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Saturday, November 16

Papaya Production

What is your favourite fruit? Papaya (local name: Papay) is a worthy candidate. This tropical fruit is served most often as a breakfast fruit. With its high water content, the nutritional value of papaya includes the water-soluble vitamins A, C and E; mineral content and fibre.

Papaya estate
Today I visit a farm in papaya production at Marquis Estate and not a moment too soon. Farmer E. is getting ready to harvest. The trees are laden. This dwarf, yet high-yielding variety is called Red Lady. The plant is a self-pollinating variety that is noted for its resistance to the papaya ring spot disease.

However, they are not as resistant to Anthracnose and Bunchy top diseases which currently challenge papaya production in Saint Lucia. Anthracnose is caused by the fungus, Colletotrichum gloeosporioides. Initial symptoms  of this disease manifests itself as watersoaked, sunken spots on the fruit. As the fungus develops the coloration of the spots change from black, then pink, then brown. Eventually, the flesh becomes soggy and spreads to the entire fruit. Anthracnose affects fruit both in the field and post-harvest.

Anthracnose on ripe fruit
Advanced stage of fruit rot

While Bunchy top is a transmitted by a leaf hopper, a1993 IICA Production asserts that the Bunchy Top is triggered by mineral deficiencies, the disease source being mycoplasma ."Bunchy top can be distinguished from boron deficiency by the fact that the tops of affected plants do not ooze latex when pricked". 
Both these diseases are controllable.

Bunch top advanced stage
Farmer E. believes that both the quality and quantity of papaya production establish papaya worthy not only at the breakfast table but also at the trade table to supersede banana production. While attempts have been made, papaya production has not significantly developed since historical 1993. The same diseases which plagued sustainable production and supply still exist. Commercial production was and still remains limited to the local market. The control of these debilitating diseases is a pre-requisite for the development of a papaya industry with export quantities and quality for international markets. It is also important to invest in research for the development of varieties that are resistant to disease. The Caribbean's competitive advantage over producers in sub-tropical areas also lies in:
  • Shorter time required to flower
  • Reduced period for fruit set
  • Reduced time to harvest

Please share your thoughts on the potential of the marketability of papaya.

Other sources: 

Friday, November 15

Plantain Plantation

Immature Plantain 

It is Sunday. It is 5:00 am. These are perfect conditions for sleeping in. But there is work to done and it shall be done. The farmer's day generally begins much earlier than other professions. With energy of purpose we set out on the expedition for young plantain plants for re-planting. We are sourcing the plants from Albert's farm at Marquis Estate, Babonneau. This rural area in northern St. Lucia is known as the bread basket of the north.

The distance over unpaved, potholed road is shorter than road surfaced with asphalt and gravel. However, reduced speed does nothing to ease the pain of the inescapable bumps of the road. At our destination, we begin to ascend the plantain-planted slope equipped with bags, cutlass and digging implements. No sooner have we set off when a Giant African snail greets us "Good Morning". Albert is nonchalant about the pest problem. He shares that he has plans for the chemical control in the coming week.
Giant African Snail working its way up a plantain plant

All is progressing well until what seems like a passing rain cloud darkens the already overcast sky. The light showers which interrupt our work develop into sheets and sheets of cold rain. It is possible for rain to be especially colder, running down your back at 6:00 am. The silver lining is that we are given an opportunity to slow down and take in the view. Seemingly, waiting out the rain will take whole day. We abandon shelter of plantain leaves and continue digging out plantain suckers in the pouring rain.

Black sigatoka looms over plantain/banana production

Rainy days

 It is disheartening to know that all this productive land has been earmarked for hotel development. The immediate impact is the displacement of the livelihoods of farmers. On a national level this is contrary to strategies for increased food production, food security and environmental responsibility. Albert remarks at the several bunches of fallen plantains: "See how food is wasting in this country". Today they will not be wasted as I am taking them all home. My "party bag" also has sugar cane, limes, oranges and bay leaf. I all but roll down the muddy slope lugging my finds.
One of many fallen plantains

It has been a productive day and the day has barely started. Now it is time for sleep. 

Like water off a plantain leaf

Sunday, November 3

Reporting from Rwanda for the ICT4Ag Conference

The plane taxis to a stop while the perfunctory airline safety protocol is announced.  Jimmy Cliff’s timeless tune, “I Can See Clearly”, welcomes us to Rwanda. The nostalgic words coming over the system have never been more profound:
I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshinin' day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshinin' day.”

From my window seat, I can appreciate the beauty of the day despite my fatigue. This journey across different time zones began on the night of October 30. Cold rain greeted me in London and the day was spent under overcast skies. It was a night flight out of Heathrow too and dawn was only breaking when the plane landed in Kenya. But today, November 1, sun streams through the plane window-the light at the end of the tunnel!

Bright, sunshining day
As the plane prepared to land, and the rolling landscape became more defined, I marveled at the land distribution. Rural development was planned into a seamless quilt of shades of green and brown. Even from way up here, the place looks so clean! Rwanda’s “almost litter-free” status had been indicated in the information package provided by the event organisers. Admittedly, I instead entertained anxious anticipation of being hauled off to prison or fined. I’m expecting a search of my luggage “at the border and even at police checkpoints throughout the country” to enforce the plastic bag ban. I mentally review the contents of my suitcase. Never in my travelling history has a bag been more carefully packed.
Window seats are always the best

My first experience in Kigali, Rwanda validates it as the choice of venue for the ICT4Ag Conference. Technology is very evident from the start. At immigration I am asked to look into the webcam on the counter for my photo to be taken. My thumb prints are also electronically scanned. This is my first entry point of this trip through several international airports which requires this of me. It is only fitting that this is where we engage discussion on ICT applications to farming, fisheries and livestock. I am especially eager to discover the existing ICT solutions, the latest technological innovations, in agriculture. Lucky for me these will be on exhibition on Day 1-Plug and PlayDay.

Before the official Conference activities from the November 4-8, the Social Reporting team will be trained in the use of social media tools to generate broad online awareness, interest and participation for events beginning with the ICT4Ag Conference.  The ICT4Ag Social Reporting Team is a diverse group from ACP countries. I look forward to this interactive learning experience. The journey to become an ICT4Ag Professional, particularly skilled in social media and social reporting has brought me this far in such a short space of time. I see a bright sunshining future for me.

Where are you on the road to achieving your goals?