Water Melon Farming in Kernahan Village, Mayaro
The Jonas family of Kernhan Village, Mayaro, grows and sell water melon. Ms Zafarin Jonas and her husband Sonnyboy Ramessar have been planting watermelon for more than forty years. Both Zafarin and Sonnyboy are from Rio Claro but the majority of people who settled in Kernaham Village 50 or more years ago came from Debe.
“I am not from Debe. My deceased husband, Harold Jonas, was from Debe. All the people that first settled in Kernahan Village come in the 1960s and 1970s to grow rice. Later we started growing water-melon,” said Zafarin.
We came into contact with Sonnyboy and Zafarin on the Mazanilla stretch on our way to Mayaro Beach. Seeing the heaps of water melons and other buyers, Dhaniram decided to stop to purchase a few water-melons to share with our hosts. Dhaniram enjoys water melon…”it is tasty and rich in vitamins and I must add that it is produced locally.” These words of Dhaniram put a broad smile on the face of Sonnyboy.
Zafarin was in the company of some buyers busy weighing a large quantity of melons on a bin mounted on a scale for a retailer. As the weight was verified the bin was emptied into a waggon and the filling of the bin with melons and weighing continued.
In the meanwhile Sonnyboy greeted us with a broad welcoming smile. In his mid-6os, Sonnyboy was born in Rio Claro and married Ms Jonas after her husband passed away. “Is the sweetest melon you would get in the country,” he boasted. “Come and taste,” waving his hand to us to follow him to a shed where he had a half of a melon on a table. The melon was deep read in colour. He sliced the water melon and gave us a piece each.
“This is the best I have tasted,” said Dhaniram. Bharath , our friend from India, loved the taste also. “Mr Sonnyboy, our friend is from India,” said Dhaniram, introducing Bharath to Sonnyboy.
“India has nice water melon. I want some seed from India, ” Sonyboy requested.
“That is no problem. I will bring seeds for you,” Bharath promised.
“We planted seeds from India and the water melon was sweet like honey,” said Sonnyboy.
Other customers came and Sonnyboy had to attend to them. He called on his wife “Ai ghul, talk to them.” Ms Jonas moved us to the shed where I asked questions and she answered.
“We plant our own land and also rent from the estate,’ she informed.
“Both of you plant so much?” I asked.
“Yes, Yes, but we hire workers part-time,” she said.
“What about the children? Do they help?
“Yes, they come and help also.
“What other crops you grow?” I asked.
“We grow bodi, sem, carailli, cucumber and other crops that we wholesale in the Macoya market,” she informed us.
What about praedial larceny? “Yes, Yes. That is a problem. Recently a farmer hold a man and the police come an take him away, “she revealed.
Are the police co-operative? I enquired. “Oh yes! They are always around. They always come out when we need them,” she said.
In the shed was a huge bed. “We have to sleep here to watchman the water melon,” she said. There was a huge heap of water melons-300 plus.
“What other challenges you face?” I asked.
“A big problem is diseases. Last year a virus attacked the crop, plenty acres and we had to treat it with chemicals,” she said.
“You look very happy,’ I said.
“Oh yes, this is my work and I enjoy it. We work hard and produced this crop. It was plenty labour and expense and now we hope to sell and make some money,” she said.
In the meanwhile Sonnyboy was busy attending to his customers. We purchased a few water melons and as we were leaving Bharath told him “I will not forget to bring the seeds.”
For the last ten years Trinidadians can buy water melon throughout the years. It is sold in the markets and stalls along the main roads and highways. At every turn a consumer can buy water melon at a price averaging $2 and $3 per pound.
If today we have watermelon year round, it is only because of the pioneering work of the people like Sonnyboy and Zafarin. They understand how wealth is created-hard work and sacrifices; not plans and projections in air-conditioned offices.