By TIWONGE NG'ONA, Daily Times - Malawi, March1, 2012
The Forestry Research Institution of Malawi (FRIM) has embarked on a tree improvement project aimed at breeding trees to achieve good production, high quality and come up with species that can adapt to climate change.
The project was halted sometime back due to lack of financial support but it has been revived in the past ten months following rising needs for improved species to cope with climate change among others.
On the sidelines of a tree planting exercise last weekend where Association for Environmental Journalists in Malawi (AEJ) partnered with Frim, Principal Forestry Research Officer Tembo Chanyenga explained that Malawi is among countries which are very behind in terms of tree improvement.
He observed that countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe are in their third generation of this breeding exercise with one generation being achieved after over 17 years.
He said tree breeding allows trees to grow very big in width and tall in length, mature faster, be of high quality and be resistant to pests which are common due to climate change.
"As a country we are in our first generation and currently our trees are not fetching much on the market. In South Africa improved pine seedlings per kg cost about K60,000 while here we are selling them at K 3,000 per kg," he said.
Chanyenga added that they are improving mostly pine and blue gum trees and that they are using species like pinus Elliot and mondi top from Zimbabwe and South Africa respectively to crossbreed through grafting.
He said apart from grafting, the institute is also involved in seed selection where seed collection is only done from trees which look to be growing very well.
"After selecting seeds, we plant them and as they grow we also select the best from the group to ensure that we come up with very high quality trees which are then supplied," he said.
Frim deputy director Clement Chilima said apart from tree improvement they are also involved in REDD+ and seed supply projects.
Frim main centres are in Zomba, Dedza and Chikangawa.