Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm off to Colombia

If you are worried about investing in tropical trees in Colombia, don't be. President Alvaro Uribe, now completing his second term in office, has done an amazing job of stabilizing Colombia. The country is now rated with Brazil and Chile as one of the top Latin American economies. In fact, Business Week magazine has rated Colombia one of the top 3 investment jurisdictions in the world. There are still problems with drug traffickers, thanks to the insatiable demand for drugs in the USA and Canada, but these days those problems have been isolated by the Colombian armed forces along the Ecuadoran border in the country's South. Most tree planting occurs in the interior and out in the eastern plains, or llano of Colombia, well away from the coca growing areas.

I am flying into Bogotá, the capital, an exciting and modern city of 8 million. I am  going to be meeting with the world-renowned Omacha Foundation and their executive director, Fernando Trujillo, Ph.D.. I am also meeting with the local Kubota representative to talk about getting more tree planting equipment on the job. Numerous airlines fly into Bogotá's Eldorado airport, but I usually take Taca, as they seem to offer excellent service with connections throughout Central and South America, the USA and up into Toronto, Canada. On Monday morning I'm catching the local Satena flight to Puerto Carreño in the eastern departamento or province of Vichada, some 55 KM from the plantation. Puerto Carreño is a spectacular town on the banks of the mighty Orinoco River, just across from Venezuela.

Monday, September 28, 2009

More amazing Acacia mangium facts ...

Africanized bees in Acacia mangium tree
One surprising fact about Acacia mangium is its honey production. Africanized and other bees are attracted to Acacia mangium, because its petioles or leafstalks exude extra floral nectar year round, which allows for ongoing honey production. The bees also enjoy the flowers and are the primary pollinator for the tree. Beehives in Acacia mangium plantations produce up to 110 kg or 242.5 lbs of honey per hive per year, which is important for local economies and employment. The only disadvantage is the aggressive nature of Africanized killer bees, which means plantation workers and others need to take extra care when gathering honey or confronting bees.

2.5 year old Acacia mangium in erosion controlIt has been suggested that Acacia mangium may offer a partial solution to ecological and human problems in sub-Saharan Africa due to 2 factors. The first is the tree’s long history of doing well in reclamation and erosion control projects with poor soils. The second factor is its food value. The germinating seeds can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Studies indicate that the seeds are high in crude protein content. Acacia mangium shoots and phyllode leaves have also proven themselves as a crude protein fodder source for sheep and goats, though with low in vitro dry matter digestibility, so best eaten fresh. Together with honey production this offers opportunities for rural subsistence economies.

Acacia mangium log
The tree’s versatility can be determined from other facts as well. As a fuel Acacia mangium has a calorific value of 4,500 to 4,900 kcal/kg (8,098 to 8,818 Btu/lb). This makes it an excellent source for charcoal briquettes and artificial carbon where ecological fuels are required. Where paper making is concerned, the pulp is easily bleached to high brightness levels. The pulp and paper industry considers Acacia mangium ready to harvest after only 6 years of growth. Acacia mangium has a bright future in a number of other industries as well. It is already proving itself ideal for both high and medium density fibreboard products. Other studies suggest that using Acacia mangium wood wool (excelsior) is an environmentally friendly solution for organic packing materials. The tree's sawdust offers a good quality substrate for the profitable gwowing of shiitake mushrooms. The wood has a high tannin content (18% to 39%), meaning that it may become an important source for organic dyes as well. Yesterday's and today's blog tell the story of why investors with Amazonia Reforestation are enthusiastic about Acacia mangium.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Acacia mangium - an investor's miracle tree!

9 Year old Acacia mangium
Acacia mangium is a miracle tree in terms of fast growth. Since investors don't want to tie their money up indefinitely, a 10 year turn around is only sustainable if the tropical hardwood trees being planted produce rapid results. Acacia mangium lives up to that promise. It can go from zero to a 50 cm (20 inch) diameter bole or trunk in just 9 years. Since wood is sold in cubic meters in much of the world, another way of expressing this increase is in cubic meter growth per hectare (2.47 acres). Acacia mangium can add 35 to 50 cubic meters of wood per year per hectare in a good location, such as the plantation managed by Amazonia Reforestation. A 9 year old tree will be 21 meters of 65.5 feet tall. When planted for pulp and paper purposes Acacia mangium is often harvested after just 6 years of growth, a factor popular with that industry.

Beautiful Acacia mangium wood
Equally important to an investor are the potential markets for a hardwood. The obvious primary use for Acacia mangium is wood. This straight trunk tropical tree is a hardwood with an extensive product range, including sawn or hewn building timbers, heavy construction uses, beams, boat building, containers, crates, boxes, industrial and domestic wood ware, tool handles, brushes, turnery, furniture, cabinets, flooring, decking, veneers, wood based materials like particleboard, fibreboard, medium density fibreboard, wood wool or excelsior, pulp and paper, charcoal and firewood. Acacia mangium’s density and fibre length allows the wood to be sawn, polished, drilled, glued and washed.

Field of fast growing Acacia mangium
Besides its timber value, Acacia mangium's fast growing nature is ideal for carbon sequestration programs like the one offered by CO2 Tropical Trees. As we saw from its significant annual cubic meter growth this means that Acacia mangium can sequester an average of 50 lbs or 22.6 kg of CO2 per tree per year. Since more than 50% of the average tropical tree’s woody biomass is carbon, this is an excellent long term storage solution, as the carbon remains trapped in the wood even after harvest for uses like building material and furniture. Industries like oil and gas requiring carbon offsets, regardless of where they are located, can make use of Acacia mangium’s excellent carbon sequestration properties. Atmospheric carbon is a global problem that can find a significant partial solution with tropical trees like Acacia mangium.