Pineapple, one year later

November 21, 2014

This time last year we were delighted to announce that our first pineapple crop was in the ground in Sierra Leone! Neatly lined rows of “suckers” stood in the November sun at the end of the rainy season, beginning their 18-month journey from seedling to fruit. [See second photo, above.] Our partner Africa Felix Juice stood ready to purchase our first harvest, which would be made into pineapple juice and sold on the world market. Dozens of Sierra Leone workers weeded, watered, cleared land and otherwise participated in planting and maintaining our first economic venture in the country.

What a difference a year can make. Last November, Ebola was still weeks away from breaking out in Guinea. Today, the disease has killed well over 5,000 people, with more than 1,200 of them in Sierra Leone alone. Economic activity is at a practical standstill, and people who are not suffering from Ebola are suffering from extreme hunger and other diseases due to quarantines and an overwhelmed health system.

Our current heartbreak for Sierra Leone stands in such stark contrast to the optimism we felt one year ago. In the two years we have worked in Bauya, we have made many friends, with whom we have crafted exciting and hopeful plans that have now been derailed by a pervasive and terrible disease.

The pineapple crop continues to be cared for under the strong leadership of Sullay and Joseph. The plants are still healthy, thriving and on schedule for an early summer 2015 harvest. [First photo, above.] Due to quarantines and the devolving economic climate in Sierra Leone, it’s extremely difficult for Africa Felix Juice to plan. With the ramping up of international aid to snuff out the spread of Ebola, it’s possible that agricultural production will be on track again next summer. It’s also possible that it won’t. No one knows. There is no crystal ball.

Along with our partners and contacts in Sierra Leone, we continue to plan as best we can with great hope that by the time our pineapples are ready for harvest, we will be able to sell them. If that is the case, it will mean that Ebola is on its way out, and for that we will be grateful indeed.