What we do

what_we_do_22feb

What we do

SAA focusses on the establishment and management of fuelwood plantations, and preferentially contracts nurseries, land-clearing, establishment and protection activities to farmer partners, local communities and commercial companies. We inject over three million dollars annually into farming and rural communities through sponsoring these activities.

With its focus on the planting of trees, and a business model which results in the majority of all services being contracted, SAA organizes its activities in the following sequence:

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Land Identification

By the end of February of the year, SAA needs to have firm JV contracts with farmers for the following planting season. Offers by prospective farmers are evaluated, the land visited and checked for suitability, measured and mapped and contracts drawn up and signed.

Land Preparation and Planting

Planting sites need to be cleared of competing vegetation, ripped or pitted before planting to ensure good rooting, low mortality and rapid early growth. Trees are planted into pits on rip-lines on a 3 x 1.5m grid. The extensive planting programme and increasingly unreliable weather, demands that we plant as early as possible so that young trees have as much of their first rainy season as possible to establish and grow. Seedlings planted during the rains should easily survive, but trees planted before the onset of the season will need watering and special planting techniques to give them a chance. The current special techniques employed by SAA include gel planting and puddle planting which involves putting 5 litres of water into the hole before planting. We select from a range of Eucalyptus species, based on site and weather characteristics.

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Tractor in ripping operation
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Straight lines ripped to 50 cm
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Gel planted seedling before covering with soil

Seedling Production

In order to establish an additional 4,000 to 5,000 hectares of plantation every year, SAA needs 10-12 million seedlings for each season. Nursery production is contracted to independent nurseries including small-scale nurseries close to our planting sites. We prefer to use seedlings raised on pine-bark, vermiculite or coco-peat substrate that do not require the environmentally destructive collection of topsoil.

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Germination Stage
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Seedling Ready for Dispatch

Forest Protection

Once established, our plantations are at risk from straying cattle, various insect pests and of course from uncontrolled fires. The three most common pests that have affected forest plantations in Zimbabwe are Blue gum chalcid (Leptocybe invasa), a small wasp that causes leaf galls and stunting of trees in our plantations; Bronze bug (Thaumastocoris peregrinus), a small sap sucking insect causing defoliation; and most recently Red gum lerp psyllid (Gycaspis brimblecombei), a more serious small aphid-like pest that builds a sugary, waxy structure around itself while it attacks the leaves. Insect pests may be controlled chemically, at least on small trees, but more efficiently through natural methods. We have already released a predatory wasp, Selitrichodes neserii, that we hope will control the Blue gum chalcid and we are working with the Forestry Commission to find a lasting solution to the Red gum lerp psyllid.

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Bronze bug
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Tree defoliation by Bronze bug
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Red Gum Lerp Psyllid
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Blue Gum Chalcid
Uncontrolled fires have the potential to destroy years of work in moments. Because our plantations are small and widely distributed, conventional fire-management strategies will not work. We rely heavily on assistance from our partners and especially from local communities, whom we train and equip with fire-fighting skills and tools which they can use to protect not only our plantations but also their own assets. We also emphasise fire-awareness and hold annual awareness campaigns and during the fire season calculate and disseminate Fire Danger Ratings twice daily.
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Fire awareness raising and training of fire brigades
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Fire awareness raising and training of fire brigades