“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit Flies like a banana.”
If you don’t know who Groucho Marx is look him up. It will definitely improve your quality of life. He was right on both counts as our plantation of seedlings is becoming a veritable forest In just 7 months!! Now, with the awkward and suspect logic of that analogy in mind I am pleased to announce that the future of 50,000 trees of the heartiest, fastest growing hard wood in the world is all-but assured. Acts of god not-withstanding. So please enjoy this video report.
In this presentation Aaron highlights:
• the role of weeds in the health of the soil
• the results produced by our hard-working community farmers.
• how the trees grow and create health and wealth for the community
• the variety of available markets for the fruits of this plantation
We will soon be making announcements about our next plantation of Lira and plans for more tree species for the future. Until then thank you for spreading the word about Ventree to your friends and family and any thoughts or ideas you’d like to share please email me at KimElton@mac.com
This post is short on text and long on video and pictures. So, I’ll just give you a quick intro and update and let you peruse these photos to get an idea of what’s going on. If you have any questions or big ideas you’d like to share please feel free to connect with me by email any time KimElton@mac.com 🙂
The video below is about the status of our first plantation of Lira Trees. We are finally getting the full 50,000 trees in the ground now — having been hampered by drought — Arron brings the story up to date with a view toward the future.
Priceless Farms is growing and expanding. In addition to planting trees for Ventree the farm will soon be installing processing facilities on the farm to produce high-quality Moringa Powder for local and international markets. They have recently planted 40 more acres of Moringa trees which will be ready for first harvesting about the time the these facilities will ready to put into operation. Ventree will also be participating in this Moringa plantation as well and we will be announcing more about that soon.
Priceless is also partnering with a large Agro-Foresty company out of South Africa called AgriLiving to expand it’s properties in Uganda. Agri-living’s owners are experts in installing large irrigation facilities and with Priceless farms close proximity to Lake Kyoga, as part of the partnership Agri-living will install irrigation throughout Priceless Farms’ lands which will all but mitigate the deleterious effects of drought and increase harvesting seasons.OUR FAMILY FARMERS WEEDING AND CARING FOR THE PLANTATION
(Left) IT WAS JUST 6 MONTHS AGO THAT WE PLANTED THESE SEEDLINGS
(Right) ABOUT SIX MONTHS LATER
My granddaughter sampling Mango from the farm. More exciting news coming soon.
In this final report of the year (2018) it’s time to take stock and look forward, and, to thank those who have helped us launch this venture. So first, a huge,
…to our first group of tree buyers for helping us get our first plantation of 50,000 trees funded and planted; a project not without challenges due to unpredictable weather events that are now becoming the norm due to climate change.
As you know Ventree is in the business of funding tree plantations but there is a broader story behind our mandate that makes what we are doing possible. And it is this:
We are part of a growing network of professionals and companies that have the same business and operational ethics that are essential to our success, providing the resources, expertise, connections and assets we need to succeed and that is the focus of this report.
We have a number of partners and relationships in our orbit in East Africa that we work closely with, and we in turn are valued by them for the service we provide. These symbiotic relationships are critical to our vision of rapidly expanding operations throughout East Africa and ultimately impact the entire planet to mitigate the effects of climate change and help guide humanity through what is shaping up to be the greatest challenge to the survival of our species.
As I write this I realize how grandios and seemingliy pretentious these claims are, and begs the question; is this a practical business plan? Planting trees, educating local populations on how to better usetheir natural resources and build a better life for their families is luadible, but how does this translate into transforming the ecosystems of the entire planet? All I can say is; everything has a beginning, and the source is always from a very small idea that has the potential for enormous change. There is no better metaphor than the tiny seedling that grows into an enromous tree that lives for hundreds of years and propogates in that time over vast areas of land to support myriads of eco-systems and sustains a multitude of wildlife and millions of people.
Our beginning is a plantation of 50,000 Lyra seedlings.
And we are not alone in this journey.
When the subject of Africa comes up in business discussions we often get stuck on the challenges, the difficulties and the plight of many of the people. But the reality is, that there is tremendous growth and opportunity, and, the economy is growing steadily and rapidly.
