Il Faut Cultiver Notre Jardin 170


Outgrower produced pineapples ready for juicing


Pineapple crowns are replanted. After castration each plant will produce five or six viable suckers which are given to smallholders as initial seed


The factory farm will produce its first commercial pineapple crop in March 2011


A small sample of organic peppers from one outgrower being assessed for quality. It is vital that local farmers do not become over-dependent on a single cash crop.

In my first overseas job I had the agriculrture brief at the British High Commission in Lagos for four years. Being me, I threw myself into it and the enthusiasm has never left me. The passages in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo on African agriculture are among my most passionately felt writings.

I remain immersed in the policy questions of the impact of colonialism on land ownership patterns, and the destruction of African agriculture by first world agricultural protectionism and dumping. But there is still no work that makes me happier than practical involvement with African farming communities. My main work in Ghana is in the energy sector, but I have been helping on a voluntary basis with a number of agricultural projects. This one is led by my old friend Felix Semavor.

How do I help? Well, I help to access development funding – in this case, the US government is helping with a feeder road, and the Dutch and Danish governments have helped provide agro-processing equipment. I spent Monday morning working with outgrowers to finalise their business development plans for startup loan applications. I have been advising on meeting the requirements for fairtrade certification, right down to details like methods of latrine construction.

I have also been able to help a little in dealing with potential UK and European customers.

This particular project involves production of flash frozen coconut, pineapple and mango pieces and of juices – primarily mango and pineapple, but we are also looking at pineapple and papaya and other mixes.

The project is primarily aimed at the export market, and I believe will be very succesful. The factory will ultimately support some 10,000 outgrowers. Once an outgrower cooperative has a total of 100 hectares, the economics comfortably support a communal tractor and pickup.

All is not entirely straightforward. There has been a widespread failure of the mango crop this year. probably because of exceptionally heavy early rains during the flowering period. Growers are establishing large pineapple fields. These have to be sloped, as retained water can quickly lead to Phytophthora infestation – something we have largely eliminated. But the result is of course the danger of soil erosion in the rainy season. There is no sign of a real problem yet, but these are early days and we are looking at bunds and intercropping.

I have tried very hard to affect my country’s foreign policy, both from the inside and the outside of the political establishment, to improve respect for human rights. I have achieved a small amount and been personally hurt by the attempt. I will still keep trying. But nothing is better for the soul than working to help people in poverty improve their lives, and to produce crops from the earth. Voltaire was right. Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

I do hope that you will buy and read The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, which I hope is a profound text on the condition of Africa disguised as a series of anecdotal romps. That was what I was trying to do, anyway.

Apart from which, I am moving house on Thursday and am somewhat strapped for cash. If you too are strapped for cash, there is an option to read it free on line. If you have already read it, buy a copy for someone else as a present. If you think its rubbish, buy a copy for someone you don’t like as a present!

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170 thoughts on “Il Faut Cultiver Notre Jardin

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  • JimmyGiro

    Upon applying for a vacancy at the Equal Opportunities Quango:

    We notice on your C.V., Mr Giro, that in your last position you castrated pineapples?… well you’re just the person we are looking for.


  • Stephen Jones

    Absolutely correct on not relying on one crop. Indian farmers found chili peppers a gold mine and production shot up. The result was prices collapsed.

    A single crop can be hit by inclement weather or bugs. The papaya crop in Lanka was decimated last year by bugs.

    Also tell the outsourcers not to use all the land for cash crops. It may be more economic to sell a cash crop and produce food, but it is much less secure.

    In Lanka I’ve seen pineapples used as intercropping on coconut estates. Looking at your photos what strikes me as strange is the lack of trees. Jared Diamond has described the three tiered level of agriculture that has fed Papua New Guinea for 50,000 years, and the same pattern was followed in Lanka. You have a high tree like Jak or Coconut, and then quick growing medium ‘trees’ such as banana or papaya or terraced tomato or chili, and then pulses or yams at ground level.

    Problem is nothing can be automated, but it does protect the integrity of the soil, and provide food security.

  • craig


    If you look closely you will see a break with newly planted mango saplings after every four pineapple rows.

