Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Clones come to the village!

The first thing I think of when someone says "clones" is Attack of the Clones", the 2nd (?) movie in the StarWars saga.  This post is not about those clones.

Welcome to Caballococha!  This was the starting point of our adventure.  From here we took a plane to Iquitos.

What is a clone in this post?  And why are they so important?

Fruit tree clones.  Clones of fruit trees are genetically identical.  They all come from one, original "parent" tree.  Every true "Naval" orange comes from one original Naval orange tree.  Every "McIntosh" apple tree comes from one original McIntosh tree.  Every "Gala" apple comes from one original Gala tree.  Through the practice of cloning, a branch was cut from the original tree to grow copies (clones) of that original tree.  This "cutting" involves a process called grafting.

A seed from any one of the above-mentioned varieties WILL NOT produce a fruit that tastes like the tree from which the fruit was taken.  The seeds from apples, for instance, will produce "crabapple" trees and fruit.

Original trees are picked to be cloned because they have attributes that are very desirable.  They may have excellent taste, high productivity, resistance to disease, or any combination of these attributes.  Clones are a reliable way to guarantee high-quality fruit.  This fruit may be eaten and sold for profit!

I went with Victor and his son Nicolas.  Victor grew up in Iquitos and most of his family lives there.  He helped me to locate the trees.

The airplane is run by the Peruvian air force.  There is only one flight per day.  This was Victor and Nicolas's first time on a plane.  They were both a little anxious to fly!

Does bringing a small number of clones to the village justify the cost?

To bring the trees to the village was difficult and costly.  It took us over a week of time to find, transport, and plant the clones.  We travel over 800 kilometers by plane, various boats, and trucks.  In all, we bought 22 orange and lime tree clones.  Additionally, we bought three other types of non-clone native fruit trees.

The approach to Iquitos by air.  Iquitos is the capital of the Peruvian Amazon.  It is a jungle city of around 1 million people.  This was the only city that has fruit tree clones that are well adapted to the region and ready to buy.
Using clones to make clones
One of the best features of cloned trees is that the clones may be used to make additional clones.  After three years of growth, we can use our trees to make more clones by graphing.  We can teach the people in the village to do this.  They can plant these clone seedlings or sell them.

Victor and Nicolas in the nursery.  They only had lime and orange trees for clones, but they were of very high quality.  We also bought some beautiful mango and other regional fruit trees which are expected to produce well, but they were not clones.
How will we teach the villagers to graft clones?

Instructors from SENA, the nationally-run technical training school of Colombia, will help to teach the villagers how to graft the seedlings.  Three years ago we had an instructor in the village to teach vegetable farming practices.

The port of Iquitos.  The water level was very low at this time of year, so a lot of the muddy river bottom is shown in the picture.  During October the rainy season starts and the river rises.  The difference between low and high levels can be up to 20 feet!  Our boat, seen on the left side of the picture, was called the Maria Fernanda.  It had five levels, including the hold.

One of our first stops at 7 in the morning.  It would take between 30 minutes and two hours to unload cargo at each village.

This is the town of Pebas.  It is a town of the Yagua tribe.  The town was very clean and well organized.  While our boat was unloading cargo we had a chance to look around and to stretch our legs.

Breakfast on the first morning.  They had a full restaurant onboard.  Up to 200 people were traveling with us at any time.  People come and go to each village along the river.  There are three levels like this with hammocks (20 USD for a hammock space) on each level.  You must bring your own hammock.  There are also small cabins available for about double the price of a hammock ticket.  At every stop, vendors came on board to sell things like hammocks, food, soap, razors, clothing, games, and almost anything else the passengers may need.

Our trees were stored undercover on the top deck.  They were out of the rain, wind, and direct sun, but they did receive good light.  Transport wise, the ship did very well.

Caring for the fruit tree clones is also good practice for our next project, cacao clones!
This is a very interesting village which we encountered during our first day of travel.  It is around the village of San Francisco.  The village was very orderly and well maintained.  There were also many people, men and women, dressed in long robes.  Most of the people (men, women, and children) had very long hair.  Many of the men also had long beards.  They looked like they were living in Biblical times.

After asking my co-travelers, I found that they were members of a religious cult called the Israelites.  These people believe that Jesus Christ is alive, on earth now, and living in Equador.  They do not drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs.  They work very hard and farm well.  Many of them also cultivate coca, the plant from which cocaine is made.  They do not use the coca, but they do sell it.  There are 10s of thousands of followers of this religion in the Peruvian and Colombian Amazon region.

So you don't believe this?  Check out these links, including their Facebook page!

The Israelite flag?

At last, we arrived at our destination in Caballococha!  After 30 hours on the river, our ship arrived at 3:30 in the morning.  We woke up and frantically unloaded our gear and the plants.  By 6 am we had them safely stowed at Victor's house.  After that, I took a speed boat downriver to La Libertad.  The next day I traveled back upriver to pick up the plants with the project's cargo boat.

At 12 noon, after four hours of travel upriver and heavy rain, we finally load the trees into our boat.  It took us three hours to go downriver.

Almost home!  We ate, talked, and slept while our pilot navigated the river.  After one night in the village, we continued downriver to the city.  

We have clones in two locations.  One in the village and the other just outside of the city.  The trees outside of city are being grown and cared for at an organic vegetable farm.  This picture is where we plan to build a nursery to graft more fruit tree clones.  We will then sell the clones for profit.

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