40 YEARS - By Maurice Gent -
THERE is in the opinion of many no other fruit like a mango and in the last century the plains of the Batinah Governorate were very rich in mangoes. Disease and disaster struck back in 1998 and hitherto prosperous farmers were affected by what was a personal tragedy for them. It was also a blow to the many inhabitants of Oman, who enjoy the delicious cooling juice of the mango or even better, biting into a whole mango
Now there is hope again. And there are at least four heroes, who have enlisted in a campaign to exterminate a disease, which has been fought successfully in other parts of the world. Two of them are from the Omani side, Sultan Qaboos University and the Ministry of Agriculture, and two from the Brazilian side, the mining giant Vale and agricultural experts from Brazil’s world renowned Federal University of Vicosa.
Of course, this is a long term battle. But the Brazilian agricultural experts have already been able to prove that campaigns against insects, who destroy both mango and date plantations can be successfully fought. What is more Omani students are being brought into the battle, and are being sent to the Brazilian University, which specialises in the study of agricultural pests.
To stress positive interest on the Omani side the Vice Chancellor of SQU recently visited Vale’s Industrial Complex in Liwa, and there was a top level discussion on both sides about how best to pursue the war on pests and restore the mango and other plantations to their previous fertile state.
It is a programme, which will last at least four years, but the long term benefits could well be immense, for the farmers, the economy of the region and the many residents of Oman, both Omani and expatriate, who delight in the subtle and soothing juice of the mango.
This is an example of industrial and agricultural development at it’s best. Vale, which has already allocated a vast investment in Oman, making it in effect it’s headquarters in the Middle East, is showing it’s concern in terms of a ‘good neighbour policy’ contributing with research, which is both practical and academic.
We talk a lot these days about new roads and railways to serve the Batinah Governorate, but we must at the same time preserve it’s agricultural potential and riches.
The aim for the future, to ensure a profitable and prosperous agricultural sector, should be very much part of any plan for the Batinah Governorate. Industry — yes, ports, yes, roads and railways — yes. It, however, remains vital for the integrity of the region and the country that it’s agricultural industry flourishes as well, providing employment and diversity to a region rich in both beauty and history.