Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hydroponic and Organic Vegetable Production in Guyana.

In March 2017, Dr. Rex Ukaejiofo and Dr. Muamba Jerry Kabeya traveled to Guyana for a two week-long Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteer assignment. The purpose of this assignment was to monitor and evaluate the potential that hydroponic and organic vegetable farming can have for underserved rural communities in Guyana. As part of this trip, the pair met with a wide range of stakeholders in the country’s agri-food value chain. Rex and Muamba led multiple key informant interviews with country representatives of leading institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA); the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI); as well as the Management Committee of the St. Stanislaus College Farm. They also had the opportunity to meet with a diverse array of educational institutions for Guyanan youth, including the Georgetown International Academy, Sophia Special Needs School, St. Barnabas Special Needs School and Joshua House for Orphans. The team of volunteers also held numerous group discussion with producer groups in the coastal and riverine communities of Guyana’s Region 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10. These engagement provided them with a holistic view of the complex challenges and promises that organic and hydroponic vegetable farm has in Guyana.

Given the high levels of poverty and food insecurity that affect many rural Guyanan communities, Rex and Muamba were tasked with researching how two distinct vegetable production methods, organic and hydroponic farming, can improve the quality of yields and strengthen food security in these impoverished localities. These two types of farming methods were prioritized since they have been proven to avoid the use and application of harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides that can runoff and degrade surrounding tropical ecosystems. In the case of organic vegetable farming, the method consists of controlling pests naturally and without toxic pesticides. To be considered organic, plants or vegetables cannot be nourished with mineral salts or any other refined substances except for manure or other natural fertilizers. Meanwhile, hydroponic farming involves the growing of crops in nutrient solutions, usually indoors and under lights.

This objective of this F2F assignment was divided in three distinct phases. The first component focused on the vegetable production, which involved the development of hydroponic shade-houses, natural/organic farms and home-based gardens supported by regional Demonstration, Support and Learning Centers (DSLC). This component was relevant to the target communities to meet both the food security and nutritional profile of the households.

The second phase of the project focused on improving the economic welfare of the producers (disadvantaged and vulnerable groups). This phase was intended to promote and market hydroponic and natural/organic vegetables and culinary herbs for local consumption as well as external markets.

Lastly, the third phase was focused on the development of a national association of hydroponic and natural/organic vegetable producers. The rationale for this phase was to empower target groups by helping create business planning initiatives and build management skills on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Additionally, the goal was to form cooperatives to increase the incomes of both households and communities.

As part of these efforts, the team of F2F volunteers carried out a comprehensive final effectiveness, efficiency, relevance and the sustainability of the hydroponic and organic vegetable production project.

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