Grass and other "weeds" laid between rows of bananas.

Grass and other “weeds” laid between rows of bananas.

Banana farmer!

Banana farmer!

Guess what this is!Guess what this is!


            Workers are clearing the land in preparation for plowing.  The tractor will handle the empty tracts without their help, but wherever banana and cassava are planted, the workers clear between the rows.   They use a short curved “bolo” or machete, sharpened on both sides of the curve but especially on the convex side.

They push this curved side away from them just under the surface of the soil, severing the roots, then pull the uprooted plants toward them with the inner (concave) surface.  These are left to dry and decompose in windrows between the plants.

Good thing this soil has few rocks.  They must sharpen the cutting edge frequently as it is.  A recent rain has softened the soil so they are making good progress today.   The work is done from a squatting position (what people in the Appalachian mountains call “hunkering down”), hours at a time.   Americans would rarely do this work by hand, and if we do, it’s with a hoe from a standing position.  I am impressed and humbled.