MULBERRY FARMING AND SERICULTURE

Mulberry is one of the fruits that is greatly overlooked and has not gained much attention in Kenya. Mulberry has the potential of lifting small scale farmers if it is exploited for various commercial valuable products. Mulberry is a deciduous woody perennial that grows fast and has a deep root system. The most predominant species in Kenya is Morus Alba of different varieties that include ex-limuru, ex-embu, s36, kanva 2, ex-thika among others. There is no statistical data on the total area of coverage occupied by mulberry or on any predominant areas that grow mulberry in Kenya. So far we have not come across any farmers who have grown mulberry commercially on large tracts of land; most farmers have grown mulberry as forage in less than an acre piece of land.

9 Farmers harvesting mulberry leaves

Mulberry can be grown under different climatic conditions but prefers tropical zones with temperatures ranging from 24-28 degree Celsius. They need adequate water supply, especially when used for sericulture purposes. Rainfall ranging from 800-2000mm is ideal; irrigation is encouraged areas with less rainfall. Mulberry should be in well ventilated areas with enough sunlight for better growth and leaf quality. Mulberry does well in a wide range of soils but prefers fertile well drained soils with a soil PH of between 6.2-6.8. Farmyard manure evenly spread and properly mixed with the soil can be used when planting. A quarter an acre can accommodate 3556 plants with a spacing of 5 X 2ft. A mulberry plant takes 6-12 months to be well established and pruning is required as the plant grows.

1aFreshly cut mulberry leaves

For a very longtime mulberry has been used for sericulture in most parts of the world. In Kenya only a handful of farmers have embraced sericulture. Efforts are being made by the National sericulture station to reverse this trend; on December 10th 2014 they will be hosting farmers free of charge to be enlightened more on sericulture. Silk worm feed only on mulberry leaves making this crop a requirement if sericulture is to be practiced. Silk worm rearing requires a steady source of good quality mulberry leaves for the period they are active. If you are interested in sericulture do attend the open day on December 10th 2014 at the National Sericulture station in Thika (KARI) to learn more. Topics to be addressed include; mulberry seed propagation, care and leaf harvesting, silk worm rearing requirements and silk extraction from the cocoons. Feel free to contact us for more details and directions to the venue; admin@plantafruit.org

12.jpgSilk worm feeding on mulberry leaves

There are many products with medicinal value that can be derived from mulberry leaves and fruits. The leaves are used by some farmers as animal feed especially for cattle and rabbits. The fruits are used for making jam, jelly, fruit sauce, cake, food color, yoghurt, wine and juice. Both the fruit and leaves are dried and packaged for sale. Dried leaves are used to make mulberry green tea and dried fruits are crushed into powder. The fresh fruit has medicinal value and has for a long time been used to prepare syrup and treat sore throat, high fever and depression.

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Some of the products that can be made from mulberry

The mulberry fruit tree has tremendous potential due to its many uses; everything from the leaves to the roots can be added value if industrially exploited. The tree can be inter-cropped with other plants and serve as a good companion to grapes or passion fruit, its hard stalks supports climbers. It is also used widely for landscaping, they provide a good view if properly pruned. This single plant, if exploited can give rise to different income generating micro enterprises that will lift living standards and create jobs for the many youths who are unemployed.

PAPAYA

PAPAYA
Papaya is a common fruit in most parts of the country, yet Kenya is not a leading exporter of this fruit. This is due to the fact that the export market concentrates on processed paw paw products that include dried papaya, marmalade, canned papaya and pulp. Value addition, lack of it, is our greatest undoing as a nation. Papayas fruits are delicious and grow throughout the year. These fruits are eaten alone or in salad without the skin. They are high in potassium, vitamin A and C. Papaya leaves can be used as animal feed and some people cook the leaves as vegetables. The seeds are used by both human and animals to fight worms and parasites.

