Williams Serafin Novoa Lizardo: crops blighted by disease

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Williams Serafin Novoa Lizardo: crops blighted by disease

Williams Serafin Novoa Lizardo is 20 and the last but one of 12 siblings, of whom the oldest is 48. He lives with his farmer parents in Ramos, Santa Rosa, in the Amazonas region of Peru. Three of his brothers and sisters studied at secondary level, and one brother who became a miner also studied in Lima with a relative. All the others, like Williams, had primary education only. "For the activities that I perform now," he says, "I can say that primary school is enough…I would have liked to study more and become someone significant in life, but regrettably I haven't had the chance…"

He provides much of the labour on the farm, as many of his older siblings have moved to other districts or to Lima: "They realized that there were no possibilities of living well here, they said they would improve their lives, and they moved away."
The farm produces pineapples, yucca, coffee, bananas, oranges, sweet potatoes and guava. His parents, he explains, are now "elderly, so sometimes we hire assistants; if not, we couldn't work the farm. Sometimes we work with four or five assistants, when there is a good harvest, but most of the times we work by ourselves." Williams would like to shift from concentrating on pineapple as a cash crop to coffee for export: "Coffee has got a good sale [price]… we grow coffee here in Santa Rosa, but we lack the capacity and land to produce more."

Plant diseases have been a major problem. Pineapple production has plummeted: "Two years ago [buyers] took tons of pineapples [from Ramos]. Now, due to the problem of the gomosa worm…not even half a ton is taken." On his farm alone, they used to harvest 10–15 sacks of the fruits: "now we barely manage two or three sacks", Williams explains.

Pests and diseases have also undermined the community's efforts to organize themselves collectively to reduce the high cost of getting pineapples to market, and so reduce their dependence on buyers who come to Ramos: "The reason why we cannot go out to sell our products is because the transportation fees are very expensive… There used to be a committee, but when the disease spread people withdrew, the committee became disorganized and resulted in nothing in the end."

Williams has visited his siblings in Lima and other towns, but always comes back to Ramos. Nevertheless, if he had the money, he would like to learn another skill: "I would like to study mechanics… I would like to move out to…Lima or to another city where I can learn, see, practice, study…" One thing he feels is that, despite its limitations, their life in Ramos has improved a little – but it is because of his siblings' migration: "My siblings have a steady job in Lima, and they help us; that's why we can work our farm, the land, and it's somehow producing [crops]."