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By Shalima Mohammed
Richard Cantillon (1680-1734) – the world’s first economic theorist – brought the role of the entrepreneur to the attention of scholars. He viewed the entrepreneur as one who bears the risk of establishing a creative enterprise by covering the start-up cost and carrying out production before market demand and price are known.
Anand Rameshwar Singh epitomizes Cantillon’s definition of an entrepreneur. He, with his lovely wife, Indira, and ably assisted by his samdhi (daughter’s father-in-law), John, produce dragon fruits at Pioneers Dragon Fruit Market located at Ragoonanan Trace, Rochard Road, Penal in Trinidad. Information on this plant is also contained in the book by Dr. Kumar Mahabir entitled Medicinal and Edible Plants (page 64).
He states that the plant is also called harjor in Bhojpuri Hindi as well as the Night-blooming Cereus of the Cactaceae family. Its botanical name is Hylocereus Lemaire and it is possibly a native of Suriname.
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Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit
According to Anand, “A lady in Thailand used the dragon fruit as natural medicine. It helped her child with cerebral palsy who suffered tremendously from constipation, so she began to cultivate it.”
Clinical professor at Boston University, Joan Salge Blake, confirmed that one piece of dragon fruit can contain up to 7g of fiber, about a quarter of the recommended daily intake (25-30g), and such a potent amount will “clean you right out.”
Anand advised that “in Trinidad, a lot of the older folks call it harjor, and traditionally when a new baby was born, a small piece of the plant (a cactus which are widespread parasites on such trees as immortelle and mango), is hung at the door to prevent evil.
Also, older folks would pound the cactus to make a poultice to treat injured parts of the body because it has anti-inflammatory properties.”
In his book, Mahabir states that the “sticky substance is ground with turmeric and applied externally for the healing of sprains, blows and lashes” (page 64).
New-York based nutrition consultant, Keri Gans, confirmed that omega-3s of which the dragon fruit is a rich source is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties that may help to decrease joint pain, the risk for heart disease, and depression. Dragon fruits are rich in fiber, heart-healthy omega 3 and 9 fatty acids as well as magnesium, Vitamin C, iron, and antioxidants beta-carotene and lycopene (Pollard, 2020).
How a hobby turned into a business
Anand first encountered dragon fruits in China but was not impressed because the flavor was bland. That he would later come to be known as “the dragon fruit man in Penal” can best be described as one of those odd acts of serendipity.
He shared that “in September of 2017, after having dinner in a little village close to Paramaribo in Suriname, I was served dragon fruit”.
“This red variety was so very sweet that I didn’t believe this was the same dragon fruits that I had eaten in China!”
Red Dragon Fruit
It was so satisfying that he helped himself to more until the platter was clean, and then, “I asked the host for some seeds”.
He did not consider a market, but did it because “I love fruits and I was so excited about cultivating this fruit”!
“I got about 400 seedlings from those seeds. I took care of it from September until March 2018. After that, it was so frustrating trying to grow the seedlings that I just threw them out.”
But his interest was piqued and after research and experimentation, he found that the seedlings took six to 10 years to bear fruit, so he opted instead to try cuttings from Suriname. Out of that grew The Pioneer Dragon Fruit Farm, which according to Anand, “… is no longer a hobby since representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture came down here to find out what we’re doing because we are getting results that nobody else is getting”.
The Pioneer Dragon Fruit Market / Farm grew out of a former cocoa estate that Anand Rameshwar Singh’s wife and he inherited.
He confessed, “I didn’t grow up in agriculture. I lived in San Juan where there were houses everywhere. There was no space to plant. What keeps this Pioneer Dragon Fruit Market going is our passion and drive to experiment. There are many tricks of the trade-in growing this fruit. We get our fruits in five months from our premium plants. Over the years, we’ve been trying different things to figure out what works best.
The [Covid-19] pandemic worked out well for us because it allowed us to expand the farm. A lot of people go into it for the money and they have no passion. But we love this, so that’s the difference!
We spend a lot of time down here. When I come down [to the field] after breakfast, sometimes I don’t go back home until the evening at 5 pm. I miss lunch sometimes. I just get taken up.”
Through trial and error in cultivation, Anand and his small team, including 2 full-time workers, deduced that the plant thrives well on concrete posts.
He admitted, “When you start up you have to factor in a lot of overhead costs. New concrete posts cost a lot of money to erect. The concrete is very porous and when it’s soaked, the roots of the plant can utilize the water as it requires. The roots also cling better to the concrete.”
He confirmed, “From 2019, the plants started to bear fruit so we used to give it away, but then people started to come to purchase. My intention was never to commercialize production. However, as the farm grew, I’ve had to employ people to help with cultivation and maintenance. So in order to pay their salaries, like all the others, I started to sell the fruits.”
Pioneer Dragon Fruit Market / Farm Pioneer has four local competing commercial producers. But by sharing his knowledge, Anand claims to have “helped a lot of people to start up their own dragon fruit farm,” an act of generosity that incurred the angst of his competitors.
He explained, “People who were already in the business came to me very upset, saying that because I share knowledge about cultivation and sell plant cuttings, it would decrease the market for the fruit. But what I am doing is making this product known.
Prior to us spreading the knowledge, people did not know about the dragon fruit or its availability in Trinidad. So I asked them [competitors], what makes you think you could supply enough of this dragon fruit to the whole population? Now my competitors thank me for spreading the word. They mainly wholesale to supermarkets. They don’t really retail because they don’t want people to see their farms.”
A factor that contributes to Anand’s belief that “… we are the most well-known supplier for dragon fruit,” is Pioneer’s unique selling proposition. “It occurred to me that my children experience more joy when they pick their own fruits.
So I said to John, ‘We are no longer going to pick fruits. We will allow fruits to ripen on the vine and invite people to pick their own fruits. When people come here, we direct them to the ripe ones. They pick them. We take pictures. We post them on Facebook, and now people from all over Trinidad come down here for dragon fruit.”
Anand’s emphasis on providing a unique customer experience was acquired from his numerous entrepreneurial pursuits over the years. He started off building houses in partnership with a high school friend and sold insurance on the side. His success in the insurance industry so impressed his friend, who also owned a growing jewelry business, that he was invited to motivate the staff at the jewelry firm.
He saw the virtue in adding jewelry sales to his own repertoire, and with assistance from his friend, he opened his first jewelry store.
He said, “Everybody was curious about who was Anand, but I used to sell on the road. I used to sell on a referral basis to staff members at banks and other companies during their lunchtime. I was a roadman.
I started off with Corning Ware, and I built up a clientele from there.”
His reputation was built on his understanding of people and his willingness to make a deal with his customers to ease the burden of having to pay for a product that they wanted, but could not afford. That method augured well for his latest enterprising venture.
By Nikhila Natarajan
In a continuing study on the effects of machine learning (ML) on public conversation, Twitter has confirmed that its algorithms amplify right-leaning political content. "In six out of seven countries - all but Germany - tweets posted by accounts from the political right receive more algorithmic amplification than the political left when studied as a group," Twitter blogged.
"Right-leaning news outlets, as defined by the independent organisations, see greater algorithmic amplification on Twitter compared to left-leaning news outlets." Since 2016, Twitter users are able to choose between viewing algorithmically ordered tweets first in their home timeline or viewing the most recent tweets in reverse chronological order.
"An algorithmic home timeline displays a stream of tweets from accounts we have chosen to follow on Twitter, as well as recommendations of other content Twitter thinks we might be interested in based on accounts we interact with frequently, tweets we engage with, and more. "As a result, what we see on our timeline is a function of how we interact with Twitter's algorithmic system, as well as how the system is designed."
The new research is based on tweets of elected officials of House of Commons members in Canada, the French National Assembly, the German Bundestag, House of Representatives in Japan, Congress of Deputies of Spain, House of Commons in the UK, and official and personal accounts of House of Representatives and Senate members in the US, as well as news outlets, from April 1 to August 15, 2020.
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. | Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
The study was conducted by Ferenc Huszar (Twitter, University of Cambridge), Sofia Ira Ktena (now at DeepMind Technologies), Conor O'Brien (Twitter), Luca Belli (Twitter), Andrew Schlaikjer (Twitter), and Moritz Hardt (UC Berkeley).
The questions probed were:
How much algorithmic amplification does political content from elected officials receive in Twitter's algorithmically ranked Home timeline versus in the reverse chronological timeline? Does this amplification vary across political parties or within a political party?
Are some types of political groups algorithmically amplified more than others? Are these trends consistent across countries?
Are some news outlets amplified more by algorithms than others? Does news media algorithmic amplification favour one side of the political spectrum more than the other?
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: algorithmically, timeline, algorithmic, tweets, political, survey, twitter, study, germany, skew
Even as India celebrates reaching a milestone of 100 crore Covid vaccine doses, Snapdeal co-founder and COO Rohit Bansal on Friday lauded a man who facilitated 64 registrations for the vaccine on the CoWin portal. In a video shared on his Facebook and Twitter page, Bansal hailed Sonu Kumar as a "citizen celebrity".
Bansal said that Kumar not only helped "just co-workers and family but complete strangers too. With patience, empathy and uncanny jugaad". He added that Kumar joined him "many moons ago" and completed his open school from a parking lot.
"Education has helped this wonderful man enable others to get India back on track. Bravo! The CoWin portal on Thursday mentioned that a total of 100 crore vaccine doses has been administered so far to the eligible population under the vaccination drive in India, nine months after the nationwide inoculation programme was started to protect the people against Covid-19.
"It's a cause of significant celebration and happiness," Bansal said in the video. He said that while people just help a few around them, Kumar "bridged the digital gap" for 64 people, who were finding it difficult to register themselves online on the vaccine portal. Kumar said he doesn't feel that he has contributed much towards the 100 crore vaccine dose count. "I have been able to help only 64 people, if I was able to help more I would have been happier." (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: cowin, covid, india, people, Rohit bansal, Sonu kumar, vaccine, snapdeal, registrations
KAMPALA, UGANDA — Uganda has kickstarted a trial for the injectable HIV drugs cabotegravir and rilpivirine. Researchers and those living with HIV say the trial will likely end pill fatigue, fight stigma, improve adherence and ensure patients get the right dosage.
The two drugs have been in use as tablets. The World Health Organization last year licensed their use as injectables.
While the two injectables already went through trials in Europe and North America, this will be the first time they are tested in an African population for efficacy and safety in an African health care system.
Uganda is one of three African countries, along with Kenya and South Africa, which got approval from the WHO to carry out the trials. However, Kenya and South Africa have yet to acquire approvals to start their trials, expected by the end of the year.
Uganda and Kenya will both have three trial sites and there will be two in South Africa, with a total of 512 participants -- 202 from Uganda, 160 from Kenya and 150 from South Africa.
Dr. Ivan Mambule, the lead project researcher at the Joint Clinical Research Center, says participants will need one injection every two months.
"We are going to choose participants who are already on ART [anti-retroviral treatment] and are stable on ART. And we will randomize them to either continue on their normal treatment, which is the pill that they've been taking, or to switch them to this injectable. The injection is on the buttock," he expressed.
In this photo taken in Nov. 15, 2012 a patient, right, is attended to, at the US sponsored Themba Lethu, HIV/AIDS Clinic at the Helen Joseph hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa Image credit: VOA
Uganda has 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Barbara Kemigisa who is living with HIV and founded the Pill Power Foundation working with rural women, says the injectable drugs will increase adherence to treatment and ensure people get the right dosage.
"One of the things that affects adherence is the fact that people have to hide medicine. In the village, people are hiding medicine in the kitchen roof, in trees, in bushes, in a baby's shoe…If someone is wrapping the medicine in like five plastic bags and digs a hole in the garden and keeps the medicine there, by the time someone is taking that medicine, it's no longer medicine, it's poison," Kemigisa points out.
Nicholas Niwagaba, who has worked with young people living with HIV welcomes the trial, saying it will reduce the pill burden and fight stigma.
"Young people feel like, this is a lot of pills to take. Those who are on the first line, they will have to take one tablet a day. There are those who are on second line and they have to take more than one pill and they have to take it in the morning and in the evening. And of course, this requires you to have actually a balanced diet which is really a challenge for most of young people especially those from vulnerable communities," he says.
According to the WHO, there are 25.7 million people living with HIV in Africa. With only the pill currently available to manage the scourge, this injectable may come as a relief for people living with HIV/AIDS. (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally by Halima Athumani)
Keywords: HIV, WHO, Africa, Research, Uganda