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Script 50.6

Script

Characters

Anna
farmer
Maria
farmer
Simon
Anna’s son

PART I

SCENE: Bus stop

Maria is waiting at the bus stop. She sees her old friend, Anna.

Maria:
Anna, how nice to see you! It’s been such a long time.

Anna
Yes, it has. It’s good to see you, too. How is your family?

Maria
Very well. And your family, Anna?

Anna
Oh, not so good, I’m afraid. My oldest son, Simon, is sick today. We think he is sick from the pesticides he used to spray the coffee. He doesn’t like to wear his protective clothing in the hot weather.

Maria:
I’m very sorry to hear that. Do you use a lot of pesticides on your coffee plants?

Anna:
Yes. We must. We have made some changes on our farm since I saw you last. An extension worker advised us to clear the land and plant high?yielding varieties of coffee in full sun. We grow only coffee now. We use chemical fertilizers, and apply pesticides regularly to manage pests. It’s a lot of work, but we have larger yields than many of our neighbours who use shade trees. But now, we have different problems. You remember John, my brother?

Maria
Yes.

Anna:
He got sick last year from the pesticides. And, three years ago, we did not make any money because of the drought . But we have survived. However, you must know about these problems. You grow coffee, too, don’t you?

Maria
Yes, but we still grow coffee the way our parents taught us, under shade trees.

Anna
But you could make so much more money if you didn’t use shade trees.

Maria
We thought about changing our method a few years ago. But we decided not to. I think we made the right choice. Growing coffee the traditional way has many advantages. For example, the drought that you spoke of did not affect us very much. Our shade trees help to keep moisture in the soil.

Anna
But are you growing only coffee now?

Maria
No, we plant a variety of crops in layers. Coffee is the bottom layer. The next layer is fruit trees. We grow banana, citrus and avocado trees. The top layer is hardwood trees. Much of the top two layers of trees have been there for many years. These layers protect the coffee plants from getting too much sun. This is especially important in dry periods. And the trees reduce soil erosion during heavy rains. When the leaves fall they form a natural mulch. This adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil. We plant yams and other vegetables on the ground surrounding the coffee. So, even during the drought when there was less coffee, we harvested firewood, fruits and vegetables.

Anna
But what about pests? We used to have terrible pest problems. We have hardly any pests on our coffee after spraying our crops with pesticides.

Maria
Yes, but look at the new problems you have with spraying! Your family is getting sick. I have heard of people who have died from pesticide poisoning.

Anna:
So, do you just ignore the pests?

Maria
No. The trees that we use attract a lot of good insects such as beetles, wasps and spiders. These good insects eat the harmful pests. Birds in the trees also eat pests. Maybe we have to weed more, but it is not too hard. At least we are not getting sick from pesticides!

Anna:
You know, I miss the variety of crops we used to have on our farm. And I miss the birds chatting above my head. We haven’t seen many birds on our land since we cleared it for planting coffee.

Maria:
That might be because you don’t have enough trees. Birds live in the forest . But, I think you have a more urgent problem right now. I hope you will take Simon to the health clinic to make sure he doesn’t have pesticide poisoning.

Anna
That’s a good idea. I’ll go right away.

Maria
Would you like me to meet you there?

Anna
That would be wonderful, if you have the time.

PART II

SCENE: Health clinic waiting room

Maria and Anna sit together waiting for Simon. He comes out of the clinic.

Anna:
How do you feel Simon?

Simon:
[groaning] Oh, a little better. The doctor said my sickness was definitely caused by the pesticides. He gave me some medicine to help me feel better. I will be sure to wear all my protective clothing the next time I spray pesticide on the coffee. I don’t want to feel like this again!

Anna
Well, I’m glad. We should thank my old friend Maria here. She suggested I take you to the clinic.

Maria
Don’t thank me. I’m just glad Simon is all right.

Simon
Thank you.

Anna:
Maria has been telling me about their farm where they grow coffee the way we used to, under shade trees. We won’t have to use pesticides if we return to this method of growing coffee. It is a better environment for all, I believe.

Simon:
Well, we should go home and discuss it.

Anna
Yes. Maria, thank you so much for your company and conversation. Please give my regards to your husband and children. You have really made me think about growing coffee the traditional way.

Maria:
I am happy to help. Say a warm hello to your family. Simon, I hope you have a fast recovery.

Simon:
Thank you. I hope so too.

Anna:
Bye.

Maria
Take care.

Acknowledgements

This script was written by Belinda Bruce, Assistant Editor, Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, Toronto, Canada. It was researched with the help of Anna Palarmachuk, Toronto, Canada. It was reviewed by Joseph Lindsay, Soil Scientist, Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute, University of West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica.

Information Sources

  • “The use of Gliricidia sepium as cover/shade in coffee plantations (Based on experiences of coffee growers of Copan, Honduras)” in Cover crop news, No. 8, July 1995. International Cover Crops Clearinghouse (CIDICCO), Tecucigalpa, Honduras.
  • “Coffee: Biodiversity’s pick-me-up” in Seedling, Volume 14, No. 3, October 1997. Genetic Resources Action International, Barcelona, Spain.
  • “The coffee market – a risky business” in Gate,No. 2, April?June 1995. Gate, Deutsche, Eschborn, Germany.
  • Coffee growing,H. R. Cameron, 1992, 118 pages. The Macmillan Press Limited, London and Basingstoke, England.
  • Slash/Mulch Systems, H. David Thurston, 1997. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
  • Sustainable HarvestSeptember, 1998.
  • Further information
    Sustainable Harvest Coffee Company
    1480 66th Street
    Emeryville, CA 94608, USA