Searching for green chunks of gold in the Tropics
Visit a part of the world where thousands of farmers’ livelihoods depend on a small green piece of fruit.
It wasn’t easy, but I (eventually) made it to the canals of Kirtipasha, a village in the district of Jhalakathi in south-west Bangladesh. All it took was an overnight ferry from Dhaka, then a bus, then a motorbike (in subtropical rains), a small truck and finally a small boat. Most of the time I had no idea where I was or if I was even heading in the right direction. But as always, somehow, I ended up… somewhere. And due to the effort required in getting there/here (where?), I was very serious about making the most of it.
I’d been at the floating markets for all of 2 minutes when a couple of guys in a boat rowed over to me and said, ‘In!’. As in, ‘Get in the boat, now!’ Ok ok. I assumed it’d be a quick tour of the markets for a small fee. There was no English, so I couldn’t clarify exactly what this was all about, but sometimes you just don’t need to know.
As they rowed and rowed, I looked back at the market as it slowly drifted into the distance and thought, ‘So, it’s not a market tour. Oh welI, I’ve already seen the YouTube videos. I do wonder where we’re going though’. Soon we branched off from the main canal into a small canal. Then a smaller canal. Two hours later I thought, ‘Ok. I need to know what’s happening. What’s this all about? Have I been kidnapped?’. To be honest, it was bound to happen one day, and this was actually quite a pleasant way for it to be done. Besides, I sometimes get ‘Kidnap Negotiator’ in my insurance plans, so now it’ll finally pay off!
Alas, I was not being kidnapped (more money down the drain). I was instead about to be given a first-hand demonstration of guava picking, the very thing I’d travelled half way around the world to see. We proceeded to head deeper and deeper into a canopy of rich, fluorescent green, spending hours traversing the paradise of the guava gardens.
Guava Farmer’s job requirement: Excellent climbing skills, tolerance to humidity, being handy with a very long net and ability to walk gracefully in swampy mud.
Guava farmers present photographers with many challenges, such as climbing so high that it’s almost impossible to capture both farmers in one frame with a fixed lens. The higher they climb, the lower I need to crouch.
The best guavas have turned from bright green to a softer yellowish-green color.
The network of streams forming the mouths of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers is one of the most fertile regions in the world.
The apple of the tropics, Guava, has 5 times the vitamin C of an orange, which is why if you ask an Orange about a Guava, they pretend not to hear you. They have vitamin envy.
On market day, villagers from the region row their boats to one of the floating markets to sell their guava to wholesalers who distribute the produce across Bangladesh.