Fruit Trees to Secure the Future
Located in the middle hills of Far Western Nepal, Volunteer Garret Morris’s village is certainly on the rise. With great road and market access and attention from various non-government organizations (NGOs) as well as Nepali government programs, the village has seen substantial development in the past few years.
The people there, however, are not immune to many of the issues that threaten Nepal, specifically young men traveling abroad for work, leaving women with high workloads, and poor accessibility to micronutrient foods. After analyzing the community's strengths and weaknesses and more importantly building strong relationships throughout the village, Peace Corps Volunteer Garrett Morris suggested a fruit cultivation and propagation project. The idea quickly picked up interest. Traveling to villages throughout the village Garrett found ten farmers who were especially excited about the idea and willing to not only give up their own time and resources to the project, but teach new techniques to their own communities as well.
Everything was in place for the project, except for one major difficulty - Garrett had a background in nutrition and had little to no experience or knowledge in agriculture let alone fruit cultivation and propagation. But the lack of experience didn’t stop him or his farmers from moving forward. With the help of a variety of Nepali agriculture literature resources and skills learned from Peace Corps trainings, Garrett and the ten farmers built small fruit nurseries on their own land.
As the months went by, Garrett spent time with each farmer sharing what knowledge and advice he had and practicing new techniques with them according to the season. Seeing his own limitations and the need of a proper training for his farmers, Garrett wrote a grant to take his ten farmers to a 5-day permaculture training led by Himalayan Permaculture Center. The training was not only a great opportunity to learn new skills, but more importantly it connected these ten farmers, all of whom shared the vision of one day having their own fruit tree nursery and orchards. What were ten small dreams became one strong vision. Preceding the training, Garrett worked with the Nepal Government Horticulture Center in Kathmandu to acquire 150 improved variety citrus seedlings for the farmers. The effort that each farmer put into planting and caring for their seedlings showed their investment of the project and vision of the future. To create sustainability and reproducibility in the project, each farmer also received a disease-resistant variety of tree optimal for citrus rootstock which will provide them seedlings to graft on in the future, thus allowing them to propagate enough of the improved variety for their own orchard as well as their community.
To further insure success, the group of ten farmers then received feedback and training from one of Nepal’s most progressive fruit tree nurseries, Everything Organic Nursery (EVON). Garrett took two trainers from EVON to each of his model farmer’s homes, where they provided orchard advice and one-on-one cultivation training, thus solidifying the farmer’s knowledge and confidence in their own nurseries and orchards.With the skills from these trainings and shared experiences, these ten farmers are now prepared to continue building their nurseries and orchards to a quality only seen in Nepal’s top nursery operations, let alone the Far West. The fruits of their labor will provide needed nutrition to their families as well as an steady source of income. In sharing their fruit orchard knowledge with the youth in their communities, these farmers will provide them with an enticing, lucrative alternative to working abroad. The future is looking quite fruitful for this group of farmers and their communities.