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Pawpaw performs well in most parts of the country; rift valley, eastern, coast, nyanza, western and central. By the end of the first year the papaya trees begin to bear fruit, during the second year it produces substantially. Production then decreases as the tree ages, for commercial purpose its proper to keep the trees for a period of 3-5 years, but they can have a life span of more than 10 years. In a year a tree can give you 30-100 fruits. Prices range from Ksh 20-100 depending on size and variety. In tropical climates , fruit are produced throughout the year.

The tree requires well drained soil of between 6-7 ph. It is very water sensitive and susceptible to stagnant water. It flourishes in the tropics and sub tropics and needs rainfall between 1500-2000mm spread throughout the year. Papaya is fast growing and needs plenty of nutrients to be realized by use of manure and mulch. In dry months they will need irrigation, let them not go for more than a month without water. Proper pest control is required to ensure good quality produce. Papaya trees are very susceptible to wind break thanks to their flat root system and soft woodiness. They are ideal in agro-forestry systems where they are planted with other trees that serve as wind breakers. It can be planted as an intercrop with low growing annual crops such as beans and onion.

There are different varieties of papaya found in Kenya. The major ones are solo, mountain, sunrise and sweet varieties. There are also some improved breeds such as the red royale that give good quality yields produced by JKUAT. Papaya is mostly propagated by seed which produce fruits of different size and shapes. Vegetative propagation of papaya using tissue culture give rise to superior plants that are disease resistant, produce high yields and are easy to maintain and harvest because they trees are short(dwarf).

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papaya plantation

Home gardeners should embrace papaya for home consumption, it requires less space and maintaining it is easy. One can prepare fresh salad, juice and marmalade for the family using papaya, this can in turn generate into a business that can earn an extra dime. Local farmers can intercrop papaya with various plants ranging from other fruit trees such as mango, banana and low growing annuals that include spinach, capsicum, onions, strawberry among others. Papaya plays a major role in establishing other crops sharing similar requirements in agro forestry systems.

CHIEF’S CAMP PROJECT

We do partner with corporate entities and other organizations to implement sustainable CSR projects that deal with environment conservation and food security. This project was initiated on 13/06/2014 and supported by Bacardi Kenya. A total of 21, one year old fruit trees were planted that include; loquat, apple, guava, white sapote, strawberry guava, Papaya, Monitor, Pitango, Tamarind, Mulberry, custard apple and straw berry plants. We planted several trees together with Bacardi staff team and several community members, the area chief and his assistant also planted a tree each.

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The trees will be maintained and monitored till fruition. Our intention is to enlighten society on the economic, nutrition and environmental benefits of fruit tree farming/planting. The Chief’s office being a public office that hosts many locals and visitors was ideal for such a project. The fruit trees will serve as a learning resource and a catalyst that will compel community members to embrace and venture in fruit farming. There are many fruit trees that perform well In Kenya and have great potential that remains unexploited and we do believe that lack of knowledge and skills greatly contributes to this situation. Projects like this if well supported, managed and replicated in other areas will greatly reverse this trend by imparting basic agronomic and agribusiness skills to interested community members.

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We regard our CSR clients as impact investors who expect us to deliver positive social and environment impact alongside financial return, even though they don’t invest directly in our enterprise. Such an engagement allows companies and corporate entities a variety of options to diversify economically through entering different markets and interacting with new customers, suppliers and products. Other than relying on aid and grants, we do think it’s high time for us to apply business thinking to provide solutions to a range of problems, be it social or environmental.

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We believe companies do have a lot to gain if they partner with social enterprises as investors rather than donors. The 21st century has plenty of challenges, resources from the government and philanthropy alone, are insufficient to tackle these challenges. Lucky enough the social enterprise and impact investing movement is gaining momentum in Kenya thanks to Strathmore business school and KCA University. These two institutions are separately doing some good work through research and holding stakeholders meetings with the main aim of coming up with solutions that will reduce the bottlenecks faced by social enterprises and impact investors.

