Our trees

Our trees

Local species adapted to semi-desert conditions

Better Globe Forestry Ltd (“BGF”) is a forestry company and social enterprise that uses trees as the foundation of its business. Profits are generated from trees and shared with partner farmers. The trees are grown in the arid and semi-arid areas of East Africa, where they help create the most significant social and environmental impacts. The tree species chosen are local and well-adapted to grow in arid and semi-arid lands.

Local conditions, such as the climate, help these drought-resistant trees grow fast, especially under proper care from trained technicians and knowledgeable local farmers. Some species produce annual crops just a few years after being planted. These trees, also known as cash-crop trees, generate revenue fast.

BGF mainly cultivates trees for sustainable timber. The trees generate revenue after 20 years, when they are harvested and processed into socially responsible and sustainable hardwood products. The company also plants species that protect, or interact with, other trees. This strategy contributes to the optimal development of all the trees.

BGF creates profits from the annual harvests of their cash-crop trees, and from the sale of high-qualitysustainable wood products, such as furniture made locally for export to Europe and other destinations. Being profitable is a prerequisite for the company to develop sustainable business models and social outreach programs.

Mukau – African mahogany

BGF’s main species in Kenya is a tree called Mukau in Swahili. The Latin name is Melia volkensii. Initially, it grew wild in Kenya and some of the neighboring countries. Mukau is unique because it thrives in dry semi-desert areas while providing a high-quality wood, in many ways similar to the well-known Mahogany tree. A laboratory test has shown Mukau wood to possess qualities close to that of both mahogany and teak.

Two of BGF's leaders, Jan Vandenabeele and Rino Solberg (founder) next to a 21-year-old Mukau tree. Kibwezi, Kenya 2015
Two of BGF’s leaders, Jan Vandenabeele and Rino Solberg (founder) next to a 21-year-old Mukau tree. Kibwezi, Kenya 2015

Botanically speaking, Mukau is the same species as Mahogany. It has all the commercial uses that the mahogany tree has.

To produce exclusive tropical hardwood timber, BGF is committed to managing their tree plantations in a socially responsible and sustainable manner. The hardwood produced by the company will be able to replace products made from trees that are currently harvested unsustainably from tropical forests. So, in addition to reducing poverty rates in Africa, trees from BGF could also help counter deforestation in some of our most biodiverse forests.

When control over the tree export from rainforests is improved, a tree-shortage is likely to hit the world market. Such development would provide extra space for high-quality and sustainable wood products that BGF will manufacture.

Producing quality Mukau tree seedlings has previously been very costly. As a consequence, gaining profitability in a commercial forestry operation with these trees has been demanding. BGF, however, has developed an effective method for seedling production. Both time and financial expenditures have significantly decreased. BGF can now produce healthy Mukau tree seedlings in a fast and cost-effective manner.

Moringa – a medicinal tree

The Moringa oleifera tree is the newest addition to BGF’s cash-crop trees. This species was under evaluation when BGF was incorporated in Kenya in 2004, but the timing was not right. Now that the company has expanded its area of operations to Uganda, new possibilities have emerged.

Since it is drought-resistant, the Moringa tree fits nicely into the BGF tree portfolio. Another benefit of planting the tree for contract farmers in Uganda is that the highly nutritional leaves can be harvested five times a year. Fruits and oil are other sought-after commodities that can be exploited commercially with Moringa oleifera.

Moringa is predominantly cultivated in India and is among consumers of natural health products well-known for its many potential health benefits. And with Uganda’s superior soil health and climate, BGF is in the process of launching a new and healthier version of this superfood. So be on the lookout for “Equator Moringa,” – an organic superfood for daily consumption.

Acacia Senegal – a rubber tree

Acacia Senegal was a tree variety planted by BGF to generate annual revenue. After only four years, the tree’s hardened sap, gum arabic, could be harvested. By refining the sap and then selling it, these trees could yield income for many years.

Acacia Senegal with hardened sap. Kiambere, Kenya, 2015
Acacia Senegal with hardened sap. Kiambere, Kenya, 2015

The sap, gum arabic, also known as Acacia gum, is a sought after commodity with many industrial and commercial applications. In the food industry, gum arabic shows up as E414 on food labels.

Despite its many uses, one challenge for BGF was the costly equipment needed to process gum arabic locally into a high-grade product. Without making a notable investment, securing profitability became unlikely. So to delay this decision, it was decided that Moringa would be a better alternative to ensure annual profits.

Some of BGF’s other trees

To succeed with the tree plantations, BGF always takes into account which trees thrive in a specific environment. Several tree species are available to secure optimal cultivation at any given site. While some tree species have functions such as protecting against the wind or generating a harvest for short-term revenue, most trees are grown for the properties of the timber they provide.

One of BGF's employees picks apple mangos in Kibwezi, 2015
One of BGF’s employees picks apple mangos in Kibwezi, 2015

Trees of the “apple mango” variety have also been planted for the harvesting of fruits to sell. Casuarina trees are usually grown as windshields around the plantations. And Neem trees have been planted for their properties as a potential bioinsecticide, although recent research now shows that the leaves of Mukau trees can be far more suitable for this purpose. Discovering insect repellent properties is a new and very promising potential commercial application of Melia volkensii, the main tree species planted by BGF in Kenya.

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Jonatan Westman
Gothenburg, Sweden

I visited the operations in Kenya and Uganda during a sponsor trip in the summer of 2017, and then I got to experience the huge difference made on site, with the support from us. It is heartwarming to know that I contribute to providing these opportunities to some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.


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