Originally posted on the blog for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015.
The Journey to Rafi’s rural farm in Trinidad and Tobago
A two and a half hour drive, over pockets of traffic, past aggressive transport truck drivers, across the rural landscape, and then barefoot through a ravine – all to meet “Rafi”, a Chadon Beni (Shadow Benny) producer of Rio Claro located in South Trinidad. This is a common herb used for seasoning in food preparation across the Caribbean.
The journey was long but so be it, as this is what it takes to meet with rural farmers across the country and many other parts of the region. The visit was meant to assess any possible pests and diseases which may be affecting Rafi’s Chadon Beni crop. Earlier he described a yellowing and stunting effect occurring with the crop. After a few minutes of conversation the situation became clear.
The bowl as it stands
Rafi explained that he farmed Chadon Beni for 15 years, acknowledging it as a crop that holds great profit, specifically due to the fact that a large percentage of Trinidad and Tobago’s local cuisine utilises this herb. Suffice to say the demand for the crop is heavy as the general local preference is that “the food must taste good” in which Chadon Beni is key. Additionally, the crop is highly demanded for export.
Also to note that Rafi has shifted from a farmer, as he also produced dasheen, dasheen bush, plantains and other crops, onto a middleman. This means he has significantly reduced his production levels in order to act as an in-between for other producers and their buyers at the country’s largest wholesale market. Living in the south of the country, he traverses the long journey every day as this activity is also profitable.