NaFORRI in collaboration with Gatsby Africa and Geospatial Forestry Platform have developed the Uganda Site Species Matching Tool (SSMT). The tool will assist tree growers in selecting the most suitable commercial species for various sites. The tool was developed by matching species requirements to the growing conditions of different locations in Uganda.
Although several initiatives have supported the rapid expansion of commercial forest plantations in Uganda, little has been done in some parts of the country, such as the dryland areas. This has partly been attributed to insufficient information about suitable commercial plantation tree species for these areas. Even in high-potential areas, farmers suffer losses from planting tree species in the wrong sites. These may include low growth rates, pests and diseases, affecting productivity and profitability. The new tool will be key in addressing these challenges.
While launching the tool on 4th April 2023 at Hotel Africana, Alfred Okot Okidi-the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water and Environment highlighted the importance of the SSMT in plantation development in the country. He emphasized that the tool will reduce commercial plantation losses associated with poor site-species matching and inform plans for the expansion of commercial forestry into previously un-exploited areas.
Similarly, Dr. Hillary Agaba-the Director of Research NaFORRI appreciated the role of the partnerss in the development of this tool and its potential to increase the profitability of commercial forestry in the country.
The launch was also witnessed by other stakeholders in the forestry sector, including; Business Development Swift Geospatial Solutions, Gatsby Africa, Swift Geospatial Solutions, researchers, academicians and tree farmers.
During its development, NaFORRI collected and analyzed tree inventory data for testing the SSMT prototype from the Geospatial Forestry Platform. The team collected data on species occurrence, health, growth performance and soil conditions from plantations in different parts of the country. The data was used to conduct species suitability assessments and compare them with the species suitability maps developed by Geospatial Forestry Ltd.
The tool can be accessed through www.forestryplatform.com but also as a free mobile application from Google Play Store and the Apple Store called the SSMT Geolocator. This interactive mobile application gives the user access to a subset of the SSMT data in their area of interest and areas near them. The application allows the user to gather information about the suitability of growing certain commercial species in a specific area. The suitability of growing a chosen species is categorized into Very Suitable, Moderately Suitable and Marginally Suitable. Very suitable and moderately suitable are the most recommended in a site. In contrast, marginally suitable is only recommended where no other options exist or when production goals are less important as a site objective.
The paid version of the SSMT Module is available for users as a subscription via the Geospatial Forestry Platform (GFP). This module gives users access to a wider range of species, and can provide customized details on their specific forestry planted areas and Climate Change Suitability analysis.