 

GRAPES GROWING

Grape is a woody vine that produces clusters of edible berries. They can be eaten raw or can be used to process wine and other products such as jam and grape juice. There are plenty of health benefits in consuming grapes for they are a rich source of Vitamins- A, C, K and minerals such as iron, copper, manganese. Grapes are widely cultivated all over the world due to the fact that they are non-climatic and can thrive in different climatic conditions but they prefer warm to hot temperatures. Grapes are suitable for home gardeners and for small scale or large scale commercial production. In Kenya, grapes can be used to reduce economic and food insecurity because there is a good market within the country. There is ready market throughout the year and new wine companies that use grapes as their main raw material are setting shop in Kenya. Established companies such as East African breweries ltd are thinking of entering the wine market as they seek to diversify. The future of this crop is promising.

A good percentage of the grape consumed in Kenya is imported and mostly sold to the high end market that pays a good price for them- a kilo goes at around 400-500 Ksh. Wine producing companies such as Kenyan wine agencies do import the grapes they use because of the good quality of imported grapes and lack of local supply .Any company prefers getting their core raw materials from within and are only forced to import if they have no other choice. This greatly increases the cost of production and denies such companies a competitive advantage. Some of the companies are aware of this and have developed their own grapevine orchards but the grape produced is still insufficient.
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Vegetative propagation of grapes at our nursery

This plant has the potential to create employment and wealth among Kenyan farmers’ especially young farmers who are ready to try something new. Grapes’ growing is still in its formative stage despite the fact that there are grapevine orchards in different parts of Kenya that are more than 20 years old. More farmers and home gardeners should be encouraged to embrace this crop. Farmers can go an extra mile and establish wine making cottage industries that will improve the economic outlook of their locality. There is a lot to be done to ensure farmers are well trained on grape cultivation and value addition to guarantee high quality produce that will rival imported grapes and wine.

Grape prefers deep and well drained soil and can grow in any soil type. They can be propagated through seeds or vegetatively by using cuttings. While planting a spacing of 15-20 cm should be observed. A trellis system should also be implemented to train and support the grape vines as they grow. Alternatively grapes can be planted together with mulberry as a companion plant that will offer the grapes support and distract birds from eating the grape fruit for they will be attracted to the mulberry fruits that will be high above. Birds pose a great challenge once the crop ripens; we prefer using fruit trees such as strawberry guava and mulberry to distract them. Birds will be easily attracted to these fruits and leave the grapes that are well trained and fruits tucked under the leaves. Insect and disease problems can be reduced by planting vines in a sunny location with good air drainage.

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Grape seedlings ready for planting

There are different types of grapes each having its own characteristic, advantages and disadvantages. Prospective large scale farmers should visit wineries and inquire on the types of grapes they might be interested to purchase before embracing certain cultivators because demand does differ by variety. Home growers should sample the different varieties; they can be planted along the fence in the homestead and trained well to conceal the fruits when it matures. We have stocked grape seedlings and we are still sourcing for more grape seedlings of different varieties. Pay us a visit and pick a few seedlings for your homestead or farm. We can be contacted via mail: admin@plantafruit.org for more information.

Kariobangi North Pri. Demo Farm

Kariobangi North Pri. Demo Farm.

Present- MAY 2014

TREE TOMATO

As we continue to encourage people to embrace fruit farming, we try to highlight some of the fruits that we think have the potential to improve the quality of life by providing necessary nutrients and generating income to home gardeners and small scale farmers. This time round we feature tree tomato, scientific name- Cyphomandra betacea, a semi-woody tree that grows 2-3m high. Also known as Tamarillo, in Swahili it is called Mgogwe. Tree tomato has high levels of iron, fibre, potassium and vitamin A, B6, C, and E. Tree tomato is ideal for home gardeners who don’t have much space in urban areas, one does not need much space to grow a few tree tomato trees. It is fast growing and bears fruit within 18 months, but we have seen some varieties that if well taken care of take a much shorter time to fruit (8-14 months). Tree tomato grows best in areas with enough sunlight and prefers dip, rich well drained soil. They cannot withstand water logging and are intolerant to constant high temperatures.

