Australian Senator visits sandalwood experiments in Liquica

Australia’s Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Honourable Anne Ruston, today visited the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries/AI-Com research site at Liquica, Timor-Leste.

The minister visited the MAF office, which includes a sandalwood nursery, where Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and AI-Com staff and researchers showed the minister the results of research into sandalwood germination.

Minister Ruston has a particular interest in forestry, and had the opportunity to meet with Ida Pereira, a young Timorese researcher whose experiments germinating sandalwood seedlings have seen an additional 10,000 sandalwood seedlings added to the government’s stock – an important resources for reforestation plans that aims to distribute the valuable sandalwood seedlings to households across Timor-Leste.

“Reforestation is just so important for the world and if you can do that in a way that brings economic benefits to the community there’s just nothing better,” Minister Ruston said. “Projects like this are what’s going to save our planet.”

Since Timor-Leste regained independence in 2002, MAF has distributed over 80,000 sandalwood seedlings to households in Timor-Leste.

Though the valuable tree is native to the island of Timor, and once grew abundant in its forests, centuries of overexploitation and limited forestry knowledge saw populations fall to nearly nothing before Timor-Leste’s independence. Ida’s research is an important key in understanding how to reliably germinate the tricky seeds — which can remain dormant for months, if they germinate at all. Germinating over a period of months is usueful for wild trees’ survival, but less than ideal for populating nurseries.

Senator Ruston met with Ida, MAF Director of Research Claudino Nabais, MAF Director of Forestry Alfredo Pereira and AI-Com staff, who work collaboratively with MAF researchers with financial support from the Australian government through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

The senator praised the research and received with thanks a copy of AI-Com’s publication, Sandalwood Production and Host Trees of Timor-Leste, a resource that also assists with strengthening sandalwood growth and health by outlining the local species of trees suitable to act as hosts for the hemi-parasitic sandalwood tree, which requires a companion to grow well.