Commission embarks on national fruit-tree growing programme
ZIMBABWE continues to experience droughts caused by climate change and variability which has impacted on food and nutrition security especially for the local communities who lack alternative sources of food.
Forestry as a practice falls under the Food Security and Nutrition cluster of the Zim-Asset framework although its activities cut across all clusters.
It plays a pivotal role in agriculture and other sectors of the economy. The country used to boast of a robust horticulture industry which has since collapsed as most fruit plantations/orchards are not functioning and some have been converted to agricultural production leaving the country with a need to import fruit and fruit juices.
Fruit canning factories have closed with the remaining few operating at below capacity due to lack of the raw material which is the fruits and pastes.
It is with this background that Forestry Commission embarked on a nationwide fruit-tree growing programme, the promotion of which could provide supplementary food and present other livelihood options for communities
The overall objectives of this programme are to; encourage the general public to grow fruit trees in order to boost availability of fresh fruits on the market and for the local fruit canning industry; assist communities build resilience and boost their capacity to mitigate the effects of drought on their livelihoods; contribute to national food security and promote maximum utilisation of the land resource through inter cropping under “trees on farms”.
The successful implementation of this programme is expected to; enhance livelihoods through provision of an alternative livelihood option; the resuscitation of the local fresh fruit and fruit canning industry and thereby creating employment opportunities; a saving in the foreign currency outflows that have been used in importing fruit and will enable the country to build capacity to export fruit and thereby increasing export earnings.
The established orchards will also serve as long-term carbon sinks to sequester atmospheric carbon thereby mitigating climate change.
Forestry Commission has started work on this programme and has gone through the initial stages of preparing for the roll out of this programme. The stages include the rootstock development, scion wood development and budding and grafting stages.
Rootstock development involves raising ordinary seedlings mainly from seed and growing them to produce a seedling which will provide a base for joining. This seedling is called a rootstock onto which a shoot (scion) from a mature fruit tree is joined.
Scion wood development involves identification of a good mature fruit bearing tree of the desired type, cutting the branch (scion which is a shoot or bud cut from a mature fruit bearing tree) to join onto the rootstock. This is done to produce a tree with the desired qualities like disease resistance, high yield and correct variety. It also shortens the period before harvesting.
Budding and grafting are the most commonly used means of fruit tree propagation which ensure production of trueto-type fruit varieties.