  • Sam

    Inspiring stuff Craig. I remember watching a great documentary on Farmer Field Schools and Integrated Pest Management in Indonesia. What started as a way of reducing growers’ reliance on pesticides, seemed to become became a highly successful and self sustaining movement to educate and empower growers.

  • Dick the Prick

    Brilliant Craig, brilliant. Good luck with the house move too. I found your book both gripping and remarkably absorbant. Nah, seriously, as Sam said, inspiring stuff.


  • Phil

    great photos craig, while i enjoy reading most of your blog, these stories, i find are far more interesting. i really like hearign about the nitty gritty of developing business/industry in a developing country. And i agree with you that we could do far more to help these chaps by reformign our ridiculous tariff system.

    Anyways more photos from these sorts of things would be great.

    Also what has happened abotu the non-exsistedent power plant that was being built in ghana

  • Anonymous

    the humble bumble is my insect of the millenium, as for a plant craig that is top of the list check of the humble

    hemp, natures allround unsung hero. I think one of the founding farmers of the USA used to be a hemp farmer.

    So from Hemp, ropes, clothes, oils, creams, paper etc. etc.

    It needs low maintenance, virtually zero pests as they dont like hemp and somewhere there is evidence that 1 acre of hemp produces 4 time the amount of paper than the equivalent area planted with trees…

    introduce hemp…it gonna be big. And im sure there was some report that stated if Ireland planeted hemp in 1% of its land it would need any external oil.

    HEMP my plant for the mellenium

  • Iain Orr

    A really enjoyable post about a first posting, with photos that make me want to think of novel ways to use the two-for-one pineapples Sue and I bought on Sunday in Sainsbury’s. Apart from compost, is there anything else to do with the crown and the outside skin?

    One use is to explore Fibonacci numbers in nature. If you google a phrase from the following extract, there’s more material:

    “In pineapples too, one can trace out 3, 5, 8, 13 or even 21 spirals according to their size, consecutive sets of spirals running opposite to each other. It is also true that spirals representing smaller numbers veer less steeply, but those that represent higher and higher F. numbers move steeper and steeper. This implies that no two oppositely moving sets of spirals will have the same steepness. But look at the giant pineapple dome (Fig. 2) constructed at the Sunshine Plantation at Nambour, Queensland. The marked spirals running opposite to each other move upward with the same steepness which is unrealistic. When I pointed out the difference between the inaccurate pattern on the giant dome and that on real pineapple (Fig. 3) to some workers at the Sunshine Plantation, they suggested me to write to their manager, Mr. Tony Jakeman as he was not on duty that day. When I wrote to Jakeman offering my assistance to design a realistic and scientifically accurate dome for the proposed new giant pineapple, he sent me on 11 February 1987 the following reply. “The article on the Pineapple in the Fibonacci Quarterly was fascinating, and I much appreciate your offer of assistance in redesigning the shape for the new one. Regretably the contract for the construction of the new skin for our “Big Pineapple” was let last November and the costs involved in changing the design now would be prohibitive. However, if at any time in the future we should require another Pineapple to be designed I would most certainly contact you to discuss the matter. ” Mr. Jakeman could as well have a deeper look at the pine cone to design an efficient Fibonacci dome. ”

    As well as Voltaire, there’s this:

    “And, he gave it for his Opinion; that whoever could make two Ears of Corn, or two Blades of Grass to grow upon a Spot of Ground where only one grew before; would deserve better of Mankind, and do more essential Service to his Country, than the whole Race of Politicians put together.”

    Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Gulliver’s Travels

  • Suhayl Saadi

    At first, the top photo looked to me like a picture of an urban scene from a hot country, with heat haze, high-rises, a central garden, etc. Then I saw the pineapples and the whole scene immediately scaled-down in size! Odd, the tricks one’s eye can play! Good luck with everything.

  • Richard Robinson

    Suhayl – Yes ! I was going to say that, it was my first impression, too.

    Splendid photos, anyway, and it looks like a fine project. I do hope the weather, and all other possible disasters, are kind to it.

  • Clark


    thank you for this photo-journal. There have been long periods of silence during your previous visits to Ghana; it’s nice to see and read of some of what you do there.

