Dr. Pablo Jordan Soto traveled to the Dominican Republic from March 26 – April 9, 2017 to assess the organic banana production practices of the Banelino Association and the Project La Cruz de Manzanillo and provide them with recommendations on environmentally-friendly technologies and best practices to increase the quality and production of their banana crops.
Banelino is an association of banana producers that encompasses over 300 farmer households. Aside from its focus on banana production, the association also manages a number of social, educational, and medical programs for its members, including a youth training program in banana production. The Project La Cruz de Manzanillo is a national project that supports job creation for residents of Bateyes, a community in the Provice of Montecristi. The project has 250 hectares of land dedicated to banana production and employs over 2,000 low-income families.
During his trip, Dr. Soto visited 12 farms in Valverde and Montecristi to meet with the growers, production managers, and technical staff of both organizations. In these site visits he was able to assess and compare the production methods being implemented at each farm, including their fertilization, pruning, and pest control practices. One of Dr. Soto’s key observations was that these production practices varied across all farms and, for the most part, did not follow recommended standards. This inconsistency can affect the growth and development of the banana crops, as well as increase their vulnerability to pest infestations. In order to bolster production and quality, Dr. Soto made several recommendations, including altering fertilization methods to include increasing the cycles of organic fertilizer by 8-10 per year. Additionally, he recommended the application of 10 to 12 cycles of potassium sulfate per year, implementing training sessions on proper pruning and leaf removal techniques, standardizing production strategies to avoid inconsistencies, and using soap formulations to control pests.
Dr. Soto, originally from Guatemala, has over 30 years of experience in banana production, with a focus in entomology, and has volunteered for the Farmer-to-Farmer program since 2003 in several countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, and Guatemala. He received his PhD in Entomology-Zoology from the North Carolina State University in 1970. This two-week project was part of Partners of the Americas’ overall Farmer-to-Farmer objective in the Dominican Republic to increase the resilience of vulnerable populations to the impacts of climate change.