A few quick facts:
WIKIPEDIA: The economy of Uganda has great potential, and it appeared poised for rapid economic growth and development. … The economy grew since the 1990s. Real gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an average of 6.7% annually during the period 1990–2015.
Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, deposits of copper, gold, and other minerals, and recently discovered oil. AND…
Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing more than one-third of the work force and 71.9% of GDP.
If you were going to grow “the tree” that would save the planet, this would be the most propitious place on earth to plant it. And this is why Ventree is not alone in this agro-forestry revolution and why we have the enthusiastic support, shared assets and resources of some of the most talented people in the world working out of Uganda and East Africa; professionals that span a number of business, science, economic and political disciplines with their collective epicentre on global sustainablilty through the application of agricultural ethics and sciences. They are all here pushing forward in the same direction–a powerful fraternity of companies and professionals of which we are greatfully a small but integral part. So who are these folks so essential to our mission?
A brief description and links (below) will have to be suffice for this writing but if you’d like to know more about any of these people and companies please connect with me and I’ll give you more detail. However, there is a new corporate entity that deserves more attention here named, Genterra Health Sciences, a company formed by an aggregation of the people and companies mentioned here that would meet the group’s combined need for R&D, international marketing & distribution, and wholesaling representation. Still in the business planning stage, Genterra’s current board of directors have existing supply chains to Europe and Asia and MOU’s to begin supplying customers in North America. GenTerra is the nexus of this network.
Now it may occur to you, as it did me, when reading through the background on these companies, and for me, having the pleasure of meeting these folks, that this is probably not a unique group of concerned, ehtically motivated people. And that’s a very heartening realisation, because I know now that there are many such companies and individuals throughout Africa and around the globe that have similar motivations, expertise and the drive to take on the challenges presented to humanity by global warming and climate change. And, this is not driven solely by humanism and certainly not by the misguided philanthropy that has been so distructive in the past (and sadly continues in some quarters) but by ethically sound business practices that are inclusive of all stakeholders. The above quoted economic indicators are evidence enough for those seeking opportunities of Brobdingnagian proportions. Entrepreneurs, nations and corporations with a vision for a sustainable future are realizing that in this era if you want to go big, go to Africa, but you had better mind your manners and check your greed at the door if you expect to succeed.
Here’s the list of our small but mighty cadre here in East Africa:
GenTerra Health Sciences: No website yet. GTHS is focussed on these key initiatives:
Agriculture: growing/sourcing superfoods for local and international markets
Manufacturing: creating formulas to produce medicines and foods
Distribution/Marketing: Selling products that are manufactured and sold into private and public sectors.
R&D: Ensuring new products are grown, manufactured and distributed with scientifically proven data with respect to their attributes for human and animal health.
Ventree’s first farming partner and the location of our first plantation. Two of the partners in Priceless Farms are also directors in Ventree.
Doctor’s Choice: https://doctorschoice.africa Founded by Canadian entrepreneur Brian Holmes, Doctor’s Choice is a private company established in Uganda to manufacture quality, affordable nutritional solutions. The company is licensed by the National Drug Authority (Uganda) to provide quality production of natural herbal medicines. Brian was instrumental in the initial formation of Genterra HS and is a director.
Roofings Group: http://www.roofingsgroup.com Roofings is the largest steel manufacturer in East Africa and sposored the Forever Forestry CSR initaive developed by Aaron Elton (Co-founder of Priceless Farms). FF has a training centre and PermaCulture demonstration forest and seedling nursery for the benefit of local agricultural groups
AgriLiving: http://agriliving.co.za Agriliving is a multinational farming company with its origins from Israel and South Africa. For the past decade Krishna Murty, Partner, B&D and R&D has been working in Uganda to bring the Agriliving business model to the country and has successfully secured 800 hectares of land adjacent to one of the largest lakes in the country. Krishna is a director in Genterra.
EOSTRE Healing Teas: http://www.eostrehealth.com Dr. Jawiga Nowak ND, Founder and Head of Herbal Medicine, Research and Development for Eostre Brand of Herbal Products is also a partner in Genterra. EOSTRE creates Herbal Healing Teas with powerful health benefits as well as highest quality ingredients.
