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African Women’s Leadership Summits: Kenya and Uganda 2013

Changing the World One Woman at a Time
African Women’s Leadership Summits:
Kenya and Uganda 2013DSC_1225

On July 29th, 2013, I leave for East Africa. I’ll be facilitating two African Women’s Leadership Summits, then visiting the farms and projects of many of these women leaders. Also, I will finally meet, in person, hundreds of generous, caring farmers who prayed for my survival during my battle with terminal Cancer!

Our Goal: Establish a Women Leaders Cooperative Throughout East Africa.  

Women’s Leadership Summits
In 2005, I was one of twenty women in the inaugural Women Leaders for the World (WLW) training program at Santa Clara University. This program, conceived by the Global Women’s Leadership Network, was designed to further empower women leaders in their work, locally, nationally and internationally.

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Preventing and Managing Fusarium

Preventing and Managing Fusarium
Courtesy of David Gardella: www.rainforestvanilla.org

Vanilla is a magnificent tropical crop, but it comes with challenges.  Most vanilla producers fall in love with vanilla as she draws everyone under her spell.  Vanilla requires no special fertilizers or pesticides.  It thrives on a simple mulch of leaves, twigs, coconut husks, etc.  While it does have problems with insects in its native habitats, these problems are generally not severe, especially if the vines are getting the right balance of sun and shade and protection from wind and heavy downpours.  It does require adequate water and a dry spell during pollination.  Otherwise, it is a very pleasant crop to grow.

There is only one significant disease in vanilla; root rot disease caused by the pathogen Fusarium oxysporum.  All other diseases are insignificant in importance or merely minor pests with little economic affect on yield.  Fusarium is “the scourge” of vanilla.  It can and does completely destroy vanilla plantations in a matter of weeks-to-months.  When it appears in your plantation there is nothing you can do to stop it.  Plant another crop or… take the following recommendations to heart and start all over again but this time manage your plantation correctly.

Fusarium isn’t actually the culprit in this drama.  Fusarium is just an opportunistic fungus that arrives after the damage has already been done.  The theory of vanilla root rot disease goes like this:

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The Promise of Jatropha

 Courtesy of Mike Keller:  

Jatropha curcas, a humble tropical shrub-like tree often used as a living fence in developing countries, may actually be headed for star status as a prime source of bio-fuel in the 21st century.

As research scientists and engineers first considered biofuels in the US and Europe, ethanol made from corn and biodiesel derived from soybeans, looked very promising. Good for the farmers, easy to grow and inexpensive.  What wasn’t taken into consideration was that the increased demand would send prices for these commodities sky-high. While this was a welcome windfall for farmers growing the crops, it created a series of serious issues and ultimately it doomed the industry for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it became virtually impossible for the producers of the fuels to make money.

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The Butterfly Effect

Spice News: This Blog Helps Veracruz Coffee Grower Find a Market in South Korea
Courtesy of Courtenay Dunk: www.spicelines.com

You’ve heard of the “butterfly effect,” haven’t you? It’s the idea, put forth by Conrad Lorenz, that the whisper soft beating of of a butterfly’s wing may stir up air currents that create a storm thousands of miles away.

Something like the butterfly effect seems to have happened in Veracruz. And it’s very good news.
Two years ago, I wrote about the plight of Don Ruperto Opoch, a genteel third generation organic coffee farmer whose story nearly broke my heart (“Veracruz: Great Coffee If You Can Find It; a Grower’s Lament”). “We are starving,” he told me with simple dignity. After a lifetime of

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

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