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22 - 29 August 2007 
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Orange Fence Brings Hope to Subsistent Farmers

Focusing on enabling farmers to access technologies and break isolation can rapidly boost food production and farm incomes. Investments in all-weather roads, power grids that reach rural areas, wider cellular phone coverage, and internet services can greatly break this isolation. Linking formerly remote villages to regional and world markets as well as resource persons enables them to not only earn much more cash income through sales of agricultural commodities, processed goods and services, but also imbibe appropriate technologies.

Kamau Nyoike, a businessman based in Kenya’s Eastern Province attests to this.

“After attending farmer focus groups and the Africa Resource Bank meeting organized by Inter Region Economic Network under the theme Turning Africa’s People into a Resource, I was challenged to think outside the box and adopt business strategies,” he confesses.

In a land where farmers are mainly subsistent, own small pieces of land and predominantly grow maize, Kamau thought of another way of utilizing the same land without jeopardizing the rest of the crops.

“I had learnt that I can’t be a resource without relevant information and that a free human mind is capital,” says the 36 year old father of one son.  “I thus made it a point to attend any meetings where productivity was being discussed. It is in one of them that I met a Mr. Mwongera, who was dealing with grafting.”

Plant grafting is a propagation technique that involves joining two portions of plant with similar organic texture in a manner that continues their development as a single plant. The leaf-bearing part (scion) of one plant is joined with the rootstock of another using such methods as apical-wedge grafting, whip-and-tongue grafting, splice grafting, flat grafting, saddle grafting, bud grafting, hole insertion grafting, tongue approach grafting, and cleft grafting.

Grafting can be used for nursery, orchard, vineyard, and vegetable crops. It is particularly useful when there is a specific infestation problem that can be controlled with available rootstocks, and in situations where disease problems arise after the orchard or vineyard has already been established. It can be easily taught to field technicians, and has a relatively low cost.

Kamau Nyoike (left) shows farmers
how to graft

Grafting currently is used in commercial agricultural production to achieve higher yielding field and greenhouse crops, repair damaged sections of a plant, increase temperature or salinity tolerance, produce higher yielding varieties (including dwarf varieties), and extend the duration of economical harvest time.

Determined to break free from subsistence farming and maximumly utilize his piece of land through commercialization, Kamau took grafting a notch higher by transforming a kei-apple fence into an orange fruit orchard.

“Kei apple survives well in semi arid areas and is disease resistant. What one needs to do is to get a grafted orange scion and join it with the kei-apple mother plant. The joining and healing process takes 6 weeks,” says Kamau, whose “orange fence” took two years to bear huge succulent and sweet fruits.

Kamau boosted the orchard with Bayret fungicide combined with Bestox insecticide especially upon flowering. He used Aquawet sticker to control wetness and supplied his orange fence with foliar as feed.

According to Kamau, a traditional orange tree takes 4 to 5 years to bear fruit. Grafting reduces this process. Challenged that turning fences into orchards poses risk by theft, Kamau laughs it off and says that the grafting ought to be done in the inner part of the fence.

Grafted plants are widely used in the United States for a variety of orchard and vineyard crops (e.g apples, grapes). In Japan, where land use is intensive and the availability of new farmland is scarce, almost 95 percent of the watermelons (Citrullus lamanis), Oriental melons (Cucumis melo var. makuwa), greenhouse cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), and solanaceous crops are grafted before being transplanted to the field or greenhouse.

In Africa, the Madagascans are learning that their orchards aging consequently lowering the grade and quality of fruit. Burkina Faso’s exports were once dealt a serious blow when 80 percent of the country's apple orchards were planted with old varieties.

Grafting has provided an answer in both cases by not only producing new varieties in large quantities, but also taking just 2 years to do it. The small scale farmers in Kénédegou province, dubbed the 'orchard of Burkina', are already familiar with this technique.

Kamau’s vision is to see this breakthrough replicated countrywide. Through Kabati Low Resource Farmers group, Kamau is rallying local community based organizations to not only disseminate his findings, but also to impart in them the importance of adopting modern farming methods such as the use of high yielding varieties and crop protection. He is also rallying youths to reduce incidences of malaria as well as make profit through indoor residual spraying.

“It’s time we saw opportunities where they seem not to exist and convert all our estates into business hubs,” he says.

By Josephat Juma
Mr. Juma is an African Executive Writer

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