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Wednesday, June 25

Fruit Feature: Canistel

In this account of agventures (adVENTURES in AGgriculture), I can provide no justifiable explanation why this my first encounter with this fruit. I have never seen it sold in local farmers' market. Sadly, this is not a familiar fixture of home gardens. Maybe, others are in the same predicament as I: clueless about canistel.

Almost ripe canistel

A fruit is often imagined to be dripping of nature's nectar. But the canistel, like this source describes, is a "powdery" fruit. The green fruit ripens to yellow skin and yellow insides. Inside the flesh of the fruit are large, shiny brown seeds enclosed in what I can only describe as a fruity "plastic" casing. The texture of the fruit  pulp which is described as similar to a hard boiled egg has gained it the name Egg Fruit. This name may also be attributed to the colour of the insides and shape of the fruit itself. 

The delicious insides

Green canistel

First impresssions of Canistel

  • Sweet! Very sweet. It tastes like apricot with a subtle undertone of sugar apple. No sooner had I completed the staging of the open canistel, when an ant came to the picnic by way of agreement.
  • The texture of the fruit is like cooked sweet potatoes (another reference to the sweet taste). It's like a slice of cake...It's like desert and food in one!
  • The scent, a heady pungence that I liken to that of apricot also. Before the fruit even forms, the scent of the flowers attract bees to the tree.

Although I have been told that the fruit is made into delicious drinks, a Google search will produce recipe results  such as ice-creams and pies. Nutritional value of canistel includes dietary fibre, carbohydrates, niacin, carotene, ascorbic acid, calcium and phosphorus.

Canistel flowers

Are you convinced yet that you should have this fruit tree in your yard? Propagated canistel plants can be sourced at the Barthe Propagation Station at Myers Bridge, Soufriere.

Additional sources:

Sunday, June 15

Gender Matters in the Aim for a Green Economy

A two-day National Round Table on Rural Women Agricultural Producers and the Green Economy was convened at Auberge Seraphine Hotel. The session was a combined effort of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre and the National Fair Trade Organisation (St. Lucia) Inc. as part of the project, Enabling Caribbean Women Farmers' Participation in the Green Economy. Women represented farmers's groups such as Belle Vue Farmers' Cooperative, Black Bay Farmers' Cooperative, the Saint Lucia Floral Cooperative, and Babonneau Cluster of St. Lucia Network of Rural Women Producers. We were also joined by male representatives from their respective organisations/institutions.

The objectives of the Round Table were to:
  1. Exchange information regarding the Green Economy in St. Lucia
  2. Discuss the findings of the research on the participation of rural women agricultural producers in the green economy process
  3. Identify the elements of a gender sensitive green economy policy framework for the region
  4. Generate information to inform the drafting of a Women Farmers Manifesto for the Green Economy

What is the Green Economy?

The Green Economy Initiative was borne out of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012. The working definition of the Green Economy by the United Nations Environment Programme is an economy that results in improved human well being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risk and ecological scarcities; this economy aims for sustainable development without degrading the environment. Thus, the critical areas identified for development are:
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Society
Additionally, the initiative promotes alternative livelihood activities which reduce pressure on the environment. These activities will reduce our ecological footprint ie. the extent to which human activity places pressure on productive land used for forests, crop land, grazing land, fishing grounds and built-up land.
As such, agriculture has been identified as a sector to be developed for a greener economy. The other nine sectors are fisheries, buildings, forestry, transportation, water, waste, manufacturing and industry, energy supply and tourism. Agricultural production places pressure on resources of fisheries, forestry and water. This underscores the fact that farmers-both male and female-play a key role in the management of the ecosystem.

Why does Gender Matter in the Green Economy?

To effect this paradigm shift to the Green Economy all members of society should be engaged. Women have been identified as a vulnerable group, uniquely affected by these proposed changes. In light of women's contribution to agricultural production and their gender roles in the society which are of economical and social significance it was important for dialogue among women on their unique experiences in the sector. As producers, women farmers contribute to the family's income and country's GDP; their agricultural practices impact on the environment; their farming activities also have effects on the culture in their communities.  This session was designed to explore gender-sensitive issues and implications to the Green Economy Initiative. Topics discussed included subsistence farming practices, organic farming, marketing activities, record keeping, security of land tenure, women's decision-making roles as mothers and providers in the household and how these affect the ecological footprint.

Today's  introduction to the Green economy concept was an interesting exchange which provided me with new perspectives on gender-based issues in the local and global agricultural sector.

Additional resources:

Wednesday, June 11


Today's agventures (adventures in agriculture) takes me to Terre Blanc Estate at Soufriere Saint Lucia. I have visited before, albeit briefly. Today, it is the venue for field training for farmers in composting. This training is part of a project to promote sustainable crop production through the application of organic agricultural methods for sustainable community development. We go right on to the banana plantation where the scent of the near by Sulphur Springs pervades.

The method demonstrated was Piling Compost.

Lucky for us, we are on a banana plantation where stems are readily available

  • Source of carbon. Banana stems were used for this demonstration.
  • Source of Nitrogen. Examples include green material such as grass or leaves. Grass was used in this training
  • Source of Micro Nutrients. Examples include Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Fish Meal, Feathers, Manure. In this training horse manure and chicken feathers were used.
  • Source of Micro Organisms such as mites, snails, ants, earthworms and woodlice. Examples include Soil, Compost. In this training soil was used.
  • Water
Spreading the manure

  • Garden fork
  • Cutlass
  • Thermometer
  • Wheel barrow
  • Bags

It was interesting to learn that local soils are lacking in phosphorus primarily because they do not occur naturally in the soil. Bone meal, feathers and fish meal are all excellent sources of phosphorus. Fresh blood is another source of this micro-nutrient. It is best used as fresh as possible. If not possible to be used the same day then it should be frozen. The application method is 1/2 part water to 1/2 part blood. Moreover, fresh blood acts as an activator, accelerating the composting process.

  1. Procure the materials.
  2. Clear the area for the compost pile.
  3. Lay the stems in a rectangular shape.
  4. Chop a layer of banana stems and lay them at the base of the heap.
  5. Layer on the grass along the full length and breadth of the banana stems. 
  6. Layer on the chicken feathers along the centre of the pile.
  7. Layer the animal manure.
  8. Layer on 3 bags of dirt.
  9. Add another layer of chopped banana stems.
  10. Add another layer of grass.
  11. Add another layer of animal manure.
  12. Add on 5 bags of dirt.

The Final Product!
The compost pile was not drenched with water as it was a day of intermittent showers. Although the Rainy Season officially began on June 1, no significant rainfall has been recorded. It still feels like Kawenm (french creole for Dry Season).

Management of Compost:

  • The pile should be watered daily
  • The temperature should be checked daily or at least three times per week
  • The pile should be turned
Since this pile was made with less hardy material (with banana stems instead of woody tree stems) the composting should be complete in three months. Bulkier, hardier material takes six months to a year to compost.