The women of the Makushi village of Nappi in Region Nine are a hardworking group who are now churning out more than just peanut butter; their range of products includes cassava bread and a spinoff product called cassava biscuits, salted and sweet peanuts. As Ariana Gordon explains, it’s not that they have “fancy” equipment to their work, but they are determined to make the best use of produce grown in the Rupununi.
By Ariana Gordon
THE women of the Region 9 village of Nappi and its satellite communities of Parishara and Hiowa are more than determined to make the best of the natural resources available to them.
“Determination is the key to success,” Erlene McDonald told the Guyana Chronicle as she looked proudly at her produce, and demonstrated how the final results are achieved.
McDonald is the chairman of the Parishara Organic Food Processors Association (POFPA), and is responsible for the managing of the peanut processing facility in that community.
“You must be excited to see fancy equipment here, but this is what we have,” she said, as she displayed the manual grinder used to crush the peanuts after being parched and shelled by women of the village.
“It is a lot of hard work,” McDonald added while noting that the end result is significant to the communities. “We are proud of our accomplishments; this means a lot to us,” she said.
The woman explained that the peanut processing facility was only rehabilitated in January through a collaborative effort between the Government of Guyana and the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST).
She said prior to the rehabilitation of the premises it was difficult to process the peanuts. “But now we have a better building and we have well working equipment,” Mc Donald said smiling.
Currently, the group of women not only process peanuts and makes peanut butter but also make cassava bread and cassava biscuits. Additionally, the women make salted and sweetened peanuts. All of the products produced are mostly made upon order, she explained.
When Guyana Chronicle visited Parishara, Mc Donald and team had just completed an order for someone in Lethem.
Cassava bread is sold for $300 per bag which contains four pieces while the salted and sweetened nuts are sold at $100 per packet. An
eight ounce jar of peanut butter is sold at $400 while the sixteen ounce jar is sold at $600.
The prices the proud Chairman said are “quite affordable.”
She explained that in the case of the peanut butter, it is her desire to be able to produce a better label for the product. She said while the label in and of itself isn’t bad, “there is need for improvement.”
“It is what we have so we have to work with it for now. We are doing well you know…this is a product of our hard work and determination.”
McDonald told the Guyana Chronicle of the process to prepare the peanuts. She said there is a roaster located in a separate building not far away from where the packaging of the products is done. “We do the roasting of nuts in here in the roaster.
“We usually have to turn the roaster for one hour…after the one hour we take it out and throw it into a sheller. We keep shelling and with the breeze it is blown out, then you pick the nuts. When we are finished we go inside to the grinder; it is manual.”
She explained that with the restart of the processing facility in January, the group of women has been focused on peanut processing and cassava bread. However, she explained that “most of the women are interested in sewing.”
As a result of the interest shown in that area, Minister of Social Cohesion Amna Ally and a team of representatives of IAST visited and renovated the facility to also accommodate those who have a desire to be seamstresses.
She explained that Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence has committed to assisting the group with sewing machines, materials and additional items needed for them to carry out their tasks. “So we are actually divided into two, sewing and peanut processing.”
During a five-day visit to the North Rupununi, representatives of IAST conducted product development training, technical assistance and rehabilitation works to the peanut butter factory as part of a collaborative effort with the government to enable indigenous communities to develop and market their products thereby ensuring they have a sustainable income.
The partnership formed between the government and IAST is aimed at developing the appropriate technology to be used by indigenous communities to develop natural resources that can benefit the entire country.
The Parishara Organic Food Processor’s peanut processing facility was used in the past to produce peanut butter for the North Rupununi’s school feeding programme. However, the Association currently provides peanut butter to the Arapaima, Yupukari and Parishari Nursery schools.
Parishara is an Indigenous Makushi village located in the Rupununi, Region 9.