Com­mis­sion em­barks on na­tional fruit-tree grow­ing pro­gramme

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Forestry Commission / People - Life­style Writer

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.

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