Santiago Familia

Three of Santiago Sabino's eight children pose with him in the well-tended plantain, fruit, and watermelon plot.

 

Last week while I was visiting some of the participants in the reforestation project I found another clever companion-planting combination. Don Santiago Sabino lives about 8 kilometers off the main road, down a dirt road that turned into a mud pit after only one rainfall the night before. We nearly didn’t make it there with the motorcycle. Santiago has planted his citrus and plantain trees en asocio, putting two plantain trees in between each citrus. While the citrus trees are small he can use the same irrigation system for both plants, and the plantain trees will help ‘hide’ the citrus trees from white moths, the citrus’ main pest.

 

moto

Trying to get the motorcycle through a muddy river. I walked more than half of the 6 kilometers back because the extra weight on the back of the motorcycle made the back wheel spin in the mud.

Not all the participants in the project have irrigation, but Santiago has a pump set up in the river nearby, and has a gravitational irrigation system, where he has dug trenches that run alongside of the rows of plants. The water is pumped up from the river and then runs down the hill in the trenches, watering the trees. Underneath each plantain tree is a sprouting pipian or watermelon plant. Santiago figured that he planting the seeds at the base of the plantain tree will take advantage of the same water and fertilizer, and the sale of the watermelon and pipian will pay for the gas he needs to run the pump and operate the irrigation. Santiago has a farm of 60 manzanas that he has bought bit by bit over the years. He has about 20 cattle right now, but also has years of vegetable experience, which helped him to figure out this clever way of paying for his irrigation. He has one of the most diverse farms I’ve seen here, with fruit trees surrounding his house and a large garden with peppers, tomatoes, papaya, and more watermelon. CEPRODEL selected his farm to trial cocoa plants and see whether they produce well in that zone. He is still figuring out a good spot and system for planting the cocoa in partial shade.

 

 

sandia platanos

Santiago's youngest son shows the small watermelon seedlings just sprouting underneath the plantain tree.

pipianmango

A more well established Pipian squash plant growing at the base of a mango sapling. The gravitational irrigation system Santiago dug (trenches going downhill with a pump to fill them) ensures that the plants receive plenty of water.