Panama, Casco Antiguo
Casco Viejo, San Felipe
When Al Gore launched his “ Inconvenient Truth” he touched many nerves world wide. Liked it or not, people reacted in such a way that has forced all relevant presidential candidates (Barak Obama, John Mccain … I wished I could add any of the running Panamanian candidates to the list, but so far they haven´t shown much interest. Panamanians on the other hand, have become increasingly active!) to take note of these issues seriously. Just today (and to make things worst) I opened the newspaper and read how hurricane Ike has at least a dozen of refineries closed in the United States. In Panama, we aren´t exposed to hurricanes, but we are certainly sensible to the repercusions of oil price fluctuations, just like anywhere else. Repercusions are endless. The energy crisis is real. But what about the food crisis?
The cost of everything is increasing worldwide. What can we do? We ride more buses, use less cars, it’s logical. But what about food? Should I just buy less of what I need? One of the answers could be, grow it yourself.
This isn’t a crazy idea just out of the hat, nor it will solve the problem by itself. Or maybe it can if its done well. Many are doing it, with great results. All around Europe, there is not a single free space near the neighborhood parks that isn’t somehow used for urban agriculture. And it works from many angles. It generates food from land that would usually not be used for anything in particular other than simple “enjoyment” (in the case of plazas, for example). But also, since those gardens are maintained by retirees and children, they give a sense of purpose to the first and teach the right lessons to the second. It also rounds up calories and proteins, and helps us get through this crisis in a better shape. When well done, it even gives us certain independence from the fluctuating prices.
In Panama, more specifically in Casco Antiguo (or Casco Viejo, as many Panamanians refer to it) we are already doing it. My balcony alone, has at least 4 producing tomato plants (right now I have about 10 tomatoes ripening), 2 producing eggplants, several spices (basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, between others), a curry tree, 2 types of spinach, a huge lemon grass pot (love tea! And good to cook chicken as well), a zucchini, passion fruit, a tilo plant (also for tea) and some stuff I don’t even know what they are since they are growing directly from my composter and they need to grow a bit more to be identified. Starting is as easy as throwing your organic garbage into a pot with dirt and steering it from time to time. You’ll reduce waste and suddenly discover that some of the seeds (probably tomatoes will go first) will start growing.
Get some inspiration from who made it possible in Casco Viejo: Anthrome Project. Here you’ll find endless knowledge about all sort of tropical trees, plants and the most bizarre fruits you’ve ever seen. The chronics say that when the Spanish came to America, the Indians had tons of different plants and fruits they didn´t even know. After the success of crops like corn, potatoes and tomatoes, many of these plants where left aside. Very nutritious options once common and well known have fallen into oblivion, either by ignorance or because they where genetically mixed to produce more resistant variations.
I think it is time to bring all of them back. And where else if not in your own backyard!