Mahogany, Swietenia macrophylla, is an important emergent tree of the rainforest that is now almost extinct outside protected areas due to overexploitation for timber. In 2004, Taricaya started a study to develop a new strategy for commercial plantations under the Agroforestry system.
The project was developed from the beginning with the planting of seeds carefully managed to seedlings in the Nursery. Once big enough small trees were planted to the Pilot Farm in lines between the tropical flowers and other crops and at high density for the trees to compete for light and grow faster.
At 5 years, some trees we cut to give the others more space. A sample of the wood was tested and results were encouraging, the young wood has the same properties as that of an adult tree. This is the key to the success of the project because it opens the opportunity of harvesting wood at early stages. We created the Mahogany workshop with lathes and other tools to produce bits of furniture, lamp stands etc. with the wood of young trees.
In 2011, a forestry evaluation was done to determine the wood production and profitability of the plantation. Results proved that it is a financially viable option for farmers who can make money from reforestation at short-term whilst waiting for the big pay out of fully grown mahogany trees.
Now, we have proven that high density plantations are possible and the Mahogany plantation is under constant evaluation to improve awareness of our work by producing high quality products and soon the plantation will start to produce their own priceless seeds as an additional income increasing the value of the project.
- Innovate with new or not typical techniques to prove that commercial plantations of high-quality timber are not only possible, but profitable, to reduce the pressure on the forest.
- Recover the soil and reforest abandoned farm plots for rainforest conservation
- Educate and create project awareness to convince more people to replicate this project, either independently or with our help to expand our area of influence.
- Explore the use of other tree species not commonly used as wood products to reduce pressure on overharvested species for commercial timber.
As a volunteer your weekly activities involve helping the staff in charge of the project in the following:
- Wood harvest: Cut down the Mahogany trees and chop them into logs to take to the workshop. Peel the bark from the logs.
- Plantation evaluation and maintenance: Measured growth rates by taking data such as tree diameter at 1m above the ground, tree height and evidence of attack from insects, prune and thin the trees to improve their growth.
- Mahogany workshop: Learn how to use the lathe and tools to make the wood products for sale and make one for you to take home.
- Dye production: Make a natural dye from the bark of the trees.
- Tree search: Explore the forest looking for fallen trees to take their wood and use it at the workshop to test their quality.
- Our Mahogany plantation is the first of its kind as an out of the ordinary way to plant the trees that are harvested at just 7 years to get a good quality wood for sale.
- For the first years we had to combat a moth, Hypsipyla grandella, parasite of trees of the Meliaceae family, especially Mahogany species. The moth lays its eggs on the young trees and the larva hatch and attack the tree causing the trunks to distort.
- We had to fumigate the trees to avoid the damage until the forks passed the 3m height, after which the moth did not attack anymore.
- One difference from young trees is the lack of red coloration characteristic of mature mahogany.
- The native women of the Ese-Eja tribe showed us the process of making natural dye from the bark, which involves slow-boiling the bark of the trees in water and after three or four hours the essence is reduced to get a red dye.
- Farmers have never wanted to reforest land as the wait for productivity is too long so our project is a financially viable option to people needing to make money from their farms.