Feb. 16, 2009

Robert and Harold are deep into numbers for the building projects at Heart of Africa Mission (HAM). There are several buildings there, two of which we helped start two years ago, that still need finishing. Some funding has come in to do the work, and the board has asked us to take charge of that.

Some of the fruits of the first year's harvest. This is what bananas should look like. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Some of the fruits of the first year's harvest. This is what bananas should look like. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

This morning they went to town to get quotes from businesses on lumber and paint. In Canada we would just use the phone. Robert said they need a four-wheel drive just to get quotes. The side roads are so pothole riddled, it’s hard to find a path to steer through.

I walked through the banana plantation at HAM with the chief gardener, Zhita. We helped establish this plantation in 2005. They’ve had some good years and we were impressed with their management. Things are different this year. The weeds are higher, the trees shorter. There are few banana bunches and those are small. Not many trees are flowering.

This banana bunch won't break the records! Small, and misformed, like the tree that bears it. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

This banana bunch won't break the records! Small, and misformed, like the tree that bears it. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

There are several reasons for that. One is that money has been tight so they have not been fertilizing as they should have. Of course, fertilizers here have gone up in price as they have in Canada.

Another reason is the increase in disease. There are two main disease issues: the bunchy top banana virus and the sigotoga fungus. The fungus first appeared last year and they were able to keep it in check with regular spraying. The money hasn’t been available for that either. Poor fertilization means weaker plants too, more susceptible to disease.

Suckers for new banana trees were not trained when they should have been, so there will be a long delay until the next harvest. The money shortage also affected wages so morale is not high.

Well, we can’t change the past, only the future. As we evaluate the farm issues at HAM, we will have to look at why things are the way they are now, and what can be done to do things better in the future.

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