Econatur: http://econatur.net/?lang=en is a Spanish-based company also operating in Uganda under the direction of Mr. Rafael de Leon de Maria, now part of the management team for Genterra. Econatur seeks to increase the performance of crops through personalized technical advice, and the use of natural solutions with an efficiency superior to that of the products of chemical synthesis.
Stella Njaggi, SilvaNile Farms: Stella is a prolific entrepreneur and inspirational educator. Her career in farming started 10 years ago when she moved to Uganda and began influencing small farmers to grow the now famous SourSop fruit from the tree Annona Muricata. She is now the leading exporter of this fruit and estimates over 4 million trees within her network of over 5,000 farmers.
Raintree Farms Ltd http://raintreefarms.com …is an agricuetical company specializing in value-added processing of medicinal crops. The largest supplier of high-quality Moringa oleifera in Uganda. Their 30-acre farm is located in Masindi District, in North-Western Uganda.
Canadians Nick and Cheryl Koning have been working in Uganda for several years now. UWEPO is an agribusiness located close to the River Nile and Lake Victoria in Uganda, East Africa. UWEPO grows many types of high quality seedlings. Nick and Stella also have a farming operation near Priceless Farms and shares equipment and resources with Priceless Frams. ~
Well, this is the network thus far and it we will be expanding to include more like-minded people and organizations as we make connections throughout the region. If you’ve gotten this far, thank you so much for your interest and if you’d like to know more please don’t hesitate to connect with us.
The rains were late but they finally arrived mid-October and the Priceless Farms team and resident farming families jumped to the task of prepping the soil and getting the patiently waiting Lyra seedlings out of our farm nursery and into the ground.
Twenty-thousand seedlings were planted in the first 14 days on the recently designated 10 acres of land. The rains are consistent now and another 10 acres is being prepared and an additional 20,000 trees will be planted this month (November). In addition, another 13,000 seedlings are being distributed to our Shamba Farmers–there are 22 families living and working on Priceless Farms–who have their own plots and they will plant those trees over the coming weeks as well. In total we will have 53,000 trees in the ground this season. For those of you who have been paying attention we originally set our sites on planting 100,000 trees. However with the lateness of the rains and the level of funding and resources available we adjusted our plan to 50K which turned out to be a good move for our first planting. When you stack them up, 50,000 seedlings is quite an impressive under taking. So we are pleased with the result.
It should be understood that these plots are designated as tree plantations but they are intercropped with other cash crops as well such as onions and other vegetables that grow well under the shade and protection of the trees. The trees are planted 1.5 meters apart on a grid which allows for plenty of room for intercropping and culling a significant portion of the trees for pole wood over the next couple of years will create more room for the balance of the trees to grow much larger and increase in market value.
This is a soil building process. There is as much bioamass created underground by a tree as there is above the ground. So when a tree is harvested it leaves behind all that biomass that is utilized by other crops and future trees. In permaculture farming, soils are never depeated, they are always enhanced. By growing and harvesting our own trees we are in fact saving a creating new forests all around us as we expand a grow.
I’ll be talking more about this and our commitment to massive re-forestation in the next years in the next blog.
If you read my last blog you’ll know that we received about 18,000 Lyra seedlings on October 8th in anticipation of the seasonal rains that usually come mid-to-late September. But alas we had to wait almost another full week, finally getting a big rain event on the 14th.
The plantation acreage had been previously ploughed twice to break up and turn under the grasses but the hard dry soils needed a substantial rain to soften up the land before for planting would be possible. The tractor is back on the plot over the next couple of days now to do the final prep and planting will begin later this week.
We did a 5 minute video (pre-rain fall) for you to get the full explanation and the scope of the property and process. CLICK HERE >>
This is the first time that this land has been opened up for a sustainable Agro-forestry plantation. The region is remote and has never been subjected to any industrial pollution, and although subsistence, slash-and-burn farming has been the practice here for many years the soils in this valley area are dark and fertile. In the video Aaron, Manager of Priceless Farms, explains the details of the installation and explains the various stages of harvesting the trees as well.
