Farmers' experiments in teak germination in Sri Lanka
Teak is a tree species valued by most farmers in the dry zone of
Sri Lankaits timber is good for home use and for gale. Establishing teak
trees, however, usually entails some cost for purchase of seedlings or for
travel to a teak producing area. The alternative, growing teak from seed,
presents a problem: teak seeds are difficult to germinate and few farmers know
A project in Sri Lanka intended to answer the following
question: What is the best method for germinating teak seed, for small scale
The project also had three non-research objectives:
1 To increase the farmers) confidence and experience
in raising tree seedlings.
2 To stimulate interest in group experimentationpossibly
as the start of a wider program of experimentation.
3 To grow teak.
Having learned during informal farm visits that people were
interested in trying to raise teak, two project agroforesters organized meetings
to discuss the difficulties associated with germinating teak seeds. A few
farmers in each group had heard of one or two techniques to enhance seed
germination. Very few had actually tried these techniques they lacked some
technical details and they lacked confidence. The agroforesters and farmers
pooled their ideas. They identified three methods and identified the advantages
and disadvantages of each.
1 The traditional burning methodTeak fruits (with seeds
inside) are placed on a shallow bed of paddy husk, covered with paddy husk, and
set alight. The aim is to burn the hard outer seed coat without damaging the
seeds inside. After burning, the fruits are planted.
2 Soaking and drying methodFruits are alternately soaked
and dried over a period of two weeks before planting. Most farmers felt this
method would be reliable.
3 Opening the fruit to expose the seedA sharp knife is
used to open the teak fruit and expose the seed. Most farmers were unfamiliar
with this method.
Farmers were asked to decide how much seed they wanted, and to
decide which germination method or methods they would use. At this point, the
idea of experimentation arose spontaneously in several groupsthe groups
divided the methods among their members. In return for the free seed, farmers
were asked to keep records. The information, farmers were told, would be pooled
and used to select the best method of teak seed germination.
All the farmers who received seed tried one, or more, method.
The agroforesters made regular farm visits to help keep the farmers motivated,
to help overcome technical problems, and to record results. This second set of
records was a backup. It was found that if the farmers' streets were not filled
daily, the information became unreliable.
Many farmers chose not to follow their initial plan: some who
had volunteered to try several methods in fact only tried ore; others who had
not appeared interested in experimenting tried several methods. In a few cases
farmers asked for, and were given, more seed for further experimentation.
Analysis of the results was carried out in the groups and
between the groups. It involved looking at the yield of the different methods:
how many seedlings were obtained from a certain number of seeds. The methods
were also judged for their convenience.
In order to help the farmers draw conclusions, they were helped
to prepare a simple matrix to rank and score the three methods. The results of
some groups were inconclusive. It was decided that the experimental procedure
would be modified and experimentation would continue.
[adapted from PMHE (forthcoming), Report of the second PTD
workshop, PMHE Project, P. O. Box 154, Kandy, Sri Lanka; based on fieldwork by
Stephen Connelly and Nicky J. Wilson]. Source: Veldbuizen and Zeeuw 1992 (Vol.