    Yes, cultivation is good for the soul, it accesses something unique to modern humanity. Stephen Jones mentioned Jared Diamond, whose book ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ I found facinating.

    Iain Orr,

    did you ever see a stand-up comedian who did a totally manic piece based upon Fibonacci sequences? I don’t remember his name, and I really want to hear it again.

  • somebody

    Caroline Wyatt (again) on the deaths that are really important – medialens

    BBC identifies the deaths that matter

    Posted by cshaw on July 13, 2010, 12:26 pm

    Re the deaths today of 3 UK soldiers

    ‘The incident will re-awaken memories of last November, when an Afghan policeman shot dead five British soldiers in their compound, and seriously wounded six others, our correspondent added.

    She also said this latest tragedy will again intensify debate over the human costs of the mission in Afghanistan – and over whether the West’s exit strategy, which relies on training the Afghan army and police, ‘can hope to succeed’.

    No tragedy or worries about human costs when it is poor brown people who die, just concerns over legitimacy.

  • Richard Robinson

    (irrelevant) re: seeing the crates in the top photo as skyscrapers; why pick on that, when after all the pineapples are visible too, and could have made it all clear right from the start ? Maybe it’s something about the blog format, that I expected to start at the top and work downwards ? Ah well, never mind.

  • glenn

    Suhayl / Richard – that’s exactly what I saw too! I wondered what boxes of pineapples were doing on the top of a very tall building surrounded by sky-scrapers.

    Clark: Don’t know about the stand-up on Fibonacci, but here’s some rap about it if that’ll help:

  • Michael James Reid

    Likewise, I finished your book a few weeks ago and I do want to say that it was both fascinating and informative. The people at Wikileaks should have a read of it, as well. I am sorry that you had to put up with so many difficulties in the UK. But in the end your persistence won and “rendition” was well publicized throughout the world.

    Having read your book I am thinking of going to Uzbekistan on holiday late September. Would you advise me of the suitability/security for me and my son, both of us being amateur but keen photographers. There is a private tour organised by a small company in New Zealand, but they use local guides and local drivers and I am a little anxious, but would see it as a very rich and adventurous experience. There are planes out of Bangkok, which is where I live.

    Regarding your book, I did write an email to an address which I saw on your blog. However, in using this address my email may never have reached you. In many respects I do wish you could regain your ascendancy in the Foreign Service. Best regards, Michael

  • Richard Robinson

    “In many respects I do wish you could regain your ascendancy in the Foreign Service”

    That reminds me of my first impression on reading MiS – the country would be better served by more ambassadors going around helping people and kicking relevant arse, not fewer.

    re travel in Uzbekistan, I know nothing; but, if the company you’re going with is worth anything, I’d have thought it would clearly be in their interest to be on top of such questions ?

  • Chin

    I have to agree with Phil that these make great reading, partly because the nature of the posting does not lend itself easily to trolls (although I expect this will be like a red rag to them now), partly because it does one’s soul good to read of something positive happening.

    I hope you all follow Craig’s advice and buy and read The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, although I did it the other way around, reading the free .pdf first and ending up buying a copy.

  • Chin

    I have met a couple of ambassadors in my time and not one of them could hold a candle to Craig.

    In regards to Michael’s comment about his regaining his ascendancy in the Foreign Service, why do I keep thinking of camels, camping, prepositions and micturition?

  • pdb

    I haven’t jumped into this blog before and only been a keen reader of it but have just noticed Michael James Reid’s question about travel in Uzbekistan. I am booked to visit the country in September and wondered what advice Craig might be able to offer. Does he know if there is any rise in internal ethnic conflict etc? I will be with a group from a reputable walking holiday company visiting the usual tourist sites. I have to pay the balance by the end of next week!

  • angrysoba

    “did you ever see a stand-up comedian who did a totally manic piece based upon Fibonacci sequences? I don’t remember his name, and I really want to hear it again.”

    Sounds a bit like Dave Gorman. I could be wrong though.

  • Abe Rene

    Nice pics. You are doing things that probably deserve a gong except that you might turn it down..

