“GOIN BANANAS” IN THE PENAL FARM
Davao Prison and Penal Farm is a vast government reservation devoted to a single crop—cavendish banana. With a joint venture agreement, government through the Department of Justice and the Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation inked a partnership to organize a prison rehabilitation activity focused on fruit production for export purposes. In a few decades of operation, the penal farm would be classed as the site of the biggest banana plantation in the world.
Working in this milieu, although biased under security orientation, the exposure affords a certain degree of instructional knowledge on the main production line. Here I took note that banana, of all fruits, has a greater potassium content, the so called food of our muscles. (Note that our brain and heart are scientifically categorized as muscle.)
However, there is no truth to the myth that consumption of banana fruit contribute to smooth facial complexion since monkeys never had a problem with pimples or acne.
Furthermore, I gathered the following:
- It is the cheapest fruit in the market abroad and has the most nutritional value compared with most fruits. It can be eaten raw. Also it can be used in baking, fruit salads, food composte and complement to other foods. Locally, it is the main ingredient in Turon, Pinikpik, Banana-Q, Maruya, Nilupak.
- Cavendish variety which is planted on the vast prison reservation is the preferred variety exported in Japan, Korea, China and the Middle East. This exported product comprises the third biggest export of the country and the highest grossing dollar earner on per hectare yield basis, thus contributing hefty revenue for government coffers derived from foreign payments.
- The Cavendish banana subgroup has been named in honour of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, who acquired an early specimen and from whose hothouses the cultivars were first developed for commercial exploitation worldwide.
- Reject Cavendish banana (those which failed on size standard), on the other hand, are chipped and dried by marginal communities where these are distributed free as livelihood component. (It is never exposed in the local market because it may compete with local varieties) The dried chipped are powdered. The white and pure powdered chips are bought by pharmaceutical firms as gelling materials in the manufacture of medicinal tablets. The discoloured powdered chips are procured by manufacturers of animal feeds as gelling compound for pellets. The residual powdered chips are sold to lumber yards as industrial adhesive component needed in the manufacture of plywood. The stalk where the banana fingers are attached are used as organic composed and its fibre used as material in the production of card board boxes.
- All the banana planted in the area have only one gender—female, since all of them are fruit bearing.
- The whole bunch of bananas from a plant during harvest weighs 60 kilos on the average.
- It takes 9 months for a banana plant to bear fruit ready for harvest.
- A full grown and a healthy banana plant must have seven fully unfolded leaves before it bears the full complement of the bunch.
- Unlike other local species or varieties of banana, Cavendish variety is vulnerable to Panama Disease. Once infected, the plant dies. Worst, the soil on which the infected plant is planted can no longer be planted with banana for several years.
- The Cavendish variety grown locally is also affected by fungal diseases like the yellow and black Sigatoka. (The disease is named after Sigatoka Valley in Fiji where it was first discovered).The disease is air and waterborne. Once affected, harvest is reduced almost 50%.
When I took my first step in the penal farm, I felt like a warrior in the middle of the battle field. Several steps and several years later, my mind, combat orientation and even my language have been transformed into an agriculturist already.