Indigenous communities benefit from improved production techniques

Equipment inside the farine-processing factory at Wowetta (DPI photo)

LOCAL indigenous communities in the Rupununi region are benefiting from improved production techniques aimed at empowering their residents.

For the past four years, Canadian development organisation Cuso International has recognised the importance of cassava production in empowering and sustaining these communities. Consequently, it has been helping to develop appropriate systems for processing cassava as food fit for long-term storage as well as other products.

In so doing, the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and the Canada-Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Fund (CCDRM) supported this process by co-funding development of two farine-processing facilities in Wowetta village, North Rupununi and Moco Moco village, Central Rupununi, in Region Nine.

According to information from Cuso, “The goal is improvement of product variety and standards acceptable for not only local, but national and international markets.”

Furthermore, it noted that the specific objectives of the projects are to provide opportunities for each community to stockpile at least 10,000 pounds of farine for natural-disaster preparedness.

This was specifically identified since the Rupununi region is prone to extreme dry spells that can last at least six months. This is compounded by floods, which makes the region highly vulnerable to the vagaries of weather associated with increasing climate-change phenomena.

The facilities aim to supply households within the communities, or at the nearest business hub, Lethem in Central Rupununi. The release noted however, that through assured consistency and quantity in production at the Wowetta and Moco Moco farine-processing facilities, community members have opportunities to sell raw materials for income-generation.

The farine-processing facilities at Wowetta and Moco Moco combine the evolution from the traditional processing environment, to use of a mechanised, monitored system with the stellar indigenous knowledge of the cassava.

The facilities are also encouraging local research, based on the experience generated during processing, to foster project expansion.

And the knowledge garnered will be used in agro-forestry production systems to promote environmental protection, enhance new farming systems, and promote a green economy.

New farming technologies that aim to improve and increase the production cycle per unit of farm area are also being encouraged, such as planting pigeon peas in the cassava crop system.

“It is a new practice and its adoption still induces some skepticism; but at least through this project, both communities introduced it in the crop cycle for further monitoring.”

According to the toshao of Moco Moco village, “We tried, in our own way, but we never imagined we would have such a facility here…. We waited for so long.”

The community has tried to establish a smaller facility earlier.

“These two farine-processing and storage facilities have now begun, but certainly not done. Despite the initiatives, the projects need further support to improve access to markets, product development, especially with respect to packaging, product nutrition value analysis, and the microbiological analysis associated with the process of fermentation during the production process,” the release noted.

The next stage of the project will involve crafting a business model for those interested in operating businesses from cassava root, to off-shoot possibilities for enabling and enhancing lives and communities.