What does a dream look like?
The orange tree in this picture was the start of a dream. It’s a Valencia orange tree in my yard with my daughter and her friend standing in front of it. Our guess is that it’s about 80 years old and it is huge, bearing hundreds of oranges every year.
My friend Ken Goyer, founder of Aid Africa, wanted to get a fresh orange to every child in Northern Uganda. We knew that Valencia orange seeds breed true, but what we didn’t know, then, that it is best to bud valencias onto a better rootstock. With a little research we discovered that we could indeed grow orange trees successfully in Northern Uganda so Aid Africa began its tree-planting program in 2007 and we have distributed thousands of Valencia oranges to people in their villages.
Here’s a little math. There are approximately 1.2 million people in Northern Uganda and the average age is 14.9 years. That means there are about 600,000 children, each deserving an orange. How many trees do we need to get that many oranges? Perdue University estimates that a very old, very mature orange tree can yield 3,000 to 5,000 fruit a year. A conservative estimate for a mature tree might be a thousand oranges. Then with just 600 trees, we’ll have our quota, right? But wait! There’s the distribution problem. Yes, Aid Africa can easily distribute enough trees, but we need to spread them over a fairly large area. That’s the job we have now, working in the communities to bring sustainable growth. We’ll need you help to get it done.
Women and men take the trees and plant them in their yards, close to their huts. We explain to them that it is in investment in time before they harvest the fruit and we explain how to plant and care for the trees. We’ve given out thousands of trees including Valencia oranges, mangoes, avocados and bananas.
But what about all those trees cut for firewood? Aid Africa is presently planting tens of thousands of multi-purpose trees using what we call a smallholder principle. We train some enterprising farmers in the growing techniques, give them the seeds and then stand back and just supervise. This method creates a sustainable project so that people in the villages will always know how to plant a wide variety of trees and what their benefits are.
Is our project working? The staff and I have done assessments in several of the villages where we have distributed trees. Almost all of them are alive! Look at this two-year-old tree!