COCONUT Industry Development for the Caribbean (CIDC) has been spread out across eleven countries across the Caribbean and Guyana is one of them. The project started since 2015 and it is now in its final year for the first phase. It spans marketing, production and productivity, advisory, mitigation and other services.
The project is being financed by the European Union (EU) and the Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific Group of States (ACP). The International Trade Centre (ITC) is the chief administrator for the project across the Caribbean, with its implementing partner being CARDI.
In addressing a media conference at the Ministry of Agriculture boardroom on Thursday the ITC Executive, Mr Ben Morrison told the gathering that the project is a regional one, which includes 11 countries across the Caribbean. Three of the focus countries for implementation are Guyana, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
In Guyana, Mr Morrison said, “We are working through what we call Alliances for Action – these are sustainable value-chain partnerships, among others across the supply chain; so the farmers, processors, researchers, the ministries, the buyers, the processors – everybody working in an alliance together for the development of the industry.”
Mr Morrison said there are five pillars to the work that is being done in Guyana – understand, convene, transform, invest and impact.
He explained that for the ‘Understand’ the ITC/CARDI team has conducted several studies so far; one being the farmers’ characterisation study, which was conducted across four different regions: Regions Two, Four, Five and 10.
The farmers’ characterisation study is very key to the implementation of the project because it uncovers the needs and requirements at the small-holder farmers’ level in terms of coconut producers. The sample size for the study was about 120 to 130 farmers across those regions.
This sort of research, combined with the global value-chain analysis for coconut and coconut products, as well as market profitability studies, Mr. Morrison stated, allows the decision-makers to adapt and support, accordingly, as institutions to the farmers and their groups. It also allows the processors and the other actors across the sector to have an organised and efficient value-chain that is profitable for all involved.
He explained that as the organisers continue their work in the four pilot regions (Two, Four, Five and 10), they have selected 10 lead farmers, who have a group of 15 to 20 farmers, and these farmers also attend the training. The training sessions are on a range of topics and according to Mr. Morrison, “We are working with a number of local institutions, which include Ministry of Agriculture, with NAREI through their extension service, IPED, the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), and we are working the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC), along with the ITC and CARDI as the implementing partners,” he said.
Mr. Morrison said that each of the local institutions provides a different service and expertise, but the role of ICT and CARDI is to facilitate the interaction with farmers, which may not currently be accessing those services.
“For the next six months, to the end of the year we will be working on the capacity-building training at the lead farmer level. This would include demonstration nursery – small-scale nurseries for the lead farmers, of which the lead farmers, as well as the ‘second bring’ farmers would benefit,” Mr. Morrison told the press briefing.
He went on to say that training will ensure good agricultural practices in the establishment and management of those demonstration nurseries; also training in capacity-building in value addition, as to what other products can be generated out of coconut.
There will be training on food safety which will look to reduce the impact of contamination; which will also ensure that Guyana can diversify the export base in terms of the number of countries to which Guyana exports.
Marketing is another area in which training will be delivered, as it is very closely linked to the value-addition component; good agricultural practices as a way of improving the productivity of the coconut trees, will all be areas where training will be concentrated during the next months, Mr. Morrison said.
He said that at the same time the team will be looking at different measures to attract investment into the coconut sector and into the country, with the focus being on investors within the Caribbean region and also internationally, especially who have expressed an interest to invest in Guyana’s coconut industry.
CARDI, as a partner in implementing this project, has been looking at certain aspects such as planting material and integrated pest management to allow for the more increased productivity of plants, farmer plantations or farms, Dr. Cyril Roberts said.
“We do not always supply our support by direct local intervention; if we need to bring other Caribbean experts from overseas, this is done. If we need to source skills that we are aware are available locally, this is also done. The intention is to strive towards making a practically useful technology available to the farmers so that they can be more productive in what they do,” he assured.
According to the implementing team a project to provide planting materials has also commenced so as to ensure the effective management of farms. At this level farmers are also trained and encouraged in the management of pests, keeping farms clean and well irrigated, and the use of fertiliser in a strategic manner so the plants are more resilient to various forms of attacks and larger productivity.