Apr 10, 2017 News
Today, Kaieteur News wraps up its five-part series focusing on the Sundried Tomato Project undertaken by the Institute of Applied Science and Technology in Paramakatoi, Region Eight, with a cross section of viewpoints from residents.
Maxine Aaron, Paramakatoi Resident: Ms. Aaron has lived in Paramakatoi all her life and is employed with Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). She said, “If I didn’t have other employment, and was farming, the tomato project would have been ideal for me, as I would not only commit to farming one or two acres, but several more. The project offers the opportunity to have a local, immediate market. It will encourage our farmers to embrace a larger-scale approach to farming so that more money can be made, because of the immediate and guaranteed market. I see very big benefits for the community if we can all agree to embrace the project. I think when others see the members of the cooperative making money, many more people, especially school-leavers, will join the cooperative. I think this will enable Paramakatoi to become more independent and not rely on Government hand-outs and other aid packages. This in the long run is very important to the development of our community”
Sherry Anna Balkaran, former Teacher and Resident: “I think it is a great initiative for sustainable development of the community. It will offer employment alternatives to mining and logging for our young people, resulting in them staying within and growing the community, both in numbers as well as in new ideas. The project can demonstrate what this community can bring – it’s a way of branding the community and its potential. I think our people have so much potential that we do not get to show, because of distance, challenges with communication infrastructure and economic opportunities. We are resourceful, smart people that can do so many things, in fact all of the things that other races of people can do, we can do, and we can do many of those things in unique and valuable ways. I am very appreciative that this project was developed here in Paramakatoi, for it will allow us to demonstrate to the rest of the country and to the world, the value of this community.”
Rabindra Singh, Regional Education Officer, Resident in Paramakatoi: Mr. Singh grew up on the coast and
has worked in several regions across Guyana. He said, “I think this is an excellent initiative by the Government. It will really help to improve employment in the region, which has been stifled for a long time. It will provide encouragement for the farmers to grow more, and once the farmers can become more educated and see progress for themselves, this will become a major industry for Paramakatoi. I think the project will also help the school’s mission by assisting our agricultural and technical vocation students by immersing them in all aspects of the project, from the agricultural production to the processing and packaging and marketing. The facility itself shall help tremendously in our students doing more realistic school based assessments.
The project will serve as a way of demonstrating the importance of education to our students, through the promise of tertiary jobs right in the region. It has multiple benefits across several sectors and strata of the society, and I know it is already becoming one of the ways in which Paramakatoi defines itself.”
Roger Alfred, Paramakatoi Resident and Member of the Village Council: “We have been looking forward for an opportunity like this for a long time. Most of us are farmers here in Paramakatoi. And we have been seeking a project like this for a long time. We are already organizing a ‘kayap’ or self-help initiative, to plough the compound of the facility and to make tomato beds.
I think the decision to invite the farmers to farm in the compound is a good one, because the community is taking ownership of the project.
Initially, some residents were a little concerned about the $20 per pound for fresh tomatoes, but myself and other councilors have been working with them to break that down into how much they can earn per half acre or acre, and to explain that the initial payment is then expected to be followed by a further payment once the products are sold.
Farmers are very committed to supporting the project, it is one of the first times in a long time that something like this is available to Paramakatoi and we appreciate how well this one has been managed and put together.
Also, we know that once we make the sundried tomatoes a success, we will then also begin to include other produce, such as yams, to diversify and maybe go to a system where we are less dependent on the weather and can utilize more advanced ways of farming, like drip irrigation. This is a really exciting time for Paramakatoi and we are already proud of this project.”
Clarence Alfred, Paramakatoi Resident and Overseer for the Church of Christ: “This project is excellent. We do not have employment here. This project will allow us to produce and reap the benefits. There is nothing like this that was tried before here, and I really appreciate that this project is here. We produce organically here, with no chemicals and fertilizers. I believe this project will surprise the world, will demonstrate how much this community can produce and the quality of our products.”
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