 200,000 seedlings annually but even with that high production number I still can’t fulfil demand’.
A lack of human resources and fluctuating prices are two important influencing factors, along with a lack of networking and access between producers and farmers.
Given these circumstances, the Agroforestry and Forestry in Sulawesi (AgFor) project, which is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Canada and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, is providing support to farmers through training and sharing knowledge about tree nurseries and marketing.
Gorontalo is the most recent province to join the AgFor project (in 2014) and the provincial project team has a large number of farmers to directly assist: 489 in 22 groups in 11 villages.
‘Originally, setting up tree nurseries was intended to help our farmers’ groups produce the seedlings they needed for planting in their own plots’, said Awaluddin, the marketing facilitator for AgFor in Gorontalo. ‘We provide assistance with tree seeds and equipment by request. Clove, durian, cocoa, nutmeg, pepper, coffee and jackfruit are some of the key species that farmers want to plant. Considering the number of farmers’ groups, we are trying to make this knowledge more valuable through continuous seedling production and sale to whoever wants to buy’.
A series of activities have been conducted by the AgFor team, including 14 training sessions about forest and agroforest management, 76 nursery management sessions, and three propagation workshops.
‘I am very pleased with the AgFor-assisted farmers’, said Mrs Suhartini.‘They are a great help when I can’t meet market demand for tree seedlings. This has brought benefits both for me and them: I know who to contact to get extra seedlings and they can generate additional revenue by selling their seedlings to me’.
This change is an achievement for Gorontalo but, even so, a further increase in quality-seedling production is needed. Government Law No. 12/1992 on plant cultivation systems says that only certified seedlings that have met the specified quality standards of the government can be sold. Certified seedlings require labelling for official circulation in any market. The regulation aims to provide a guarantee and protection for the supply of healthy seedlings. In addition, it intends to limit the possible spread of pests or plant diseases.
AgFor will continue to provide technical assistance to farmers with the expectation that they will be able to produce and sell high-quality tree seedlings independently. AgFor will also continue to encourage farmers to share their new knowledge with each other so that their food supply and incomes can be more secure thanks to a steady supply of quality tree seedlings from farmer-managed nurseries.
This work is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry