Two Member Groups of the Women Agro-processors Development Network located in Wowetta Village and Moco Moco Village, Rupununi, received assistance from CIDA which facilitated the construction and equipping of their farine processing facilities. Both upgraded facilities became operational earlier in 2018.
The factories were constructed to satisfy two (2) important objectives which were to provide farine (a staple) for communities in north, south and central Rupununi in the event of a drought or flood, both climatic conditions which have been frequently experienced by the residents in the Rupununi. Secondly, the facilities are to serve as a business entity, providing employment for a large number of the residents of both villages.
However, it was observed that the fireplaces in both facilities were however inefficient and too much smoke was being fed back into the facilities instead of exiting through the chimneys.
IICA was approached for its assistance to have a suitably qualified consultant, a University of Guyana Industrial Engineer, who worked with the agro-processors to identify a tree bark which burnt with less smoke and to provide guidance to the factory workers on the efficient use of the fireplaces. He also provided guidance to the contractor working on the fireplace to remodel it to provide relief from the smoky environment.
IICA was also responsible for capacity building in the areas of food safety (including food handing); record keeping, maintenance and business management at both facilities. As Members of the WADN, both community-based Groups benefited from many opportunities to gain knowledge, information and improved technical skills. Additionally, to enhance their food safety practices, both Groups benefitted from the improved water purification through the installation of water filters financed by IICA during their food safety programme. They also received signage for the factory walls which remind workers of their sanitation and hygiene responsibilities and informed visitors of the various locations and operations within the factories.
The factories’ renovation project began in 2015 and was funded by the Canadian Government with support from the Government of Guyana, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and Conservation International. It was executed under the title: “Empowering the Women of Wowetta and Moco-Moco to mitigate threats of food security resulting from drought, flooding wildfire and extreme climate change.”
Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock were present at the Dedication Ceremony held at the Wowetta Benab, Annai sub-district and at Moco Moco, the Regional Chairman of Region 9 accompanied the Honourable Minister and his Team and representatives from IICA, CIDA and Conservation International.
It was noted that the Indigenous people have been using cassava as their main staple for many many years and today cassava has about 20 by-products. It was also observed that a larger supply of cassava would be required for processing now that the factories are completed and there is also a need to consider other products which can be made using e.g. the peanut butter from Aranaputa, another indigenous village a few miles from Wowetta Such activities could increase the market share and income generation abilities of both Wowetta and Moco-Moco.
Minister Allicock said that Wowetta is leading women’s empowerment in the North Rupununi and urged other villages to do the same. Moco-Moco is doing the same in another part of the Rupununi.
Honourable Minister Holder said the contribution of the agriculture sector to the reduction of poverty and enhancement of food security can be undermined by both obvious and less visible disasters due to flooding and drought. “Therefore, we are tasked with attaining more resilient food systems. To achieve this, we need to foster the development of those systems which are designed to reduce disaster risk, such as this farine processing facility with the stocking capacity of 10,000 pounds of farine.”
The Agri Minister underscored the importance of adding value to their products. He assured the Women’s Groups that the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) would purchase their products and noted that their farine is already available in the Guyana Shop in Georgetown.
Janine Cocker, Counsellor, Development Cooperation, Global Affairs Canada said her Government is very pleased to be associated with such a project that is aimed at securing livelihood options for the people.
Ms. Priscilla Torres of the Wowetta Women’s Group explained that the group started in 2008 when it was observed that a large number of women in the village were migrating to Brazil to seek employment.
During that time, Torres said that the Women’s Group began farming several acres of land by way of self-help. The Village Council and Woweta Village Enterprise provided support to the venture. “Today, our dreams have come true. While we had a number of challenges, we are happy about with the success of the project and we are proud to say that we have achieved all of our goals.”
Ms. Annalisa Edwards, Manager of the facility in Moco-Moco Village expressed similar sentiments and thanked all the partners involved in making their dream a reality.
The facility was registered and an inspection conducted by the Ministry of Health’s Food and Drug Department. The success of the Wowetta and Moco-Moco facility will depend largely on the commitment of the workers, the availability of support from the public and private sector service organizations and the willingness of the Guyanese public to purchase these high quality, relatively inexpensive local products.
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