Tuesday 27 December 2011

“Nearly Organic!” Mango Farmers, GBP Pusto - Carcar

Joel (right) and the Mango Farmers

Two hours car journey west of Cebu City, and 45 minuets by foot, high up in the Carcar mountains (and I mean really high up in the mountains), are 16 mango trees and 6 enthusiastic mango farmers. The journey by foot we were told is not too bad, you can wear flip-flops and do it easily. Well as we found out that was a huge exaggeration.  No motorised vehicles could go up after a certain point as the path get rockier and steeper, and even by foot, it was very dangerous as we carried our picnic in one hand and tried to balance with the other. I was surprised when we were told the mango farmers go down the same rout with 50kg of mangoes on their heads! 

View from the top, with the sea, which can just be seen form behind the mountains
Once we got to the top, we understood the reason for the location. On a hill, direct sunlight, cool breeze from the sea, and seclusion. We had a picnic with the farmers and then took a brief moment to absorb our surroundings.

Our epic picnic, with Yam, Hanging rice, Chicken,
Fish cakes, peanut butter  sandwiches and fresh coconuts
The six farmers of GBP came together with the help of Joel, from Safi and The Cebu Fair Trade Network, in an attempt to see whether the once heavily sprayed Mango trees can return to being 100% organic. Joel warned the farmers the road would be hard and there would be loses to start with, but if successful, the farmers would stand as an example to many other Mango farmers in Cebu. The farmers were brave and took the risk on their 16 medium sized mango trees.

As the trees had been sprayed heavily for 40-50 ears, with each year the percentage dose of chemicals increasing, the trees were in a bad state. Mango trees should only harvest once a year, but these trees were being harvested at least three times a year. There were 16 course of spaying done in each harvest. Meaning the tree was sprayed with chemicals 48 times in one year. There was a spray to increase the flowering of the tree, a spray for the insects (which also killed the good insects), a spray for the weeds and a spray for the mangoes. Sometimes the farmers never read the labels with instruction of dosage ratio, and often over dosed the tree. Sometimes the chemical company would put ground up insects in the spray, resulting in more tree pests, thus the farmer having to buy more pesticide spray. This all resulted in the trees and insects being more and more immune to the chemicals, and with the chemicals, not producing any fruit. 

One of the 16 mango trees
So Joel had a big job on his hand, and he needed to come up with a way of weaning the trees of the chemicals. The way he and SAFI suggested the farmers do this, was to still spray the trees, but to reduce the dosage each time, and eventually only harvesting the tree once a year. This meant the trees would still produce mangos, but each year the yield would decline, but as it did the mangoes were making their way to being more organic.

This process began in 2005, and next year they are hoping to have 100% organic mangoes. The trees looked healthy and the farmers even reported less insects. The numbers are estimated to be 3,000 mangoes per tree. This makes 48,000 mangoes in total for the harvest. It was so good to see the farmers were happy to have been taking a risk which they saw as being beneficial. From talking to other Fair Trade organisation I got the impression that some mango farmers still didn't see the benefits of changing when they could sell mangoes in the market, as organic doesn't have any weight in the smaller local markets. The farmers of GBP had good training from SAFI, and with Joel, they see a positive future in which they can produce marketable mangos which will reach a higher price, and have healthy trees which they can pass down to their children.  

Sat under the mango trees
The mangoes will then be sold to SPFTC to be processed into mango products, which get turned into dried mangoes, mango puree, mango jam, and mango juice. These will be exported to Japan, Itally, Germany, England, Hong Kong and Singapore. 

1 comment:

  1. awesome sharing and interesting this post. good job and and i like that