Landscape restorationin Corona times: movingforward with tree growing

Paul Burgers / 5 min read / update

Our restoration activities in West Sumatra are also challenged by the Corona lock-down. However, our field staff has found great solutions to overcome this period, avoiding a delay in restoration activities.

Our restoration activities in West Sumatra are also challenged by the Corona lock-down. However, our field staff has found great solutions to overcome this period, avoiding a delay in restoration activities.

In our new restoration site, where we will intercrop cinnamon trees with coffee trees and fruit- and timber trees on 75 ha, a large village nursery has been established. Coffee seeds have already been planted in the nursery, but there is a huge shortage of cinnamon seeds and seedlings, because of the high demand. With traveling being severely limited, it is hard to look for cinnamon seeds or seedlings. That is why we discussed how we could overcome this situation without causing potential delays in restoration work.

Having worked for more than 4 years in the past with small scale farmers growing cinnamon trees, we know that these small scale farmers never buy seeds or seedlings. Seeds from cinnamon trees spread easily and many seedlings can be found in and around land where cinnamon trees grow. Seedlings have always been collected for free from farmers cinnamon tree plantations, or even along the roads, where seeds dropped by birds or by wind. In order to avoid competition later on, farmers would always uproot the naturally growing seedlings in the cinnamon tree plantation.

"The response has been amazing. In one week our nursery has received over 60% of our demand, or almost 20,000 seedlings."

Here is where our rooting in the local context proofs to be another crucial component. Discussing this issue of free seedlings from the land and the uprooting of them, our staff decided to spread around the news that our program is in search of a large volume of cinnamon seedlings. This was done by asking farmers visiting the coffee processing unit from our partner in the field, and using handphones to call the village head of nearby villages where we know there are many small scale farmers managing their own 2-3 ha cinnamon plantations.

As one of our staff graduated from plant epidemiology at Andalas University, various selection criteria on what seedlings should be collected were included in the request for seedlings. In addition, we would pay the farmers Rp 500 per seedling with the right criteria, when delivered at the village nursery or the coffee processing unit.

The response has been amazing. In one week our nursery has received over 60% of our demand, or almost 20,000 seedlings. The remaining seedlings (around 18,000) will be fulfilled in the coming days/week by various small scale cinnamon tree growing farmers in the region. Our staff already received phone calls from farmers saying they are collecting the right seedlings for us, and will bring it next week.

This has proven quite an inclusive activity. Farmers not involved in the program have benefitted from our presence by selling the seedlings, while the women in the village where we are active also receive daily wages for transplanting all seedlings into polybags. Planting seedlings, as it is for rice plants, is by tradition a female activity. The hands of a female for handling young seedlings are seen as good fortune for the small seedlings to grow well.

Although it may seem small, in a time where corona has reduced income opportunities to almost zero, this has been a very positive contribution to a substantial amount of male and female farmers. Some said that these opportunities has given them the possibility to buy needed additional food items for some weeks.