THE Central Mahaicony-Perth Farmers’ Association, under the Chairperson of Gloria Adams has shown that associations such as these in rural communities across Guyana can succeed, once they are organised and managed well. Though reduced in number to some extent, the association has a larger number of women farmers on board than men, with ages ranging from about 30 to over 70 years of age.
Gloria Adams, known to many as ‘Aunty Gloria’, took on a lead role along with a few others to solicit help for the Mahaicony-Perth communities after the 2004-2005 floods. They approached both government and international organisations and eventually received much-needed assistance, which is still benefiting the association and communities today.
This association was formed and gained momentum when, as a result of an unusually heavy downpour of rainfall, coupled with severe flooding, most of their crops and livestock were lost. The major economic activity for many people within these communities is farming.
Farmers had, for many years become accustomed to rainfall patterns that were considered seasonal. However, in the more recent years, farmers have begun to experience a different type of weather pattern due to climate change.
FOURTH GENERATION FARMER
“I have been in farming for as long as I can remember, since completing primary school. I woke up seeing farming since my parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents were farmers. In fact, my great grandmother was a rice farmer,” Aunty Gloria said. “Also, I have come from a large family. There were 12 of us, three sisters and nine brothers and I am the eldest. All of us have been farmers. A few of my siblings are overseas now, but when they were here in Guyana they used to farm too.”
She added that as a result of all the farming being done by her and her family members, even the younger members of the family are now engaged in farming; enjoying it and doing well.
She stated that though the challenge of the 2004-2005 flood did shake them up to a large extent, they were determined to do what they do best, which was to continue farming and also to enjoy the success of it yet again.
The Perth Mahaicony Farmers’ Association, located at Central Mahaicony in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) is made up to include and represent the rural communities within the district. Their main economic activities being, farming which is comprised of rice cultivation, cash crops in large variety, fruits, vegetables, ground provisions, dried coconuts and coconut water, fishing and even hunting. Farmers in these communities are also engaged in large-scale livestock farming of poultry, pig – the swine and bovine species; sheep, goats, cows and donkeys.
The farmers within these communities were therefore encouraged to conquer the climate change effects by redirecting their energies towards the planting of a greater variety of crops while engaging in other agricultural products ‘in order to spread their risk’.
When the Pepperpot Magazine visited the district recently, it found that the diversification efforts, which the farmers were being encouraged to adopt, had already begun to show much success. In fact, there are numerous adjustments that were made over the years that have proven useful to the farmers. And, it was disclosed that though there were challenges in the early stages of production and productivity, this did not discourage the farmers, who are now experiencing higher levels of value-added profitability. At the same time farmers are quite comfortable with the adapted changes they had to make.
Ham and sausage products excel
Pig farming, for example, has been singled out for the end-products of pork, ham and sausages. In fact, the feedback received by the Pepperpot Magazine told of the excellent quality of the ham and sausages being produced in the Perth/ Mahaicony district by Aunty Gloria, one of its founder members.
She is said to be the lady with the ‘Midas touch’, producing some of the very best ham and sausages that one can ever purchase locally. However, she told the Pepperpot Magazine, that all she did was to learn well and then she applied her knowledge and skill in the making of the ham and sausages with love and care.
Five members of the association benefited from a training programme under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Agriculture READ project. The activity specifically sought to train farmers in basic processing practices that allowed them to possess the skill of producing hams and various types of flavoured pork sausages. The aim of which was to enable the farmers to remain in the swine industry through the extension of the value chain of activities for pork, allowing them to remain competitive.
Aunty Gloria said it started when the members of the executive of the group sought and got help from the Rural Development Specialist of IICA, who then encouraged the farmers to implement value-added activities, especially for the pork and pork products. This initiative, she said, caused them to redirect their actions towards interior locations where miners utilised the prepared pickled pork product. Additionally, they were advised to further diversify the pork product, looking at the areas of hams and sausages production.
“The commendation should, therefore, go to Dr. Aubrey Mendonca, Associate Professor, Food Safety and Microbiology from Iowa State University for the value-added workshop and training he offered, through the Ministry of Agriculture’s READ project in the making of these products. It was free and all he wanted to do was to give back to Guyana, the country of his birth. He showed us what we needed to know in order to be successful in the making of ham and sausages and today I am continuing to refine my product,” she stated.
Meanwhile, the small business start-up mechanisms, project management and market support actions were taught to the same set of members by Annette Mendonca.
Aunty Gloria informed that at the same time the Sustainable Rural Development Specialist conducted the logistics of the training and was also involved in facilitating training in sanitation and personal hygiene among other areas.
GIVE BACK AFTER TRAINING
Aunty Gloria told the Pepperpot Magazine that she will always continue in her drive to ensure success, not only for herself but also for every member of the group, as well as the widespread communities as a whole. She said that much was given to them as members of the Mahaicony-Perth Farmers’ Association that they too see the need to give back – to the communities, as well as to the country as a whole.
She said that the association experimented with and presented the market the different flavours of ham and sausages, which were all received well. Additionally, through the READ project the ham and sausage products receive label bar codes, are placed in supermarkets and are easily competing with the imported brands.
The Pepperpot Magazine was informed that the training in value-added production was executed in the same manner and under the same standard as it is being done at the Iowa State University Food Science Department. Therefore, at the conclusion of the training exercise each participant was awarded certificates of merit from the Iowa State University. (email@example.com)