After months of planning, building, researching, and a good bit of hoping, today we planted our first hybrid seeds in our newly constructed greenhouse.
All the way from Costa Rica, the seeds enjoyed planes journeys from San Jose through Panama, Amsterdam, and Nairobi, to Bujumbura in Burundi. From there, a car ride to Kigoma followed, before overnighting (in my lounge room) in town before we chauffeured them to the farm early the next morning. Mr. and Mrs. Seeds certainly clocked a few frequent flyer miles.
The seeds are pre-germinated by the seed company meaning they have already sprouted a root and a shoot. This is great for us as germination is always a challenge in agriculture but it makes the seeds particularly fragile. Break the root or the shoot and you can kiss the plant goodbye; a mistake you would feel for years to come as oil palm trees yield fruit for 30+ years. This delicacy means that planting fast is not an option. Nor is careless planting. You don’t want the root pointing up and the shoot burrowing it’s way to China! So planting the 8000 seeds (plus a couple extra thrown in by the seed company to cover handling damages) requires a few pairs of delicate hands. Lucky help was nearby. Our nursery manager, Yusufu, and his assistants had rounded up a planting posse from the nearest village – Mlinda. More than 30 people plus associated babies, older women to keep everyone fed, and a few old men to see what the fuss was about arrived and work began in earnest.
With so many people around and such a momentous job to be tackled (our first trees!) the air was filled with a very Tanzanian tinged bonhomie. Every time I joined in, planted a few seeds, and got my hands dirty it was met with howls of laughter and much merriment.
The planting was completed within the day. There was much hand-shaking, a bit more laughing at the strange mzungu struggling with his Kiswahili, babies were re-strapped to backs for the walk home and now we wait with baited breath for the first shoots of green to emerge!