Joao & Fernando Texeira da Camara

Joao Texeira da Camara

Fernando Texeira da Camara

Text: Eva Breukink
Photography: Studiorootz | Berber van Beek

My hobby is my job.

Joao Texeira da Camara -

Every day, five days a week, Joao Texeira da Camara (1949) can still be found on his kunuku. At six or seven o’clock in the morning, he is already there, and around eight, he will keep an eye on what the workers are doing in the fields from his pickup truck. How they weed the weeds between the plantings with a “chapi”. And how they harvest the vegetables. These are fertile grounds, so more farmers have a plot in this part of Banda Ariba. Texeira da Camara is not easily bothered by anyone. He sits there in his car, with the radio on, enjoying the peace, the fresh wind, and the countryside. A little further, an excavator is at work, but here you only hear the birds chirping.

Farmer Texeira da Camara likes to be by himself. He likes the silence. And when he says something, it is still imbued with that typical Portuguese accent. He has eight children but lives alone in his house in Montaña. He doesn’t really care for parties or family visits. Not that he shouldn’t. His family, originally from Portugal, have many descendants on Curaçao. Most of the uncles and aunts have passed away, but now there are the cousins with their children.

Joao was sixteen years old when he left Madeira in 1965 for Curaçao, where his parents had settled a year earlier. His father works in a hotel. That is not suited for son Joao, who would rather earn his keep as a butcher. But in the end, he chooses the life of a farmer, a life that he learned from when he was a little boy. In Madeira, almost his entire family works the land. Joao Texeira da Camara is twenty-five when he leases his first site from the Curaçao government. He starts with the knowledge he has gained during the two years of agricultural training on his native island. That forms his basis.

Farmer for close to fifty years

“I love this job. As a little boy in Madeira, I loved being in the fields. It’s my hobby. My hobby is my job, that’s the way it is. Those first years in Curaçao were a bit difficult. In Madeira I had my friends, my own neighborhood. Here, I didn’t know anybody. But later on it got better. It is unbelievable that I have been a farmer in Curaçao for almost fifty years. No, I’ve never been back to Madeira, never. I have a Dutch passport. In my heart? Yes, in my heart I am still Portuguese.”

In my heart I am Portuguese

Joao Texeira da Camara -

“In the 1970s, you could easily get land from the government. The Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, LVV, sold seeds. They had a wide range, and the price was very low. There were also employees of LVV who made an inventory of what was being cultivated across the island. The import could then be adjusted accordingly. All that no longer exists. We still manage to make ends meet by keeping expenses low. For example, I don’t have my own machines. LVV comes to plow and when necessary, I rent a tractor there.”

We still work in the same way as when I first started. There is not much left of your earnings, just enough to live on. If us farmers, had a little more income, we could produce more. For example, you could invest in an automatic drip system or greenhouses. I hope one of my kids will take over the business when I will not be able to work anymore. One of my sons is interested and he helps every now and then. The rest is not drawn to farm life. They have chosen a different future. I could never do that. I look back with satisfaction at the past fifty years. If I could do it over, I would be a farmer again.

Theft is unavoidable.

Joao Texeira da Camara -

Seed and fuel

It starts with seeds. Very important, these must be good. Texeira da Camara spends 3,000 to 4,000 guilders on seeds annually. He buys it from the Agricultural Cooperative Association (AKV) on Seru Loraweg. In addition, a lot of money is spent on gasoline for the generator. The electricity is needed to pump the well water to the land. Fuel is getting more and more expensive. A barrel of fuel of about 200 liters used to cost 200 guilders. Now Texeira da Camara pays 400 guilders for the same amount, so twice as much. To keep the pumps going, at least a barrel of fuel is spent every week.

Without well water there is not sufficient water. Very different from Madeira where it rains every day. A farmer on Curaçao must pay close attention in the dry months. Sowing is only possible if sufficient water is available. There are two wells on the plot of Texeira da Camara. The groundwater is pumped through pipes to the cultivated soil. Which part of the land gets water when is controlled manually by moving hoses and opening or closing taps.

Crop rotation

Texeira da Camara received this site from the government five years ago. It is rented land, about six hectares. Here he grows many fruits and vegetables, such as bell pepper, cucumber, okra, spring onions, sweet potato, watermelon, papaya and bananas. A bit of everything. This makes it easier for him to respond to customer demand. The crops always alternate. The soil is plowed first and then prepared for the cultivation of yet another vegetable or fruit. In this way the soil comes to rest and remains strong.

