Food Forest Program: Carbon Offsetting with an Impact
2 February 2021
by paul
Learning from nature: the successful germination of indigenous timber species surian

The local timber tree from the rainforest, called surian (Toona sureni (Blume) Merr.), is a very popular timber to be used for construction purposes (housing, bridges etc). Selling the timber also provides a good income. In order to have enough supply from their own farm (and therefore no need to go into the forest anymore to cut the tree), all farmers like to have a number of surian trees in their carbon sequestration plots. It is a win-win situation. Besides timber, the tree sequesters relatively large amounts of carbon. In the beginning, in 2010, The tiny seeds from the pods were put directly in polybags, so that they could germinate in the nursery. Germination showed little success. The farmers thought this was stange, as in the surroundig forest germination was high, seeing the many seedlings around the trees in the natural environment.
They judged that taking out the seed from the seed pods may not be the right thing to do. They came up with a very ingenious idea of imitating the natural process of seed dispersal. They hung clusters of seedpods over pieces of wood above the ground, while loosening the soil below. When the pods would open after drying, the seeds would fall onto the loosened soil. It had two advantages, it would allow for easy establishment of the tiny seed, while it would also provide some shelter against the wind, which might otherwise blow away the seeds.
This turned out be very successful. HAving the seeds germinate through natural processes also showed that only the best seeds would germinate (survival of the fittest), providing a natural selection of the best quality seeds. After the seeds germinated and reached about 10-15 cm, the seedlings can be transplanted into the polybags in the nursery (see pictures). At around 70 cm of height, the seedlings will be distributed among the farmers and transplanted into the restoration sites, where they grow into healthy timber trees. This farmer-induced innovation has shown a almost 100% survival-rate of surain trees in the field. This farmer-induced innovation has turned into a standard practice for raising surian seedlings ever since. This rainy season again, part of the nursery is reserved for the surian seeds to germinate through a natural process.

We believe that these innovative developments, using local knowledge occur when farmers are given a high sense of ownership of the restoration activities, by creating a co-learning environment. the Department of Forestry is also considering this kind of seed germination for surian trees in their own nursery, after seeing the huge success we have with this kind of farmer-induced innovation. This can be done by involving them and respecting their ideas and knowledge from the beginning. Our farmer-based approach to restore ecosystems is an integral part of all our activities.