Mixed Fruit Tree Orchard Offers Alternatives to Declining Citrus Production
The District of Lamjung is suffering from what the local agricultural technicians term "citrus decline." According to local residents, the area used to have healthy citrus orchards, from which many farmers obtained both improved nutrition from eating and income from selling fruit.
However, the trees have been mostly wiped out in recent years due to pests, diseases, and poor cultivation techniques on the part of the farmers. The evidence of the citrus decline can be seen in the few remaining mandarin orange trees, which suffer from yellow leaves, sour fruits, and worsening conditions until they eventually die.
In response to this problem, PCV Elliot Amkraut discussed the idea of a mixed fruit orchard with a local model farmer. They both shared the dream of a small fruit orchard from which his family could eat delicious produce year-round. One advantage of a mixed plantation is that the wide variety of fruit trees lessens the risk that one specific pest or disease could wipe out the whole orchard, as in the case of Lamjung's citrus decline. Another benefit is that rather than all of the fruits ripening at the same time, in a mixed orchard they ripen at different times throughout the year, delivering a more consistent benefit to the family's diet.
The model farmer placed an order for mango, lychee, pomegranates and mandarin seedlings at the Khudi Agricultural Service Center. In addition, Elliot was able to bring back two macadamia nut seedlings and one improved guava seedling from a private nursery in Pokhara. The model farmer paid for all of these seedlings, most of which were available cheaply due to a subsidy from the District Agricultural Development Office.
The farmer, his family, and Elliot spent the next month measuring and planting the mixed fruit orchard according to the method he learned from his Peace Corps tree plantation training, which involves digging a large hole and filling it with both raw and decomposed biomass (green leaves, brown leaves, finished compost, etc.). In the end, they planted 17 seedlings, 16 of which are still alive. They also sowed dhaincha as a green manure in the orchard and used it to mulch the trees, and are currently in the process of inter-cropping the orchard with a variety of vegetables.
While it will be a few years until this orchard starts to fruit, Elliot is happy with the way it looks now and hopeful that once it starts producing other local farmers will take note and attempt something similar. Many farmers have already seen the young orchard and some have expressed interest in planting their own.
Elliot also believes that this project was effective in transferring skills to host country nationals, as the farmer and his family have not only learned the proper method for planting a fruit seedling, but have practiced that method 17 times. Recently, this farmer brought in another pear seedling, and he was pleased to see that he planted it using the new method in a place where it has ample room to grow.