With support from government agencies and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the local Women Agro-processors Development Network (WADNET) has been growing from strength to strength, for the past eight years.
The network has managed to capture both local and international markets and is eyeing more of these for the remainder of 2018 and early 2019.
WADNET comprises eleven community-based groups of women; nine are from the hinterland, one along the Soesdyke /Linden Highway in Region Four and another in Region Five on the West Coast of Berbice.
The groups have been processing raw materials from the agricultural sector such as cassava, seasonings, coconuts, peanuts and pepper, crabwood and traditional medicines into value-added products.
Significantly, apart from generating income for themselves, they have also been instrumental in providing employment for farmers whose produce they utilise in their agro-processing activities.
Recently re-elected president Rosamund Benn said: “WADNET has an inclusive business model based on sourcing raw materials from small-holder farmers in proximity to their processing operations.”
“We offer our out-growers good prices to encourage them to expand their production to a guaranteed market and they have in all cases, risen to the occasion for both ours and their benefit. In a modest sense, our progress has been creating progress elsewhere.”
Full-time administrator, Jennifer Spencer, who operates the WADNET office, located at the IICA Headquarters, shared similar sentiments. “Yes, the WADNET is growing from strength to strength. There has been growth in production. They have been able to satisfy both local and regional markets.”
According to Spencer, her role, apart from the day-to-day running of this WADNET office, is to get markets for their main products such as virgin coconut oil and flavoured cassava bread and spicy cassava biscuits. The agro-processors network has been able to supply and increase supplies to the New Guyana Marketing Corporation, ANSA McAl, Real Value stores among other supermarkets, as well as markets in Suriname and Antigua who would call from time to time to order products, particularly the virgin coconut oil.
Spencer added that all products are manufactured in accordance with the strictest hygienic standards and the annual certification of their production areas by the Food and Drugs Department is mandatory for their continued production.
She disclosed that IICA plays a very important role in WADNET in terms of facilitating this network financially with assistance for packaging as well as supporting it technically. IICA provided training course which covered record-keeping and financial management; self-learning guide – micro-enterprise development and food handlers’ training and certification among other critical skills areas. IICA’s FonTC project allows members access to a revolving fund to purchase and re-sell packaging materials.
The WADNET was facilitated through IICA, Increased Market Access and the Canadian Voluntary Services Overseas (now Canadian University Service Overseas International) and Making Markets Work 4 You Projects, during a workshop held in Hosororo in Region One, Barima/Waini in 2010.
The Network is supported financially by IICA and the Small Business Bureau (SBB) and receives technical support from Food Analyst – Food and Drugs Department, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Agriculture as the need arises and other institutions like the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Cooperatives Department of the Ministry of Social Protection., the New Guyana Marketing Corporation, as well as Sterling Products Limited and Action Coach.
Spencer disclosed that WADNET continues to seek ways to increase the economic development of its members, individually and collectively, and assist in creating opportunities for them to re-invent their businesses, rise to the challenges and adopt creative ways to sustain their business through good marketing strategies and networking among themselves and other groups.
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