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Another week and some tourism experience

I drove to Panama City this past weekend to pickup my daughter Paige and her boyfriend Jarrett at Tocumen Airport. As usual the ride was full of distraction, construction and some good eats in Santiago. In Santiago, a fast growing city, I ate lunch at Las Terazzas on the Interamericana and if you like seafood and have at least two hungry people try the Mixed Seafood platter.

Construction is moving along very fast on the expansion of the Interamerican from David to Santiago and there are many short delays so add about thirty minutes to any planned time for travel.

We did some basic Panama Tourism, very little because my daughters flight was delayed twelve hours and we had to return to Boquete by Sunday night. I did manage to circle Casco Viejo on the new Cinta Costera Three and wonder why it was built? It seems to loop back to another way to the Bridge of the Americas and not much more. It does provide a seafarers view of Casco.  We drove down the Causeway and enjoyed a beer at Bennigans, while watching Argentina win its World Cup soccer match.

The drive back to Boquete on Sunday uneventful and fast with no construction delays. We did some tourism bookings.

1. Coffee Tour with Rich Lipner at Dos Jefes. always the best Coffee tour.

2. Zip lining at Boquete Tree Trek of course, who except me would miss that.

3. River rafting with Jim Omer, at Boquete Outdoor Adventures.

4. A trip to Bocas for them, not me, using the bus from Mamallena in Boquete.

5. A Hostel stay on Isla Colon at Tungara right on the main street.

Now Paige and Jarrett can enjoy the outdoors and I have the time to write about it!




TCM: Coffee diseases

The MIDA men came and so did my additional guest, Giovy  from Aboquete. Today those in attendance learned about the three major coffee diseases found here in the Boquete District.

Ojo de Gallo and Roya are both fungus diseases that are airborne and decimate coffee plants. We learned about how they spread and how to control them. La Broca is a boring insect which is less of a problem at high altitudes.

Ojo de Gallo

Ojo de Gallo is a disease caused by the fungus Mycena citricolor. The problem is widespread on farms here and appears in sectored lights due to climate factors, host field position and agronomic management, ventilation, among others. It occurs mainly in mountainous areas where there is high humidity (above 80%), temperature around 20 ° C, excess shade in coffee plantations and susceptible varieties. The damage it causes is that the fungus causes leaf drop, fruit, death of young shoots and cause poor performance. The fungus survives in lesions observed on old leaves, fruits sporadically in patients who were on the ground or branch diseased tissues. These lesions are whitish, dry appearance and have about an inch in diameter. This fungus survives from year to year and that is where the primary inoculum originates, or who initiates the disease. In young leaves the shape of the spot is larger and irregularly shaped.


Image of a coffee leaf with Ojo de Gallo


Roya is the return of a most destructive fungus, once eradicated and now back.

These are images of a coffee plant and leaf with Roya, also known as coffee rust. The images below and much more information are available at this LINK.

CoffeeRust05 CoffeeRust07


In both cases the use of fungicides, whether chemical or natural is the solution. MIDA advised about both and our second speaker Giovy Rojas from Aboquete provided detailed information on their fungus eating funguses which seem to be the best environmental solution available now and eats both Roya and Ojo de Gallo funguses . Their webpage appears dated but this is a link for contact information LINK

La Broca is less of a problem here but again there is a fungus that attacks and destroy the insect available from Aboquete.

We ran out of time today and will have still another meeting focused on Roya Sept 10.


David Cabalgata 2013

A Cabalgata is a Horse Parade and the David Cabalgata is the biggest Horse Parade in Panama. It is one of those events I try not to miss. This was the fourth time I photographed it from the saddle, not easy when your horse has a mind of his own.

As this is Panama, the Cabalgata was scheduled to start at three and kicked off a bit after four. But no matter, the ladies were pouring rum from the back of pickup trucks and it gave us a chance to catchup with some friends.

Giovy & Mayara

Giovy & Mayara ready to roll

We started out riding with Giovy and Dimetreo from Aboquete, we rented the horses from them this year. I do have one horse, Chevy, but he is out in Bugaba getting fat and it was too difficult to move him to David, so Aboquete rent a horse was easier.

