Grafting: The Fruit Tree Solution

Grafting: The Fruit Tree Solution – Rwenzori National Park

Project Location: Kasese District, Uganda

Project PartnerAlpha Women Empowerment Initiative (AWEI)

Could grafted mangoes be the answer to Rwenzori National Park’s recovery? The Alpha Women Empowerment Initiative (AWEI) thinks so and they are working hard to engage with the local community to make this project get off the ground. Described as the ‘Mountains of the Moon,’ this spectacular landscape towers 4,000m above the Albertine Rift Valley on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A World Heritage Site showcasing a dramatic ecosystem with rare Afro-alpine flora and fauna, the Rwenzori National Park is home to one of the last remaining tropical ice fields outside the Andes.

Counteracting Deforestation

Unfortunately, poverty, combined with food scarcity and a higher than average population density of 313 individuals per km2 has forced local communities to cut down large number of trees in the area to sell as timber to raise money to buy food. The AWEI aim to counteract this deforestation as, ‘there is fear that if this problem is not reduced, the area will be subjected to more harsh conditions that will not the conducive to both man and the surrounding environment,’ Masika Margret, AWEI. By grafting and planting mango trees, a ready supply of fruit will be available to the local community and the surplus can be sold to buy in more food and supplies. Four mango tree nurseries will be set up to establish a sustainable supply of seeds.

Grafting

So how does grafting work? Grafting is a way of propagating a new plant out of plant material from two other plants and is an economical production method, particularly suitable for fruit trees. Grafting involves taking a portion of the parent plant known as a scion and joining it to a root system from another plant. The join must be lined up exactly so that the cambium or bark layers are able to successfully fuse and become a new plant.

The main reason for choosing the grafting technique is to secure favourable genetic characteristics from a model parent plant to create replica cultivars. Grafted fruit trees also have the benefit of flowering and fruiting at a younger age, typically 2-3 years as opposed to the long juvenile phase of a seed grown plant which can take place between 6-25 years, thus providing a quicker return for the farmer’s investment.

As part of this project, 20 people will be trained in grafting technologies and nursery bed management practices, and 200 people trained in effective tree planting methods. In this way, the local community will be empowered to manage their land productively and sympathetically to the environment, creating food security and restoring the tree cover of the Rwenzori National Park to protect this alpine jewel of Africa.

Tree profile: ‘Kent’ Mango (part of the Anacardiaceae family)

This cultivar originated in Coconut Grove in south Florida in the 1940s. The tree exudes an upright growth habit with ovate leaves and large fruit between 20-29 ounces with a juicy and tender texture and dark green in colour. The Alpha Women Empowerment Initiative intends to plant 25000 mango trees across 41 acres of land.

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