Linden coconut industry in diversification drive
Linden agriculture students and their teachers toured a coconut farm, seedling nursery and factory on Thursday as part of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) ‘CARDI DAY’ exercise.
The objective of the activity was to drive home the many benefits that one can derive from coconut production and agro-processing as the coconut is now seen as the ‘golden fruit’. It is in this regard that CARDI has featured one of Linden’s renowned coconut farmers and agro-processor Owen De Souza under its European Union/African Caribbean Pacific – (EU ACP)-funded Regional Coconut Industry Development Project.
The students were able to experience first-hand, the stages of coconut production, manufacturing of coconut by-products and the shredding of the coconut husk during the tour. They also witnessed how virgin coconut oil is produced as well as soaps made with the oil and other agricultural produce grown right in the farm. Among the students were the top five Mackenzie High School’s CSEC 2018 Agricultural Science Students who also gained top spots in the Caribbean’s top 10. CARDI honoured the top Agriculture Student Gabrielle Williams who also placed third in the Caribbean.
In addition to coconuts, the students were shown other medicinal plants such as moringa and were lectured on its health benefits.
CARDI is pushing for diversification within the coconut farms. Its Guyana representative Dr. Cyril Roberts noted that the coconut industry is also focusing on intercropping to diversify and generate additional income streams.
“A coconut tree takes different times before it starts to produce coconuts, there are some that come in 18 months, some that come in three years, some that come in five years and when you plant it, the space in between the trees is generally about 20 feet. We feel that waiting that long and having that space, it can be better utilised, so we are encouraging farmers to instead of trying to weed the space, to plant different things in there, they can plant crops that take a little while to grow and they can plant cash crops, so this is a demonstration on how we can maximize the space within a coconut farm,” Roberts related.
In addition to diversification on the coconut farm, the students also toured the coconut seedling nursery which is used to generate addition planting material. Demonstrated as well, was the coconut husk shredder which shreds up to 3000 green or 1000 dried coconuts per hour. Roberts noted that rather than look at the coconut husk as a waste, it should be looked at as a material for another industry and an additional means of generating income. The husk when shredded can be used as a substitute soil for planting delicate crops and the fibre that is separated after being shredded can be used to produce mats, handbags and other craft products.
Roberts noted that in addition to De Souza, there are nine other farmers across Guyana that are now pilot farmers to encourage and train other farmers in coconut production.
Story: Vanessa Braithwaite
Images: Department of Public Information