The fruit trees distributed during the last two seasons have been planted around the vegetable gardens using sustainable agro-forestry practices. The diagram below gives an impression of the ideal production system we advise for our group members.
This shows part of a vegetable garden with a boundary planted live fence of intercropped pineapple and papaya creating a multi-species multi-layered organic garden. A live fence planting denotes and protects the area of the vegetable garden. Both fruit trees and vegetables require higher levels of management than other agricultural crops and so growing fruit trees near to vegetables has a variety of synergistic benefits for both the vegetables and the fruit. The fruit trees benefit from the added soil nutrition and watering given to the vegetables as their roots extend out into the garden below the vegetable beds. The vegetables benefit from less wind and soil erosion, and amelioration of severe sun and rain. Tree litter also provides added soil organic matter.
Most members have some vegetable garden near to their homes depending on water availability. These areas can be planted up with boundary live fence planting as well, and can also be planted along paths and areas around the home for shade creating a home garden type production system.
The CRESS office in Arua and the CRESS health clinic in Mijale both have vegetable garden areas. These were established for the dual purpose of providing produce for staff and client meals thus saving precious income, and for producing excess harvest for selling to generate income to add to their running costs. They have both been planted up with some boundary planting of fruit trees including pineapple suckers. These areas are more directly managed by CRESS staff so offer the opportunity to experiment and to create demonstration systems. Other sustainable agro-forestry practices that could be established in these areas include tree-crop intercropping by planting more trees inside garden areas, and alley cropping where a level of intercropping develops vegetation alleys within the production system planted in an east-west orientation to minimize shading– see diagrams right:
It is hoped with entrepreneurial members of the savings groups that some may see and have an opportunity to develop a more commercial oriented area of fruit tree growing. This would be to develop businesses in not only the selling of fruit but also look to develop the selling of fruit tree seedlings and other products through fruit processing and preserving. This could be done in a variety of ways to add market value and to protect against harvest gluts. For example, processing the fruit into fruit juice and fruit purees, solar drying fruit such as mangoes, pineapple and papaya, making jams, preserves and chutneys.
Seedlings are currently sourced from local nurseries. It is planned that the next few months will see more training of our group members on fruit tree planting and establishment. Training will then progress to issues of maintenance including soil nutrition and pruning. It is hoped then that some of the gardens can be turned into tree seedling nurseries. This has already been discussed with the agriculture officers who see that the techniques of growing vegetable seedlings can also be used for growing fruit seedlings as well.
They have discussed with some group members how to grow seedlings in their seedlings beds for planting out around their gardens. It is hoped that again with entrepreneurial members of the savings groups some may be interested in starting up a tree nursery as an income-generating project. They would then be able to supply other group members and the projects with their seedlings. Finance is needed to send two of our agriculture staff to Nyabyeya Forestry college in Masindi, Uganda just south of Arua. There they offer short professional courses on agroforestry and tree nursery production.