We ran into a few Boquetenos before the horses marched on.
Alcalde de Boquete PanamaAlcalde de Boquete Panama, Mano Ruiz[/caption]

Roger & Margaret Pentecost

Roger & Margaret Pentecost

We were photographed too, the Boquete camera club was there. I did not see many others from Boquete and no other expats I knew on horses, but with thousands of horses and riders we probably missed a lot of people.

Boquete Camera Club at work

Boquete Camera Club at work

The bands and pickup trucks full of rum do make for an interesting environment and this year the parade snaked through David. Most business surrendered for the day even if they were open, cars where not making much progress. Schools and government offices were closed all day and some other businesses closed at 1pm, crowds filled the streets especially near the end of the run.

Since this is best experienced visually and with sound. I did record the background noise but here are a bunch of photos. Click on any image to see it larger.

One final auditory note.

Turning garbage into Chiriqui’s future

I was urged to write a piece about Demetrio Diaz and Aboquete and their quest for a Latin American Innovators award. I am proud to consider Demetrio and his wife Giovy friends and would love to see them win the award and the $40,000 prize. I have no idea how the only popularity contest effects the award since a jury of preselected people will make the final decisions but, please vote for them anyhow, vote early and vote often, just like Chicago.


The real significance of the this innovation goes far beyond this prize. Aboquete takes refuse, organic refuse and turns it into compost, not too amazing. They also develop funguses that are used to attack other devastating fungal diseases. I use their products on my farm and wrote about them in 2009, that part is important innovation.

What makes Aboquete particularly relevant now is a political change, the US – Panama free trade agreement. If this agreement proceeds to have the impact similar agreements have had in other Central American countries and Mexico, it will devastate the agricultural sector in Chiriqui and much of Panama. Agricultural exports from the USA are heavily subsidized by the government. Large agra business in the US destroyed the small family farm in the US, it has done the same in Mexico. Ross Perot discussed the huge sucking of jobs to Mexico with NAFTA, the sucking happened but not as predicted. The jobs went to China, the agricultural goods to Mexico and the displaced, unemployed farm workers, well they looked for work up north and became “illegal immigrants”.

This happened in the meat packing industry as a documented example due to Reagan era policies, displacing US workers with cheaper subsidized latinos. Reference Harvard Latino Law Review, Volume 9, Spring 2006. The link is a PDF download.

According to Eric Jackson the future for the local farmer in Panama is bleak.

“Not only will Panama be targeted to receive fewer benefits from the FTA, the new arrangement should result in an array of negative alterations in Panama’s economic status quo. Previously, local agrarian sectors have been able to hold onto their protectionist tariffs, thus assuring their continued competitiveness for over a decade. The proposed FTA will reduce the import tariffs on pork, chicken, and agricultural crops. These tariffs range from 15 percent to over 273 percent and while they exist are able to shelter these products from international competition. These tariffs have been essential to the wellbeing of the average Panamanian, since over forty percent of the rural population depends upon the income from one of these sectors.

Panama’s agricultural sector is vital to the nation’s rural income, as it allows rural communities to subsist above the poverty line. FTA advocates who effectively control Panama insist that the FTA will immediately reduce import tariffs and expose Panama’s agricultural sector to the influx of US farm machines and manufactured products. Multinational corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Tyson use goods obtained from industrialized farming and modernized food production operations to sell food at a reduced market price. Local Panamanian rural farmers cannot possibly compete with these companies, and the scheduled reduction and eventual elimination of tariffs will inevitably bring about the massive displacement of Panama’s rural population, which is not a cheerful prospect to anticipate. ”  The Panama News

If you think Eric is alone in his perspective you might want to read this article on how NAFTA is starving once fruitful Mexico.

“Seventeen years after NAFTA, some two million farmers have been forced off their land by low prices and the dismantling of government supports. They did not find jobs in industry. Instead most of them became part of a mass exodus as the number of Mexican migrants to the United States rose to half a million a year. In the first few years of NAFTA, corn imports tripled and the producer price fell by half.”  CIP Americas

So how can Panama’s agricultural sector survive. There are two options, produce food cheaper or produce food for export. There is no way the small subsistance farmer can produce food cheaper.When Tyson chickens show up for a couple of cents a pound less than Melo, people will buy them. The fact those chickens are laden with hormones and antibiotics will not affect the decision, price will.

