ECONOMICS OF A FIREWOOD PLANTATION IN BATIICALOA Casuarina equisetifolia
Alluvial soil spread over the coastal belt of the Batticaloa district in the EasternProvince while the red earth take over the interior, west of the lagoon. More that80% of the districrt uses firewood as their primary energy source and the stockhave dwindled over the past with much destruction of the natural and other forestresources, including home gardens. A clear need for cheap energy source is anurgent need into the future. Casuarina equisetifolia has been found to grow verywell under all soil types of this district and is also a species known for its highenergy content. This study was designed to study its potential as a firewood cropand the cost effectiveness as an energy source. An ideal crop should grow fast, beenergy rich and coppice well for steady supply following a harvest and alsooccupy a relatively little space.
Six plots of 20 x 20 m each were planted with 6 month old saplings, grown in ourown nursery, at a rate of 10,000 plants per hectare having 400 plant per plot.Plants were watered daily for three months and every other day for the next fourmonths. Height of the plants were recorded from the first month every threemonths and the diameter was record after a year. Mortality was recorded fromplanting and the dead plants were replaced from the stock until a year afterplanting. Harvesting of wood resources was carried out in various ways: Pruningof all branches below 3' as done after 12 months; Pollarding was carried out bycutting the main branch above 6' in 7 rows of 2 plots in 18 months; Total shootharvest was done in 14 rows in 2 plots after 18 months; Pruning of all branchesbelow 6' was carried out after 2 years and total harvest was carried out at randomafter 27 months. I each case fresh/drywt of the product was recorded. Coppicingalso was recorded after pollarding and total harvest.
30,884 kg of wood would be harvested per hectare after three years. 60% ofharvested plants would coppice. Only 7078 kg would be harvested in two yearperiod. Non destructive harvesting (pruning, pollarding) would yield around1O,000kg per year. The revenue may be calculated at Rs.2 per kg of firewood.The cost of this project is around Rs. 125,000 with Rs.90,000 towards labour.Perhaps, the cost could be reduced by adjusting the planting season and alsohaving the plants in larger bags for a longer period before planting.
The project may be translated to a family which provides labour as a means,towards an earning of a conservative estimate of Rs.l ,500 per month from onehectare plantation, the minimum as the return over the further years are morepositive. The data on cost from Ceylon Tobacco Company is Rs.36,800 perhectare of for a firewood plantation of eight years.
The potential of such plantations in Biomass energy production is also important.It is stated that 1 d hectare plantation would produce a 1 Mw power sustainably.The species does flags high as a potential where marginal lands are available inplenty, having also in mind its ability to fix nitrogen. It would be an ideal speciesand project for a family based income in the future