(by Nazima Raghubir)
As young people met on Tuesday morning in the Dome Room of the Convention centre at Liliendaal, Georgetown to discuss their future in agriculture another group was meeting in another part of the centre to examine their achievements, discuss their challenges and charter a way forward.
That latter group comprised women from across the Caribbean region and Pacific islands of Samoa and Fiji. The women spent the morning examining the way in which they have added value to several locally produced foods and items through marketing and branding. In addition, they also discussed potential ideas on ways their products could be used to to attract in elements in trade and tourism which are especially critical in both the Caribbean and Pacific.
Rosamund Benn, the President of the Pomeroon Women Agro-Processor Association. Pomeroon in Region 3, is an agriculture based riverain location many miles away from Guyana’s capital city Georgetown. Benn spoke of the challenges the Association faced trying to get markets for virgin coconut oil.
“We went to super markets when we started and it was a challenge, they didn’t know of virgin coconut oil … but now because people are learning about the benefits of using virgin coconut oil, they are looking for it.”
Benn said there is a demand on the local market for the oil but with countless coconut farms in other regions like Region 9, where there are large expanses of land in the Rupununi, the ideal market would be a regional one where the demand is higher for coconut oil.
Adimaimalaga Fanny Tafunai of the Women in Business Development in Samoa in the Pacific explained that the challenges are identical. When asked how Association’s members were able to sustain markets she explained, “We tried for years… we gave the body shops oil but they didn’t want… but they came looking for virgin cooking oil eventually…We started in 1996 and they came in 2007.”
The two women were part of a number of other females who participated in the Women’s Forum being held as part of Caribbean Week of Agriculture. Guyana’s Minister of Human and Social Services who hopes responsibility for women affairs Dr. Jennifer Webster in her remarks at the opening of the forum this morning said that there are many examples of women making an impact in the agriculture sector locally.
“The good news is that women in agribusiness are the `new sexy’ in developmental circles.”
Women in agriculture like any other form of employment is seen as gender empowerment and to that end the Minister called for more investment to support women in agriculture and business.
“There is also a greater need for financial support for women in agribusiness. Micro credit has made it possible for many women to do business. We need to make access to financing for projects to be undertaken by our women more accessible through more competitive rates which could be negotiated through incentive regimes with the commercial banks…”
Among the sessions held today as part of the women’s forum are “strengthening the image of farmers and farming, focusing on success stories; building business relationships to link to greater markets and stakeholders in tourism, supermarket and distributive trade; and promoting capacity building, networking and knowledge sharing.”
Caribbean Week of Agriculture which is being held in Guyana under the theme “Linking the Caribbean for Regional Food and Nutrition Security and Rural Development” officially opens on Wednesday evening.