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Tree tomato commands a good price in the market; the current market price is Ksh. 10 for one. The fruit has high yields and is generally pest-resistant. It is a short-lived tree with a lifespan of between 5-12 years. It requires little capital to venture into tree tomato farming and it is not labour intensive. Tree tomato does not tolerate competition from weeds thus requires heavy mulching. Tree tomato can be grown from seeds or cuttings. We do have certified, disease free tree tomato seedlings that we are planning to distribute to our various projects to encourage more people to venture in horticulture. Tree tomato farming is a lucrative venture; one can sell the fruits, propagate seedlings for sell and offer practical training at the same time.

This is right time for us to start growing some of the vegetables, herbs and fruits that we consume. Food prices are escalating, and food safety standards are not adhered to. A recent joint research by the University of Nairobi and Strathmore , University established that most fruits and vegetables sold in Kenya contain harmful pesticides that exceed safe levels. As much as we can’t grow everything we eat, let’s at least try and grow some fruits that are easy to propagate and manage like the tree tomatoes, strawberries, paw paws, Kiwi etc. Companion vegetables and herbs can also be grown beneath or alongside the fruits to control pests and diseases, add nutrients to the soil and act as ground cover. Chillies, garlic, neem and marigold act as good companion plants that can be grown together with tree tomato. This helps reduce the use of pesticides and chemicals.

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There is a rising demand of organic farm products, growing your fruit trees organically is the way to go. It is quite a challenge for starters but once you master the art of organic farming everything falls in place. Soil fertility plays a crucial role in crop production and organic farming ensures nutrients are returned to the soil. The use of chemical fertilizer is not sustainable in the long run; they act as temporary remedies that end up depleting our soils. If you have to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, use them to the minimum. Organic farming is the best option for fruit farmers because organic products command a good price both in local and export markets.

 

Strawberry Growing Project

Strawberry is one of the fruits that has great potential both nutritionally and economically but remains unexploited. 96% of strawberry produced in Kenya is grown in three counties namely; Nyeri, kiambu and Kirinyaga. Out of the 47 counties, only 3 are major producers of strawberry, these leaves a lot to be desired. Strawberry growing is fun, takes a shorter period to mature (3-6 months) and can be grown by both small scale and large scale farmers. Even those who have no adequate land can enjoy eating fresh strawberry grown in containers, sacks and pots. As per the Horticulture Validated Report 2012 by HCDA, USAID and the Ministry of Agriculture, the potential for increased production of strawberry is immense due to ready market in the food processing industry. It is noted that the major constraints to increased production of strawberry are lack of suitable day-neutral varieties, inadequate quality planting materials, pests especially birds and limited knowledge on appropriate agronomic practices among growers.

Heavily mulched strawberry grown below fruit trees

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Our mission is to empower communities to enable them diversify into fruit farming by providing quality growing material and the necessary knowledge, skills and extension services needed. We believe that the best way to learn more on strawberry production is by practically engaging in strawberry growing. There is a growing demand for strawberry, more people especially the youth should be encouraged to engage in the production of strawberry and value addition. We initiated strawberry container gardens project to sensitize schools and community members in urban areas on the importance and benefits of strawberry farming. We have taught learners on how to grow, manage and propagate strawberries so as to produce quality fruits and seedlings that can be sold for income. We do hope learners will use the knowledge and skills gained to engage in strawberry farming as an economic activity.

ImageKids sampling strawberries after a lesson on strawberry container gardens

Strawberry farming doesn’t demand a lot especially if one is growing them organically. Adequate water is needed for adequate nutrient uptake, mulching plays an important role by suppressing weeds , helps soil retain water and keeps fruit from contacting soil. To provide adequate weed control, organic mulches must be at least 4 inches thick. Strawberry can be planted along with other companion plants such as onion, garlic and spinach that repel insects and pests. We have tried planting strawberries in sacks and they have flourished, their roots are fibrous and don’t go deep making them perform well in pots or recycled buckets. This is more practical in urban areas where there is limited space. Strawberries planted in pots serve both as an ornamental and edible plant

