Visiting farms and talking with farmers is my favorite part of my placement as I get to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and engage in interesting conversation. I enjoy hiking through the mountainous areas of St. Vincent and observing the wide diversity of crops and talking with farmers about the work that goes into their crops, inputs and challenges never seems to get old.
Visit to Congo Valley and the Jacksons Farm
The Jacksons farm is located in the heights of Congo Valley which is roughly a 45 minute hike from the main road. Upon my arrival the Jacksons discussed how they used to repeat that hike on the daily prior to purchasing their small truck. The landscape on the way up to the farm was covered in rivers, fields of dasheen, eddoes and plantains.
The Jacksons farm was located on an extremely steep plot, and consisted of dasheen and green bananas. Dasheen has become a vital crop for export in St. Vincent since the collapse of the Banana Industry, an initiative that has been led by The Eastern Caribbean Trading and Agriculture Organization(ECTAD). Dasheen belongs to the roots tuber family of crops and is cultivated within tropical climates. It typically takes around 9 months for dasheen to be ready for harvest but soil quality and other factors can speed that up.
Large sized dasheen(3lbs or more) were easily sold for export, I was told. The smaller ones, however, were not so easily sold and they were always struggling to find buyers. ECTAD is in process of finding a market for the small sized dasheen. That of the green banana is a different story altogether. The market for bananas collapsed after the outset of black sigatoka disease and the loss of preferential access to the British market. The Jacksons didn’t know where they were going to sell their bananas, and said they prayed to God that they would find a buyer.
The Jacksons showed me how to deflower bananas and remove banana cones, as this prevented the plant from using nutrients in non-consumable parts.
The Jacksons land was filled with fruit trees, and they allowed me help myself.
Since I’ve been in St. Vincent I’ve asked many farmers what their biggest challenge is. A vast majority state that it is a formal market in which to sell their produce. Many resort to informal markets and traffickers which comes with substantial risk.