Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From a Tiny Seed, an Entire Industry Grows

Detail - Flor de Tabaco, Danlí, Honduras, 2011
It all begins with this: a fragile, pink flowerlet trembling in the hot, humid breezes of El Paraíso, Honduras, twenty kilometers from the Nicaraguan border.  Before being gently plucked from its perch, it was part of a cluster of others like it, high on the crown of a tall and sturdy tobacco plant.  In such towns as Danlí, Jamastrán, and La Música, tobacco flowers are carefully nurtured and harvested for their prized seeds.  Unlike the majority of other industrialized crops, tobacco is self-supplying and a farm can use its own crops for propagation.  It is 100% certifiably organic, and its demarcation of origin inscrutable.  Farmers do not have to rely heavily on multinational suppliers of raw material (seeds), and are usually capable of planting, harvesting, processing, packaging, and shipping the finalized tobacco product from within a single area or farm.  Many families in the Jamastrán Valley are completely dependent on this single plant to generate their income; mothers and fathers work either in the fields or the factories, and the children attend schools financed by tobacco taxes or as subsidized by the tobacco farmers and investors.  As the fourth largest export crop in Honduras, tobacco is pretty important business around here.  But you wouldn't be able to tell, just by looking at this pretty pink flower; just a humble little thing unaware of the potential it holds within.      

Flor de Tabaco, Danlí, Honduras, 2011

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