8 Ways To Make Money Growing Trees in Kenya

A man in brown jacket and blue jeans measuring height of trees

Are you wondering if and how you can make money on commercial tree farming? In this post, we will give you 8 proven methods of earning money by growing more trees on your farm as a business.

There are many benefits of growing trees to an individual and the nation. They include economic, environmental and aesthetics. You can enjoy them in short term while others can be enjoyed by your posterity.

Given that people prefer more tangible benefits, we will focus on the financial benefits you can reap for growing more trees this year. They are;

1.    Earn Carbon Credits

As a forest owner you can be paid carbon credits for its ecological value in combating climate change. A carbon credit is a defined as a tradeable asset that represents a reduction or removal of one metric ton of carbon dioxide or an equivalent of another greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

Forest trees prevent carbon emissions by storing it in their biomass, wood and vegetation, and trapping It in soil. On the other hand, forest land improves air, water and soil environment whose benefits promote rainfall and reduce global warming.

There are two types of forest carbon sequestration markets or plans for you;  

  • Voluntary emissions reduction (VER):  A carbon offset that is exchanged in the over the counter or voluntary market for credits.
  • Certified emissions reduction (CER): Emission units (or credits) created through a regulatory framework with the purpose of offsetting a project’s emissions.

Learn more Wondering if you are legible for carbon credits? Learn more of what they are and how they work

2.    Grow Biofuels

Forest can make money for you through tourism such as hiking

As the global crisis for using fossil fuel unfolds, the demand for biofuels is expected to grow exponentially. A Biofuel is a liquid or gaseous renewable fuel produced from biomass. It has two major categories: bio alcohol, and biodiesel. Unlike petroleum products and coal, these burn cleaner, and release fewer environmental pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Some of the most common energy crops sources include food crops like wheat, corn, soybean, and sugarcane. Since they are core food supplies, you grow biofuel trees to tap into this highly potential market.  The following is a list of biofuels tree species you can grow.

  • Palm trees: they are source of palm oil that can run diesel engines without any conversion. Palm oil production led to economic growth in Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • Jatropha plants: These plants thrive in lands devasted by droughts and pests. They can last for 50 years, and their bushes require little amount of water and care. India is the largest producer of the Jatropha biodiesel. Jatropha seeds has 40% oil content.
  • Emerging biofuels other alternatives that do not rely on farming land and can be established in dry areas with poor soils are;
    • Croton
    • Switch grass
    • Castor
    • Poplar trees

3.    Grow Bio fertilizers

The global food security is vulnerable to soil erosion and biodiversity loss. Biofertilizers or green manure present a solution to these challenges. Bio fertilizers are living microbes that enhance plant nutrition by mobilizing and/ or increasing nutrient availability in soils.  

You can plant green manure plants like sesbania and legumes to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the symiotic association with Rhizobiums

The other option is to compose plant wastes to make natural or organic fertilizers. In large scale, these can be utilized as a sustainable business.

4.    Sell Food & Beverages

Trees supply endless options for human feed for survival and enjoyment. They include fruits, vegetables, oils, flavoring extracts etc.  Millions of farmers around the world grow various types of trees to produce own food and market the excess. The options of trees you can grow are endless. To mention a few, consider the following,

Trees TypeExamples
FruitsMango, avocado, macadamia, citrus etc.
BeveragesCoffee, Tea, Green coconut, Moringa
SyrupsSugar maple tree, birch, cactus
AlcoholDate Palm
OilsPalm, Castor,
SpicesBay Rum, Bay Leaves, Capers, Cloves, Cinnamon, Camphor, Witch Hazel & Nutmeg.
NutsAlmonds, cashews, hazel, macadamia, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts 

5.    Sell Animal Fodder

Besides human food, plants provide animal fodder and raw materials for animal feed. You will prune the trees to feed your poultry, goats, pig and cows. Besides you can harvest the tree products like fruits and bark, store them and feed your animal during low vegetation periods. Examples of fodder trees you can grow to include.

  • Fruit & Nut trees e.g. apples, pears, walnuts, hazelnuts, chest nuts etc.
  • Mulberry
  • Oak trees
  • Willow trees
  • Poplar
  • Tagasaste/Tree Lucerne
  • Locust species ( Caron locust, Honey Locusts)

6.    Industrial Raw materials

You use products and byproducts made from trees each day. They range from houses, furniture, toothpicks, paper, dyes, textiles etc. You can grow trees expecting to sell them to factories and industries as raw materials. The factories you can target include

  • Health care and medicine
  • Biofuels (wood, charcoals, ethanol)
  • Building, construction and furniture (timber, poles)
  • Beauty and personal care (shampoo, henna, dyes, cosmetics, perfumes, soaps etc)
  • Clothing and textiles
  • Transport (Wood for making boats and docks or bamboo bicycles)
  • Leisure (Sports equipment and musical instruments such as violins)
  • Food & Beverages (wine corks & barrels, alcohol)
  • Wood pulp & paper

7.    Employment

The forest sector employs many people directly and indirectly. Philanthropists, governments and development partners can consider growing trees for job creation goals for thousands of people in your community.  Forests can absorb people for activities in

  1. Tree husbandry (pruning, tree nurseries, harvesting, thinning, etc) researchers etc.
  2. Research & Development (researchers exploring better technologies forest management and utilization
  3. Related industries (see 6 above)

8.    Agritourism

Expand your income generation from your forest by venturing into agritourism. You will offer educational and fun experiences for learners and visitors coming into your forests. Areas of domestic tourism you can consider are;

  • Teaching them about various tree species in your plantation and various insects, birds and wildlife animals making your forest their home
  • Nature trails for biking & hiking
  • Host events like music concerts, weddings etc.
  • Ziplining

The post has given you 8 incentives of planting more trees. They include earning carbon credits, producing biofertilizers and biofuels among others.  But which is the best trees to plant in your farm? This section gives you a tree selection criteria.

How to select the best trees to plant in your farm?

Though commercial trees farming can make you a lot of money, it can be very frustrating. It occurs if you plant the “wrong” trees unsuitable for your farm. The following are some factors to consider while choosing the crops to plant.

Agroecological zone: Plant trees that are suitable for your farms climatic and soil characteristics. To understand your areas zoning, consult with your local agricultural officers.

Maturity: Fast growing exotic trees will return your investment on a shorter time than the indigenous trees. You can then harvest and sell timber, wood or poles.

Value: Some trees are multipurpose, profitable or high value. You can make money from planting trees that you can sell its products and byproducts throughout their growing season. An example is the eucalyptus or blue gum trees that you can sell fencing posts after thinning, firewood from pruning and later sell mature trunks

Market: consider the existing market for the tree and its products in the area you want to invest in commercial trees.

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