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Early Bird: By the sweat of Cepep’s brow, we shall eat zaboca… or maybe not!

Planting fruit trees is a great idea. And even better, on public property—if there is buy-in from the community.

Former agriculture minister Clarence Rambharat’s hands were probably too full, we now guess, for him to provide direction on that issue. And the new man in there? Well, we’ll have to wait and see but if we are to judge from what he did in his last posting…

Photo: Minister of Agriculture Kazim Hosein.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

Whatever the truth, it is what Cepep has been doing in my area. In the park, to be more precise, where Bobby and I used to take our early morning walk before we graduated to the Northern Range.

The park is bounded on the west by a river. On the east and on the north, the public roadway runs.

To the south, what was originally a ‘bandan’, terrain abandoned to nature, slowly became a ‘veg’, a place where fruits abound. There are trees a-plenty, almond; citrus; coconut; guava; mango; plum, red governor and yellow Chile; pommecythere. Inter alia. Even a sapodilla.

The north-western fringe long beside the river remained a bamboo junglette. Some enterprising folk cleared a small area in its midst and occasionally put down some tomatoes, lettuce, celery, chive and sorrel. And peas like peas!

Over these short crops, three clumps of fig trees have long stood constant watch.

Nestled in the south-western corner is a basketball court. But Ronaldinho and co, Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke, it seems, were powerful role models. They made more of an impact on turn-of-the-century minds than Michael Jordan and others NBA stars. So, like many such courts in T&T in the 21st Century, the court is much more often used as a small goal field. Often equipped with Government-provided lighting.

Photo: Brazil midfielder and captain Ronaldinho (#10) tries to escape from a Japanese player during the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup match at the Rhein-Energie Stadion in Cologne. 
(Copyright AFP2017/ Marcus Brandt)

Government-provided too is a handful of exercise apparatuses standing beside the court. Bobby favours the one for the abs, often wet and always uncomfortably cold at that very early hour of the morning. Used only by a handful of exercisers, all are clearly in dire need of repair or replacement; metal fatigue is evident.

As parks go, the savannah area is not large. But it is well-grassed. When it rains, you get only a few weeks of weed-free use; back home, we have to spend full five minutes every morning ridding our track pants and shoes of clingy, weeds-awarded sweethearts.

Towards the end of last year, someone—area MP Marvin Gonzales?—altered the Cepep role. No longer did they show up once every quarter to cut the grass before disappearing again. They became a permanent park maintenance crew.

Near the roadside at the southern end, they put down ornamentals. And they hacked down much of the riverside bamboo patch, leaving the fig trees standing largely alone.

Between said fig trees and the basketball court, they planted a long line of fruit trees. These include many more coconuts, some citrus, a few mangoes as well as at least three already healthy-looking zabocas.

Photo: A zaboca tree offering low-hanging fruit.

A problem? Perhaps.

Occasionally, Bobby and I have helped ourselves to plums. But we almost always have to settle for half-ripe fruit, come to something like readiness over the last evening. It’s public property so everyone has access. All day, all night…

We’ve seen many a bunch of green fig grow to near maturity by Friday; Monday morning, gone! Not with the wind. Claimed as personal property by unidentified hands.

Always, one suspects, the same ones.

Ditto the coconuts. One day they’re there, smiling down on basketballers and footballers from on high. Next day, they’ve been claimed, harvested, hijacked. Perhaps by the same fig-reaping hands.

In 2022, zabocas already fetch handsome, no, high prices. So in a few years’ time, to get any fruit at all from these trees, you’re going to have to provide round-the-clock security.

Photo: Steady now…
(Copyright We Dream In Colour/ Pinterest)

Even if the community were to agree on how the fruit is to be shared, any such agreement would bind only the community. Who’ll police the outsiders? TTPS? Are they breaking the law?

I foresee many a squabble when harvest time rolls around. And if you live here, you don’t need Agriculture’s praedial larceny people to tell you that many fruit-grabbing hands come with arms…

So I think the zaboca tree business perhaps needs a little more thought; we might be setting ourselves up for trouble down the road.

What I would also like to see is some effort to bring back fast-disappearing trees like balata, caïmite, chennette, donks and soursop.

And it might be more than a little impractical but how about a banga tree here and there? Like bamboo, they strive, it seems, near rivers…

Frankly, I have not the slightest interest in the bland fruit. But in my mind’s eye lingers an intriguing picture of my curious, monolingual grandchildren standing reading the tag with the proper botanical name.

Photo: Chenette, anyone?

Beneath it, a brief legend explains where it gets its local name: in French, ‘a big, big ox’ is un gros, gros boeuf.

Whence grugrubef.

Editor’s Note: Got an interesting early morning adventure or reflection you would like to share? If you can relate it in simple language and no more than 750 words, the Early Bird space will accommodate you.

Email your offerings to us at lasana@wired868.com and/or longtimeamateur@gmail.com.

About Early Bird

Early Bird
Columns that say that, after Covid has done its worst, we’re grateful to be still here and be able to get out of bed early to heed the poet’s Carpe diem injunction and, savouring all the day’s blessings, mine those banal, random, ordinary, routine, unspectacular, run-of-the-mill, early-morning thoughts and conversations we often engage in.

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