An 82-year-old farmer is harvesting different varieties of fruits from a single stem tree after realising that root stocks can support multiple scions and give distinct harvests.
Muia Kusenga, who won about 10 awards in the various fruit categories during the Machakos County Agricultural Society of Kenya 2016 Show, said the simple technology enables farmers to harvest a variety of fruits using a single stem food resource, with branches giving three to six fruits per bunch of a branch.
The colonial agricultural extension officer was discouraged by experts that the method of multiple harvests from one tree cannot work, but he obstinately moved into it.
“I prefer learning by doing. It is self-economic-sabotage to stop doing something instead of trying and failing then you learn. I experimented and it worked. Through the trials, I have learnt that one root stalk can host multiple varieties. This process boosts performance of poorly adapted types,” he said,” Kusenga said.
Kusenga’s five acre ‘Garden of Eden’ has palms, pears, bananas, avocados, tamarillos, pepino melons, apples, guavas, passions, mangoes, loquats, oranges, green and purple grapes, kiwi, goose berries, straw berries, peppers, among others.
Grafting local fruit varieties with exotic ones helps the later to survive in this water-scarce county and give good harvests.
Local avocados have good taproots, which go deep into the soil for water. Their stems are strong, but they are low-yielding.
Kusenga has grafted high yielding varieties like fuerte and hass on the local and palabra stocks.
He grafted the local varieties when they were about two feet in height. Their shoots received scions from the hass and the fuerte. The one root stock has three different types of avocado fruits.
Poor yielding trees are not cut down, but upgraded by the grafting, before the rest is pruned out.
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Kusenga rides on the grafting principle that the scion determines the variety of the fruit. This means a poor stem avocado will not lower the harvest of the hass or fuerte.
Hass and fuerte are shorter in height and one can harvest without climbing up. On the other hand, local types can hit 20 feet and their stems are strong.
The resultant cross has a strong stem, supporting the high yields from the two short types and itself.
The Mutitu Village farmer has more than 20 avocado trees.
Machakos mini Garden of Eden
The former officer, who was first employed as an agricultural officer on July 1, 1957, has more than 1,000 apples.
On one Owen root stock, he has winter banana, Rome beauty, gross Michael, among others. Anna is the commonest high production scion in his farm.
Stalks of peaches have plams, nectarines and pears fruits.
“Farming is about using the small space to earn more. From one root stock of the peaches, one gets peach, nectarine, pears and plam fruits at one go,” said Joseph Wambua the chairman of Muethia Self-help Group, which Kusenga is a member.
Wambua said despite the many fruits that Kusenga has, marketing has remained a challenge for him.
Kusenga receives many visitors who come to learn from his farm, with Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua set to tour this garden too soon. He has set aside about one acre for a demonstration farm.
He is still strong and able to wed for his crops with the help of his son and daughter.
Kusenga can be reached on +254706263225
PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT