Welcome to Durian West – sustainable livelihood in action
Foundation Board Member Bob Albert has taken our sustainable livelihood project featuring the unique durian fruit to the fertile lands on the western side of Venezuela. Here, Bob is working with the Fe Y Alegría Institute School of Agriculture in the town of El Nula, Apure State, showing the students how to plant durian treelings
Durian is originally from southeast Asia and we may have the only producing trees in Venezuela. What an unusual, popular and commercially-viable fruit!
The Foundation seeks to spearhead a
“Durian Revolution” in Venezuela
Our goal is to establish durian plantings in Venezuela in sufficient scale to ensure permanence and an ever-expanding production. We see durian as an important new avenue of sustainable livelihood for local campesinos and farmers. There is a growing global demand for durian and we aim to help Venezuelans join the supply side of this unique and beneficial fruit, known as “the king of fruits.”
The Foundation’s current Durian Project in northeastern Venezuela (Durian East) is up and running with some important early successes.
We now want to extend this to the western part of the country (Durian West), leveraging proven methodologies and the Foundation’s broad organizational resources.
Venezuela is strategically located close to the emerging durian markets in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. Due to the short viability of durian seeds and the long time to durian production (8-9 years), durian has not yet been broadly introduced in the neotropics. The Foundation has established a beachhead (Durian East) with a durian planting that has shown durian to grow and produce well in the country. The trees have proven resistant to pests and diseases, and we now have production beginning from second-generation trees. There is significant agricultural land in central and western Venezuela suitable for additional durian cultivation, offering warm, wet, and fertile areas ideally suited to this tropical rainforest crop.
The Durian West project, spearheaded by Bob Albert, aims to leverage that opportunity.
Durian West will help accelerate Venezuela’s recovery from its decades-old socio-economic crisis by introducing and propagating durian as a cash crop for local farmers and campesinos:
Foster long-term economic potential as a (new) cash crop in Venezuela.
Support new sustainable livelihood opportunities for low-income families and farmers who will embrace the opportunity to grow, harvest, and sell this desirable fruit.
Help propagate sustainable perma-agriculture with durian tree farms as an attractive alternative to conventional agri-practices like slash and burn.
Grow a fruit with exceptional nutritional value for human consumption, including high percentages of protein, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Provide the Foundation with a potential future revenue stream to help fund our ongoing educational, family planning, and humanitarian programs serving the poorest of the poor.
Provide Fe y Alegría Venezuela – our partner in this venture – with a corresponding potential future revenue stream to help fund its educational and social programs serving similar target populations
The Durian West program will encompass the planting, care, cultivation, harvesting, and exploitation of durian crops, corresponding to the initial agricultural cycle of the harvest and each subsequent harvest.
It will operate in states of Apure, Merida and Trujillo, where a few exploratory plantings have already been put in the ground. These access the flat lowlands around Lake Maracaibo, generally considered the most fertile farming land in Venezuela.
This initiative could also extend to promising farming areas in the lush Barlovento cacao belt, and prime agriculture areas in central Venezuela.
The program will deploy a formal partnership agreement between two organizations – the Foundation and Fe y Alegría Venezuela. This agreement will unite the Foundation and Fe y Alegría in a common mission.
The project will be managed by Robert Albert, a Foundation Board Member and expert in tropical farming.
The target of the program is to procure seeds, plant, and manage to maturity a minimum of 200 durian trees. Harvesting these trees begins approximately 8-9 years after the original planting.
Upon reaching full production, each mature tree can carry upwards of 300 fruits per year.
Current average price of a durian fruit sold in Venezuela is $20 to $30 USD. A mere one or two fruits represent more than one week’s wages for a campesino farmer.
The potential annual revenue from this project – shared between the Foundation, Fe y Alegria, and local family farmers – might start at $60,000 USD a year (20 fruit per tree per year) climbing to $1 million+ USD a year.
This revenue is speculative, beginning several years after planting
Once production begins, the resulting seeds will engender ever expanding plantings.
The country is in the midst of a prolonged economic crisis, due to the collapse of its oil industry and political instability. In response to this crisis, the Turimiquire Foundation (U.S.) and its sister foundation in Venezuela, Fundacion ServYr, provide life-changing support to underserved and low-income families in the areas of healthcare, education, and sustainable livelihood.
One of our projects is the cultivation of fruits that might provide a sustainable livelihood for these small family farmers. In the 1990s, we received a number of viable durian seeds from a friend traveling from Malaysia. This resulted in a durian planting – Durian East – that has grown to maturity and now produces high-quality fruit from second-generation trees.
Durian has the potential to be a profitable cash crop in Venezuela. Currently, our Durian East harvest is sold to Venezuela’s Asian population at high prices, with revenue shared between local families and the Foundation. There is a potential to reach a wider market and this proposal seeks to support that expansion.
Durian The durian is originally from Southeast Asia, where it is considered the “King of Fruits.” Market predictions value the global Durian market at USD $24.9 billion in 2023, with the global market surpassing USD $49.9 billion by 2033. The durian markets in the US, Canada and Latin America are currently supplied by exports from Southeast Asia. Due to the very short viability of durian seeds and the long time to production, durian has not yet been commercially introduced in the neotropics.
Our successful plantings demonstrate that durian can be successfully produced in Venezuela.
Durian farming has significant potential to:
Provide viable income and sustainable livelihood to a large swath of Venezuelan farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs
Offer a healthy alternative to the oil extraction, mining, and drug trafficking that currently ravage the land and population
Establish long-term forests with economic benefits for humans as well as wildlife habitat, carbon sequestering, and climate improvement
Support soil retention and shade protection, as well as nesting for birds, pollen, and nectar for bats and bees (as we have observed over 30 years of cultivation).
Durian is one of the healthiest and most nutritious fruits in the world,
with antioxidants and other healthy plant compounds that can help reduce
the risk of cancer, heart disease, and high blood sugar.
Nutritionally, one cup (243 grams) of pulp delivers 9 grams of Fiber, 4 grams of Protein, and high percentages of Daily Value: Vitamin C 80%, Thiamine 61%, Vitamin B6 38%, Potassium 30%, Riboflavin 29%, Copper 25%, Folate 22%, Magnesium 18%, Niacin 13%.
Robert Albert has been part of the Turimiquire Foundation since its inception in 1995. Bob was born in Caracas to American parents and spent his early years there, then attended school in the United States. After graduating with a biology degree from Harvard University, he returned to Venezuela and established a series of tropical farms, the last near Cumana with partner Steven Bloomstein. For 50+ years, he has planted fruit trees in Venezuela and lived and worked on tropical farms. Bob has introduced a number of lesser-known tropical fruits to the farm near Cumana, including jackfruit, mangosteen, canistel, and durian. Bob arranged with a friend to bring the first successful durian seeds from Malaysia, immediately planted them, and over the ensuing 30 years cared for them. He has planted many trial trees from the second generation and is familiar with what works and what doesn’t for durian trees in Venezuela. Bob’s mission is to leave a legacy to the country and people he loves – an extensive and healthy planting of fruit trees that can provide a sustainable income for Venezuelans who love and work the land.
Fe y Alegría Institute: www.feyalegria.edu.ve
The primary site for new plantings will be the Fe y Alegría Agriculture School nursery in El Nula, Estado Apure. The Fe Y Alegría Institute is a long-standing social organization that offers education to students from disadvantaged,
low-income, and campesino families from all over Venezuela. Students receive a basic education in the arts and sciences, as well as practical skills to enable them to play a productive role in society. The school is run by innovative, entrepreneurial Jesuit priests who invited us to set up the durian project at their school with the understanding that it might eventually lead to the school becoming self-sustaining (via a durian revenue stream) instead of depending on outside support.
We will develop the school as a major center for durian horticulture, marketing, and distribution. We have already planted the first durian trees, and students will be returning years after their graduation to partake of this wondrous fruit.
The school has a composting and vermiculture program, an excellent facility for a nursery, and a source of manure from their animal husbandry sector. El Nula’s proximity to Colombia gives it a more robust economy than other parts of Venezuela, and this proximity may allow us to extend the durian project from Venezuela into Colombia.
Once we have seedlings in hand, we will also seek out suitable local small family farmers to plant and care for the trees. This requires recruiting suitable farmers, planting the seedlings properly – with care, shade and protection – and following up regularly to ensure proper long-term maintenance.
Turimiquire Foundation: www.turimiquire.org
Established in 1995, the Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of marginalized rural and urban barrio populations of Venezuela with family planning and reproductive health services; rural education and literacy; rural livelihood and development; and life-changing humanitarian aid. The goal is to help the populations we serve emerge from centuries-long cycles of poverty exacerbated by Venezuela’s ongoing socio-economic crisis.
Rather than spending time and money building new infrastructure, we partner with Venezuela’s existing public and private health and education systems – and leverage the country’s current infrastructure – for maximum efficiency and impact. Our operating principle is simple: Reach a maximum number of people and help them improve their lives using the most efficient delivery models possible.
To date, we have helped transform the lives of more than 100,000 women, men, adolescents, and their families.
94% of our budget, on average, has gone directly into our field programs over the past 22 years.
Durian West Project
Procurement of seeds, graftings
Transportation and distribution
Travel (2 trips to Malaysia)
To properly introduce durians to the Venezuela, growing varieties is paramount. Adding highly-desirable varieties from Malaysia will be important
to enhancing the attractiveness of our production in the durian markets
that we target.
Ongoing durian tree maintenance
Foundation administration including
liaison with local agencies