Armindo has 200 hectars of land in Bambadinca and with some of his time here planned for a trip to visit his ranch. I tagged along with him, Gina, and his 18 yr old nephew Elton to check out the ranch.
|The village sign. Maybe it says: Welcome to Sintchan Moli!|
We drove along the same road to get to Gabu, but this time was different because I learned so much more along the way. For example, there is a stretch of road where the trees are a lot further back then along the rest of the road. I found out that’s because in 2011 Columbians cut down the forest on both sides of the main road so that they could land a plane filled with drugs. The road is long and straight enough that they could land and take off with out having to turn around. Military troops just blocked the road off for the take off and landing to stop local traffic during the drop off. I was surprised at the bluntness of the drug trafficking. The statement it makes could be clear enough: drugs are getting into your country one way or another. It was a one time drop off, but I’m sure they have come up with other creative ways to get drugs in the country.
|This is a glimpse at some of the property that has been cut down.|
It’s funny to say you own land when it hasn’t been developed yet. The “We’re here!” moment was very anti-climactic because we were looking at lots of shrubs, trees and tall grasses and then at some point they said “Armindos land starts here.” Which looked exactly like the same as the shrubs, trees and tall grasses we had just passed.
But 200 hectars is a lot of land ( almost 500 acres) and once we ventured further onto his property I saw the vast vegetal diversity. There is a riverhead somewhere near the middle of the property where the plants are lush and green. There is an over grown cashew forest that creates a nice shady ambiance. Then there is what seems like a desert with a few small trees and tall grasses. There are trees that bleed when you cut them and many types of fruits like pineapple, mango, and cashew.
|The bleeding tree. Its wood is some of the best in Bissau.|
Marciano, Armindo’s younger brother who lives in Bissau, goes back and forth from Bissau to work on the property in Bambadinca. There is a village near the property called Sintchan Moli and he hired 15-25 men to work on landscaping. They are mostly clearing some space on the property, but given its size it’s A LOT of work.
The vision they have for their property is enormous. On one part they want to turn their land into an eco-tourism vacation spot. Their location is perfect because they are just off the only road that goes into the south of Bissau. They want to create a lake, and walking trails and put in picnic tables and build huts people can rent out for the night.
|Wild pineapple growing on their property|
On another part they want to put in a mango and cashew processing factory where they will make juice and dried fruit. The story behind why they want to do this perhaps what’s most interesting.
Gina is a breast cancer survivor, but suffers from peripheral neuropathy, which is chronic pain due to nerve damage caused by chemotherapy. Pain in her legs and feet is part of her everyday reality, but on her most recent trip she noticed that her pain had completely disappeared. It was cashew season and she had eaten lots of cashews so she looked into it more. Apparently cashew juice is one of the few, if not the only, natural reliever of the pain caused by peripheral neuropathy. It is also really good for diabetics because it affects blood sugar levels slowly, so it doesn't cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar that diabetics try to avoid. Gina explained that she even read about potentials for curing diabetes with cashew juice.
Gina is a nurse turned manager at Kaiser Perminente and has lots of experience in working in health care. Her thought is that cashew juice can be the next acai berry or green tea. It has lots of health benefits likes boosting the immune system, it has 5 times the vitamin C of orange juice, and it lowers the risk for heart disease. And can help alleviate pain in many peoples lives while also making a lot of money via selling and processing the juice.
|Some of the children playing with bubbles|
If I had to describe Guinea-Bissau’s natural landscape in 2 words it would hands down be cashew trees. Who ever had the idea of planting the cashew tree. But with the abundance of cashew trees comes cashew fruit ( which is arguably better then the cashew nut). But the fruit is just tossed and the nut is saved. What im getting at is that there are very few cashew juice processors, despite the abundance of fruit. The major issue is that the cashew fruit has to be processed with-in 24 hours of being picked to get the best quality juice. That’s not a lot of time in the processing world.
Anyways, the trip was short since there wasn’t to much more to see and they were on a time crunch. Gina brought gifts like soccer balls, jump ropes, bubbles for the kinds in Sintchan Moli. Armindo brought the workers their paychecks. By the afternoon of the 2nd day we had made our way back to Bissau.
There is a lot of work to be done to realize their vision, but Armindo will be taking an early retirement at the end of this year to spend more time developing his ranch. It’ll be interesting to see how the developments come along. I’m looking forward to the hook-ups on cashew juice and dried mango.