As part of our efforts to strengthen the impact of our Forest Futures project we have been very lucky to partner with the innocent Foundation to expand our agroforest component and better incorporate fruit trees into them. Funds from the innocent Foundation are enabling us to incorporate three additional communities, build fruit tree nurseries and develop the capacity within each community to germinate, grow and manage them. As is the case for our other Forest Futures actions we start by discussions with each community about how this addition to their community could fit into their development plans. They also need to think about what kind of fruit they want to grow: how much for personal consumption and how much to sell. If they feel that it fits within their long-term goals then we move on to the more straightforward phase of building the nurseries and obtaining seed.
Fruit production is not only important as a source of income. It is also important as a source of vitamins and micronutrients. It might seem counter-intuitive, but many of the forest-dwelling communities we work with suffer from poor nutrition. One of the reasons for this is that the Brazil nut harvest brings a substantial lump-sum each year and much of this is used to buy dried or tinned food, their slash-and-burn plots being used to produce starch crops of rice or cassava. We are also hoping that these nurseries will serve as a catalyst to a local fuit-tree seedling market, with communities selling or exchanging surplus seedlings. Given the low diversity of seedlings available and high cost of fruit-tree seedlings, currently about £1.50 a seedling on the open market, we hope also to have a broader local impact. Maybe also enabling farmers from the Pando to connect with markets in Brazil and further south in Santa Cruz.
The unprecedented flooding in March and April of this year meant that we only began building the first nurseries in June, a few months behind schedule. We used plans developed in Peru for community nurseries by Kew colleague Oliver Whaley, which we adapted to the communities which experience seasonal floods. Our communities our spread about 300 km apart along dirt roads and so the logistics of delivering building materials has been a big challenge for Victor Soruco and Rolman Velarde who are working hard to get the first three nurseries finished.