Theft cannot be prevented. It is an open area and the thieves come at night. Guarding with dogs is not an option, the animals would simply get killed. The thieves usually opt for the larger products. Those are, for example, watermelon or papaya, but in the past Texeira da Camara has lost thirty goats, thirty pigs and 28 cows in one night. That was a huge blow. He never owned as many cattle after that.

A different crop every year

Joao Texeira da Camara -

The supermarket round

Three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Texeira da Camara makes the round of the island’s supermarkets. The day before is harvest day. Whether and how much can be sold is always exciting. Texeira da Camara starts his round on the off chance, without any prior agreements about which products he will offer and at what price. He’s been doing it this way for years and this works best for him. So, the Portuguese farmer drops by with the harvest from the day before, and the supermarket buys fruit and vegetables which are in demand. What’s left goes to the pigs and goats in the back of the field. Nothing is lost from the harvested products. The proceeds from the sale are enough to cover the monthly costs of business and enough for ‘a decent life’.


Fernando Texeira de Camara

In 2019 like his father, Fernando Texeira da Camara (1973) is still growing fruit and vegetables on a site of approximately five hectares. And just like his father Joao, Fernando can be found on his land every day. Not only during the week, but also on weekends. Around 6.30 in the morning he starts watering the plants. During the hottest part of the day, between 1 pm and 4 pm, he is home to eat and rest. Then back to the kunuku, his plantation. The young plants are watered then for another twenty minutes through the drip system. In between operations Fernando helps with sowing, weeding, and harvesting. The day is over around six o’clock in the evening. And so it goes, every day. Only on Sundays does he finish at eleven in the morning. That afternoon and evening, he wants to be home for his family and relatives. Fernando also has his eye on a successor for when he is too old for the heavy work on the land: his one-and-a-half-year-old grandson.

Freedom and satisfaction

“I grew up with it and I love it. That’s why I grow vegetables and fruit. I really enjoy the atmosphere of the plantation, the freedom you have. You start early and can organize your day as you wish. With a nice harvest I feel completely happy. It is wonderful to be able to support a family in such a way.”

It is important that fruit and vegetables are grown on the island itself. There is no need to import fresh produce. I think there are enough farmers on Curaçao to meet the demand of supermarkets. We can grow many products that are bought abroad. Peppers and cucumbers for example. I hope that in the future we will produce everything ourselves.

“A plot of your own. That is very important for a farmer who wants to grow. Then you don’t have to pay rent and you can use all the proceeds from the sale to invest. To buy a plow, for instance. I now rent one from the government. With my own plow I would have complete control over my production. As soon as the harvest is in, I could immediately plow the land and sow or plant. The whole process of planting and harvesting would go faster then.”

Traditional horticultural business

Fernando sees himself as a ‘traditional farmer’. He has his own tools but does not own any machines. The crops grow in the open field, in the bright sun. Drought and strong winds can exhaust the plants, and affect the harvest. Keep wet well, is the motto, both the plants themselves and the soil in which they grow. It also helps against pests. Fernando is especially alert to whiteflies. They settle under the youngest leaves and suck the sap from the plants, which are weakened and do not grow. That is why he treats the vegetable and fruit plants that are two weeks old with insecticide. One cycle of spraying is enough to prevent crop loss.

The freedom, that’s what I enjoy.

Fernando Texeira de Camara -

Power for the soil

The extreme weather conditions demand a lot from soil and the plants. They could use some extra nutrients. This is done by regularly fertilizing the land. At the back of the lot, Fernando lets a large pile of manure dry in the sun. This is important, because when the manure is wet, it contains too high a concentration of ammonia. The cells of the leaves of the crops are then damaged, which inhibits the growth of the plant. The leaves wither and burn. The wetter the manure, the longer it must dry. Chicken manure, for example, is much wetter than cow manure.

Fernando scoops the dried manure into buckets and mixes it with the soil on the cultivated land. Over time, the same happens there as in a compost heap: micro-organisms digest the organic material, releasing important nutrients that enrich the soil. The soil structure improves and as a result the soil can retain the water for longer.

Weeding, watering, fertilizing, sowing, and harvesting. This is all done by hand, at most with the help of a chapi, a garden hoe. Three days a week Fernando gets help from a Haitian man with weeding and cleaning of the fields. On the weekend a friend and his brother come to help. Fernando himself ensures that all plants receive sufficient water. They all harvest together, at least on Mondays and Thursdays. Those days Fernando delivers to two supermarkets and several mini markets.

Drought and wind? Keep the soil wet well!

Fernando Texeira de Camara -

Watch! What our fourth farmers, Joao and Fernando Texeira da Camara, have to say!

Get to know more farmers

Coming soon