  • Nomad


    apart from the regime in power in Uzbekistan, it is a wonderful country. And you have made a good choice to go to Uzbekistan in September which is the best time in terms of fruits and vegetables being full in local markets. However, this is the time when school children are forced to leave classes to pick cotton in fields. Re: ethnic conflicts, i would point to some tensions btwn tajiks and uzbeks in Samarkand and Bukhara, mainly, tajiks being a bit agressive and refusing to speak Uzbek language in these cities. In the east, mainly in Andijan, many young uzbeks are angry at recent killings of uzbeks in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and it may turn into big clashes at any moment.

  • Mat

    Talk about optical illusions…

    It took me a little while to realise that what I had taken for a large, white lamp in the photos was in fact Craig! Voltaire might have said: “Il faut achat un autre chemise” 😀

    But seriously, great work and all the best with the project – I look forward to seeing the farm’s produce on supermarket shelves.

  • somebody

    Libyan aid boat Amalthea still making for Gaza. What will Israel dare to do next?

    Israel navy begins efforts to stop Libyan aid ship

    Page last updated at 20:25 GMT, Tuesday, 13 July 2010 21:25 UK

    The Amalthea left a Greek port on Saturday

    The Israeli military says it has begun efforts to try to stop a Libyan aid ship from reaching Gaza.

    The navy has made contact with the vessel, but its commandos have not boarded the ship, a spokeswoman said.

    The Amalthea is expected to reach Gaza’s territorial waters on Wednesday, Palestinian and Israeli reports said.

    The Moldovan-flagged ship, chartered by a charity run by the son of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, left a Greek port on Saturday.

    The executive director of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, told Reuters news agency by telephone from Tripoli that the ship was “still heading to Gaza and there has been no decision to change course”.

    He added: “The ship has received an ultimatum from the Israelis that we have to leave the area by tonight. We are not going to do that.”

    It is the latest attempt to break the naval blockade on Gaza, and comes six weeks after a deadly Israeli operation which left nine Turkish activists dead.

    On Monday, the Israeli military presented the results of its inquiry into the raid.

    It found that mistakes were made at a relatively senior level, but concluded that the use of live fire was justified.

    Midnight ultimatum

    An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that a “process of identification and communication” had begun with the Libyan vessel, some 100 miles (160 km) from the Gaza coast.

    “The Israeli navy has launched preparations and activity to stop the Libyan ship,” the spokeswoman said.

    Israel has carried out intense diplomatic activity to try to persuade the crew to divert the aid vessel to El-Arish.

    Israel has lobbied the UN, as well as the Greek and Moldovan governments, to take action, calling the motives of the activists “questionable and provocative”.

    The Amalthea, renamed Hope for the mission, is loaded with about 2,000 tonnes of food, cooking oil, medicines and pre-fabricated houses, the organisers have said.

    The 92m (302ft) vessel has been chartered by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation. Its chairman is Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

  • ingo

    Thanks for that inside into pineapple/mango farming.

    I did notice the mango saplings amidst the pineapples.

    Companion planting has shown the most positive results around the world.

    It clearly confuses pests which have problems distinguishing their favourite meal with another.

    Trials in China with 5 different sorts of rice grown in the same field have shown that their ned for pesticides goes down by an incredible 65%.

    Some plants are beneficial to each other with regards to rootgrowth and nutrient exchange and it is a practise that should be encouraged everywhere.

    What little disbenefit, due to having five crops in a field, can be minimised by planting them in such a way, that the mechanics of hoeing and weeding as well as the harvest can be arranged for each and every crop.

    Israel is homing in on its next bit of piracy at the high seas. It is to be seen whether they dare and breach international laws of the sea again, or flagrate the Territorial waters of Egypt, never mind Gaza.

  • somebody

    The latest is that the boat has engine trouble?? just like two from the Freedom Flotilla. Strange that. Also that it is surrounded by eight Israeli warships. (Al Jazeera website)

    This on breaking news. The previous links suggest that the files he has admitting leaking were concerned with ‘intelligence gathering techniques’. Is that a euphemism for how to torture or something more benign?

  • Linda

    This is all decidedly fascinating, but I really just have to comment because it warms the cockles of my heart when someone quotes the last lines of Candide. Greatest book and ending I’ve ever read. Thank you! (For all you do!) I can totally picture you and Voltaire hanging out and getting along famously.

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