The only real option is exportable products, either tropical goods that cannot be grown cost effectively in the north or quality organic products. In May I had the opportunity to meet a large grower from Cerro Punta, he already saw the handwriting on the wall and was converting his farms to all organic. This is where Demetrio and Aboquete enter the future for Panama. They have been producing organic fertilizer and organic fungicides for years, they are Panama’s market leader. We, all of us, need to see them grow to help support our neighbors of we will see a slide back into poverty for many of our neighbors who live off $10 a day and the output of their small farm.

One more point on Damming the Caldera River

I know from experience that there is no stopping progress and sadly for humanity progress is often defined by taming and either using or destroying what nature created. For those of you who wonder why I believe a hydroelectric project on the Rio Caldera below Bajo Boquete is a bad idea I want o share some memories.


This is a photo of the Rio Caldera in Bajo Boquete near the Panamonte in December 2006.


This the same river from the Jaramillo bank looking toward the Panamonte November 22 2008

This is the current end of the line for the Caldera November 22 2008. This dam is below the Wilson Bridge. As you can notice the usually dry Caldera below (the water is redirected by another hydro project) is flooding. Notice the overflow of water, more than the redirection of the hydro project cascaded into the normally bone dry Caldera river bed, flooding the area.

In my uneducated opinion, the addition of another dam above this Wilson Bridge redirection might increase the risk of flooding upstream from the dam, Bajo Boquete is upstream We don’t know because the environmental impact stucy used to justify this project was a carbon copy of another from another location, a fraud. One thing crystal clear is if there is an event similar to November 2008 again, the new dam will not prevent flooding downstream because the water will either go over the dam or they will need to open flood gates to save the structure and town upstream.

There is nothing wrong with clean energy, it is a good thing, but there is a balance. Tourism is the life of Boquete, do were really think any benefit of a dam is going outweigh the loss of tourist dollars when the Caldera looks more like this photo of the Los Angeles River

than this photo of the Caldera four years ago.


I am shocked none of the hotels, restaurants and tourist industry businesses are protesting this project.; especially those on the river who will be the victims of flooding if history repeats itself. Is the point of this massive bank stabilization project to hold water for a hydroelectric plant?

Thailandia in Boquete

Boquete does not have a Thai Restaurant, to my knowledge neither does Panama City. Boquete is lucky to have one better. Bob and Pon will custom prepare a Thai meal for you and deliver it to your house. This is not a catering service but more like a Thai version of take out delivered. Pon is Thai and the food is as authentic as can be created in Panama. Local ingredients, imported spices and Thai expertise.

With most dishes Bob and Pon will arrive and transfer them to your own plates and let you warm them when you wish to eat. Some require last minute additions to be enjoyed and Pon will do that at your house. Then Bob and Pon will head for the door so you can enjoy a taste of Thailand.

With house guests galore I decided to give it a try. Last night Bob and Pon really delivered.

The food pictured below was wonderful and if you would like to try something really out of the Boquete ordinary you can contact them, email lobo4819@yahoo.com telephone 6538 8010 .

Between them they speak Thai, English and Spanish. So it’s a great opportunity to practice your Thai!


Coffee begets better Coffee

Growing coffee on a small finca (property) in Boquete Panama is a not for profit activity. After three years of harvest I can tally the balance sheet and say the only profit is experiencing the cycle of growth, care and harvest followed by consumption of great coffee. One great additional benefit has been knowledge. I am a city boy living in the country and learning new things every day.

When coffee is wet processed the cherry is torn open and the beans separated from the husk.


The beans are dried, aged and roasted, but what of the husk? Some of those husks end up at Aboquete in Jaramillo, Boquete and are turned into organic fertilizer. I have turned my coffee plants into cannibals, they are now fertilized with remains of their ancestors.
As you approach the Wilson Bridge in Boquete heading up Jaramillo you can see the hills of fermenting, decomposing coffee husks that are turned by nature into a quality organic fertilizer.

The fertilizer, abono, is bagged into 100 pound bags, inoculated for various diseases, something I do not claim to understand but according to the USDA works. You can go to Aboquete and purchase sacks of fertilizer, the other half of your morning coffee, for from $8 to $10 per sack depending upon the inoculation.
A short Aboquete Video can be found here:

and more information about inoculating coffee at this link.

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