Coconut farmers benefit from specialised training

Approximately 50 coconut farmers today, benefited from first hand training on coconut production, cultivation and harvesting, through a regional coconut project funded by the European Union (EU).

The workshop which was held at the Grand Coastal Inn, East Coast Demerara, titled ‘Good Agricultural Practices’ (GAPs) is aimed at helping farmers cultivate the variety of the nut most suitable for their type of processed product or for their specific target market.  This is part of a four- year project which commenced last year, according to Dr. Compton Paul, Regional Coordinator of the project.

Dr. Compton Paul, Regional Coordinator of the Good Agricultural Practices project

Dr. Compton Paul, Regional Coordinator of the Good Agricultural Practices project

Dr. Paul stressed that while it is important for farmers to cultivate and harvest as many plants as possible, it is more important for farmers to understand the type of conditions best for the growth of their preferred variety. “You are here today, you may find that what is said to you, you don’t agree with, but I want you to stand up , put your hand up and interact, if you don’t agree with something let’s hear from you, maybe you are correct , maybe for your condition, you need something different,” he said.

While production is necessary, marketing of the end products is a major factor, Dr. Paul noted. “At the regional level, we are trying to set up a network across the region, it’s one thing to work at the national level, but market-wise, we need to link up with our friends in the other countries to make sure we can market our produce across the Caribbean Region and then internationally.”

Dr. Oudho Homenauth, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute (NAREI) explained that coconut is one of Guyana’s largest non-traditional export crops.

He added that production has been a bit slower due to the fact that the crop is being attacked by the Red Palm Mite (RPM). The CEO explained that NAREI is currently working with farmers to reduce the effects of the pest, while at the same time looking at means of eliminating it.

Late last year, the Government provided $49M to assist coconut farmers in managing the RPM.  “The focus was on ensuring that all farmers would have access to the chemicals to manage the mite. Also training was provided on how to apply the chemicals and so forth. We would have gone a far way in this exercise, not only in the Pomeroon, but in all other coconut growing areas,” he said.

In an interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA), earlier this year, Dr. Homenauth highlighted that, “Farmers have been praising the process, stating it has helped to increase production, which the mite had reduced significantly.”  An average farmer has seen a reduction of over 500 coconuts per acre due to mite infestation.

Coconut famers at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) workshop

Coconut famers at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) workshop

At today’s event NAREI’s head also pointed out that the institution is currently conducting studies, research and experiments to create natural enemies. These are  environmentally friendly insects which will feed off of the RPM. Research Assistants are currently grooming and mating these insects to create an environmentally friendly control method for the RPM. The experiment is done in NAREI’s Entomoly Labs, after which the evaluation is conducted in a shade house.

NAREI will soon begin to roll out its integrated Pest Management for coconut plantations.

Farmers from Pomeroon, Linden, East Bank Demerara and Wakenaam were among the beneficiaries of today’s workshop. The session was a collaborative effort between NAREI, and the International Trade Centre, and was facilitated by Evans Ramkhelawan.

This training is being carried out in all 10 countries in the Caribbean, including in Belize, Suriname, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, Dominica, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, which form part of the project.