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Strawberry grown in sacks

Below are a few tips on strawberry growing:-
-Select sites with good water drainage and air circulation.
-Plant only disease and insect free seedlings.
-Apply thick mulch under and around plants.
-Practice weed management.
-Harvest fruit promptly and cool it to protect from fruit rot.
Our demo farm is open to the public, feel free to pay us a visit or refer a friend. We do have a variety of fruit seedlings, vegetables and herbs that will offer a good learning experience. We can be reached on +254714118794 or admin@plantafruit.org

FOOD FOR LIFE PROJECT

This season we joined forces with Immaculate primary school in Mihango and contributed several fruit seedlings to kick start the food for life project and make it more practical for the benefit of the students and the larger community. This project is spearheaded by the scouts’ movement headed by Mr. Jeremy Odhiambo who is a teacher at the school and doubles as the scout’s sub-county commissioner. Below is what he had to say about this initiative.
Food for life project by Jeremy Odhiambo

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Jeremy showing students how to plant tree tomato

As we embark on this exciting journey on learning how to grow food for one’s family sustainability and the community at large, many thanks goes to PLANT A FRUIT who have come in handy to provide certified fruit seedlings and the technical assistance needed in this project. Our aim is to make our institution a resource centre- to be well informed and transformed in modern and traditional methods of producing, marketing, packing and preserving vegetables, fruits and herbs.

When a resource centre is created closer to the community, then the learners both parents and students can make their education practical. The skills learnt can be used to transform other parts of the country. By this we don’t produce theoretical half-baked students, but a well informed one on matters that affect the country such as food security, nutrition & health and environment conservation. Learners will also be taught on project evaluation and monitoring for accountability and continuity.

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Our mission therefore, is to contribute to the practical education of the wider community especially young people in matters agribusiness. Through a value system based on our programme we can help in building a better world where people are self-reliant and self-fulfilled as individuals who play a sensitive and vital role in the society at large. All these will develop strength of character, leadership, tolerance and thorough contact with nature, a strong factor of the environment.

So far we have planted papaya, tree tomato, white sapote, pitango and strawberries. Vegetables such as spinach, kales and onions have also been planted. We want to demonstrate how small pieces of land can be used efficiently to maximize production. Urban areas have minimal space for food growing but with good planning such places can produce enough vegetables, fruits and herbs for family consumption.

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Teacher Lilian and Girl guides planting white sapote

You can reach Jeremy via mail odhiambojerry@gmail.com

Companion Planting-Tomato Growing 101

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Companion plants complement each other and play a major role in integrated pest management and nitrogen fixing to improve soil fertility. Critical factors in companion planting are; proper planning and thoughtful design which gives birth to a system that maximizes output and minimizes labour and input. Companion planting is one of the many horticultural practices and undoubtedly one of the best tomato growing tips in Kenya, and pretty much the world over, today. It involves growing more than one plant species in the same field in an effort to create a jointly beneficial situation for all plants. Companion planting is also used to foster better growing conditions in the case of a cash crop. Several goals can be achieved through companion planting.

For one, you might use companion planting in an effort to introduce a trap crop that will attract slugs, insects, and other harmful pests from your tomatoes. When it comes to growing tomatoes, one of the widely known and advocated ways of organically controlling pests is through companion planting or using chemical sprays. Many advocators or organic gardening will of course opt for companion planting.

You see, tomatoes are affected by several pests such as hornworms, white fly, aphids, insects, mosquitoes and flies, and red spider mite. Even though the pests absolutely love tomato plants, you can rest assured through companion planting the pests will find a brand new love in form of the trap plant. The following are some of the best tomato growing tips that will make companion planting a success.

The best thing about companion planting in tomato gardening is that you get to accomplish two thing at the same time. If not for anything else because your tomatoes will get a conducive environment to be healthy and enjoy some duration of being pest-free, thus producing sweet, juicy, and lovely tomato fruits; and at the same time you will be able to grow herbs among other plants that you can find very useful inside the kitchen.

With that being said, here is a list of the best and most used companion plants that you can team up with your tomatoes.