So, we are looking forward to getting these trees in the ground and watching as our community farmers intercrop a variety of cash crops beneath the cover of this soon to be Lyra Tree forest. ~
Thirty hours by way of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, gets you from Vancouver B.C. to Entebbe Airport in Uganda, the ‘Pearl of Africa.’ Then on to Kampala City, another forty-five minutes on a modern, newly constructed highway for most of the trip; evidence of the investment and influence of the Chinese government so prevalent in recent years, and we reach Kampala City, the capital of Uganda. Once off the motorway the roads within the suburbs and city are rugged, crowded, dusty and dark, but we are soon enjoying a late night reunion with our son Aaron, his wife Laila and the most recent addition to the clan, granddaughter Aylah Kimberly Elton. But our final destination is still two days away. We settle down in their apartment to make ready for our trip to Priceless Farms, another two-and-a-half hour drive that, once outside the city perimeters, is mostly reliable pavement and well-marked roadways. The last sixty to seventy miles to the farm is again, adventurous.
The farm is located on the shores of Lake Kyoga, one of the many large lakes in the country, Lake Victoria being the most notable. The Nile River, which originates in Jinja, at the eastern end of Lake Victoria flows through Kyoga then on to Lake Albert on route to Egypt. The Nile at this early stage of its journey is something to behold with amazing vistas, floating islands of hyacinth and frequent rapids where sport rafting is a ‘thing’ now for tourists and there are many world-class resorts and adventure tour destinations along its banks.
This is the setting at Priceless Farms, a pristine environment that has never been adulterated with industrial pollution. The forests and soils that have been abused and mistreated in recent years but fundamentally fecund and highly productive when properly managed. Everything grows quickly and the land is teaming with life. The nearby village of Kasokwe is a short drive away, many walk it, is typical of the many ‘trading areas’ as they are called all along the drive up, where the roadway is dotted with vegetable and fruit stands of wonderfully delicious organic produce. We make a stop at one for fresh provisions.
Eighty-six percent of Uganda’s population live in these rural areas and live primarily off the land, a large portion of the total economy that represents just 14 to 16% of the country’s GDP. We arrive at the farm and are greeted by several of the dogs that live here and protect the property and its inhabitants. There are now 22 families, approx. 90 people, living on the farm in the Shamba System, Cluster Farming model that is fundamental to the operation’s business design. Most of these hard working, brave people were subsistence farming on nearby lands as squatters. Under contract with Priceless they now have the safety of a community, water at their doorstep, comfortable shelter, basic health care, a solar panel that provides light, and a charger for a cell phone—the means by which they get paid, and about three acres of land to work and profit from. They are assisted in setting up their homestead in the permaculture model and half of the produce they produce on their plot is for their own use. The rest goes into a co-op with the other shamba families and sold into markets in the city from which they also profit. They are paid a monthly stipend and are regularly trained in the art and science of permaculture design at Base Camp One, which is the administrative centre of the farm. They are the watchful stewards of the farm’s trees, fruit and vegetable crops and animal systems. They are the invaluable work force that is at the heart of the Priceless Farms model.
In the permaculture farming model, trees represent seventy percent of the plant mass and fibre of the farm. Trees provide a multitude of products, supports, protection and benefits to the other plants, animals and people that inhabit the farm. Trees are the mother species of the land and they are the ultimate caregivers of us all. They in turn need to be respected and cared for. The returns for that stewardship, love and care are abundance far beyond the inputs provided. A well-designed, properly managed farm is truly magical.
We have come to Priceless Farms to work some of that magic on this wonderful land. Over the next month we will plant up to 100,000 Lira Trees that will be intercropped with symbiotic vegetables under the constant care of the people on the land whose lives and futures are so intimately entwined with the land, the soils and the trees that protect and provide for them.
This is the vision and mission of Ventree Plantations. This is our “First Planting.” A humble beginning in the pursuit of a noble and ambitious plan that we believe will propagate and grow throughout this region and well beyond. ~