UPLift--Poverty Alleviation For The Ultra-Poor

UPLift is a program designed to empower communities on the Thai/Burmese border that lack food security, opportunities for income, and education. Through the use of small grants and skills trainings, these families receive the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty without having to rely on external aid indefinitely.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Banana Tree Workshop

An UPLift workshop was held this week at Future Garden Learning Center in Tak province on best practices for planting healthy banana trees (they're not actually trees, but are referred to as such)!  In attendance were staff and students from six Burmese migrant schools: Hway Ka Loke, Sky Blue, BHSOH, Nam Tok, New Blood and Future Garden. (For more pictures, visit our photo album).

Why focus on banana trees?  This is important to us, as our upcoming pig/compost program in Mae Sot depends on a large source of banana stalk to use as fermented food.  Using a cheap resource such as this reduces the cost of pig food to as little as 3 baht per kilogram, yet still results in rapid weight gain and health for pigs.

Everyone has their own way of planting bananas. Our goal was to simplify this to one best method.

However, while looking for a simple answer for planting a healthy tree we ran into a multitude of answers.  Beyond a general suggestion of using quality soil and planting during the hot season, nothing surfaced as a concrete answer.  We solved this by:
  • having each of the schools share their experiences for planting banana trees
  • finding similar steps from each experience
  • debating differences in opinion and coming to a consensus for one best practice
  • discussing lessons learned from past mistakes/how to avoid those mistakes

And who would have thought that people are so heated when it comes to defending their agricultural prowess!  At one point two of the participants were yelling across the table at each other...fortunately for us, by the end of the day we all had agreed on one method that should result in strong, fully-grown banana trees:
  1. Dig a hole 9 inches in depth.
  2. Slice off the outer layers of a large banana root to expose the insides.  Meanwhile, using a diagonal cut, chop the stalk to a height of 2-3 feet up the stalk (but below the area with leaves).
  3. Plant banana stalk; mix removed soil with rice husk and return, compressing firmly around the stalk.
  4. Cover area around the stalk with 1-2 kg of compost/manure.
  5. Water thoroughly every 2-3 days.

Students working on some practical experience

 We then planted two example trees for practice.  With all of this information fresh in mind, the schools will return home and get to work on a goal of 90 banana trees planted in total before rainy season begins.  This ensures that they will have enough raw materials to begin raising pigs by the end of rainy season!

Do you have any opinions or input on how to grow banana trees?  Let us know at uplift.khomloy@gmail.com .