1.      Garlic has proven very effective in repelling red spider mites. Alternatively, you can crush fresh garlic and create a concentration spray that you can spray directly on the leaves of your tomato plants so you can repel whitefly and aphids, and at the same time discourage the growth of fungus.

2.      The other type of plant is marigold, which has proven effective in repelling the white fly, a very stubborn pest in the tomato garden.

3.      Basil has also been used as a tomato companion plant for the longest time now. The best thing about basil is that it can be used in the house for cooking and preparing delectable salad dishes and in the garden it can be used to repel flies and mosquitoes

Just as an additional tip, you can also control pest by rotating crops in your tomato garden. You should however ensure you don’t grow plants of the same family such as eggplant, peppers, and potatoes as they too will attract similar pests as those of the tomato plant, introduce something different you will be able to have tomato plates under control. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants for a comprehensive list of companion plants. For more information on companion plants to be planted with fruits and for certified fruit seedlings and plants contact us  admin@plantafruit.org.

TO A FRUITFUL 2014

Happy New Year! Let’s start off by wishing each and everyone a prosperous 2014 and a year full of positive actions and results.  Despite the many challenges and disruptions, 2013 was a great year and without it we wouldn’t be in 2014. We thank all our clients, supporters, volunteers, partners and staff for the progress and miles we have attained so far. In partnership with schools and local communities, we have been actively involved in creating demo farms that will be producing certified fruit seedlings and serve as centres of learning where community members will purchase their seedlings and learn more about horticulture especially orchard development and management. So far, our pilot project at Kariobangi primary school is on track and will be offering training in the near future. Plans are underway for us to partner with institutions that will ensure relevant and high quality practical training is offered.

 We are still very much focused in our push to encourage guys to plant fruit trees either by investing in fruit farming or planting fruits in their home gardens and landscapes for personal consumption. Our role is to ensure farmers and home gardeners get quality seedlings from certified sources and all the necessary information on how to plant and take care of their plants to ensure quality yields that meet health and market standards. High quality grafted seedlings leads to increased production that improves the health of families not only by providing a higher nutrition diet, but also by generating profits from surplus. Fruit production and consumption is low in East Africa and Africa at large. We want to empower farmers’ especially small-scale farmers who are the majority by encouraging them to embrace sustainable farming practices and diversify into fruit farming as they adopt agro forestry.

One of our main objectives is to deepen awareness on the importance and adoption of agribusiness among the youth. We are focusing on primary and secondary schools to initiate orchard development and management. There is need for mental migration among the youth who regard agriculture as a poor man’s activity. The youth should be encouraged to venture into agriculture not as something that is cool but as an economic activity that has potential to create wealth and as an obligation to feed the world. From our practical experiences, agriculture isn’t cool; it requires self-drive, hard work and dedication for one to realize its coolness. There are platforms and initiatives that assist the youth who are willing to venture in agribusiness and it’s up to the youths to rise to the occasion and take advantage of these platforms that include ;  Mkulima Young, Young Professionals in Agricultural Research for Development Youth Agro-Environment Initiative, Agri-Hub Kenya  just to mention a few.

The impact of our work will be greater if we partner and collaborate with organizations and individuals who participate in activities that are similar or relate to what we are doing. This will create synergy among the different players and stakeholders and avoid duplicating efforts leading to greater impacts using little resources. Most of our projects are designed as open-ended strategies that call for the refinement of the strategy as we proceed with implementation. This makes us open to suggestions, advice and any technical assistance that may come our way. The demo farm at kariobangi North primary School is almost one year old, we have planted different varieties of fruits mixed with cassava, sugarcane and indigenous vegetables. We promote organic farming, agro forestry, permaculture and conservation agriculture. In case you are in Nairobi feel free to pay a visit to the demo farm and purchase fruit seedlings as you learn more on fruit farming. Feel free to give us a call on +254714118794 or drop us a mail at admin@plantafruit.org for more info. Once again we wish you all a prosperous year, let’s keep it real in 2014 and pray the Almighty will bless us with strength and wisdom and crown our efforts with success.

 

 

 

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