Banelino - Mao, Dominican Republic

Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer program reached out to me, looking for an agroforestry consultant to travel to the Dominican Republic, to develop a process for establishing windbreaks on banana plantations.

 

Executive summary, altered for the public:

Banelino is a collective of organic banana farmers in the northern corridor of the Dominican Republic. Their farmers are experiencing first-hand the effects of climate change. Strong, dry winds are damaging banana plants, and drastically reducing farm income. The planting of windbreaks (rows of trees) has thus far been limited, because farmers are not intimately familiar with their sheltering effect, and do not see the value in non-fruiting species. Lime and avocado trees have deep, strong roots, and can serve as windbreaks. We must re-frame the planting of windbreaks as “growing additional tree crops.” First, I recommended forming a diverse, but small team of agronomy technicians, farmers, and organic-fruit exporters. Second, I recommended conducting an economic analysis of limes, avocados, dwarf coco palms, and cacao to determine the profitability of these crops. Third, the team must develop a replicable, but dynamic implementation strategy, and subsequently plant effective, visible pilot projects. Profitable, productive windbreaks will change the single-crop mentality of the region’s banana farmers, and market pull will increase the implementation rate of multi-species plantations.

A double row of bananas, with groundcover

A "cranberry" windbreak that was very effective

A perennial soy groundcover increases yields by 80%.

Dwarf coconut, planted at tighter spacing, would be satisfactory.

I was very happy to meet Elido Peña, an innovative organic farmer, who is extremely open-minded.

Ripped leaves disrupt vascular tissue, reducing bunch weight.

Lime trees can serve as a multi-functional windbreak.