Community-support agriculture
Viewpoint by Kweku Mc Donald
Guyana Chronicle
June 26, 2003

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Of late, there has been a lot of introspection about geographic regional production and consumption of socio-political activities in Guyana. This has probably been one of the areas where sectarian idealism in society is assisting in positively stimulating development. The rural and townspeople of Linden had such a session of self-examination during their recent protest actions and more recently with their poultry producers operating in collaboration with the Linden Economic Advancement Project (LEAP). It is being realised that increased regional localised production would add considerable income to such economies and reduce the regional food import balance.

The challenge is to have an innovative and resourceful strategy to connect local farmers with local consumers; develop a regional food supply and strong local economy; maintain a sense of community; encourage land stewardship among other principles, under a definition called Community Support Agriculture (CSA) in the USA. It can be an effective counter to unfavourable economic factors as; low food prices, competing land uses, lack of incentive for young people to enter farming and the fundamental restructuring of the national and global economy, that has made Linden a lagging center of development.

It is also not dissimilar to the numerous experiments with co-operativism in the developing world - albeit with the principles of viable economic entities, such as financial accountability. CSA members make a commitment to support the farm throughout the season, and assume the costs, risks and bounty of growing local food along with the farmer and grower. Members help pay for seeds, fertilisers, water, equipment, maintenance, labour and other factor inputs. In return, the farm provides, to the best ability, a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce throughout the growing season. Becoming a member creates a responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, the land on which it is grown and those who grow it.

It has been expounded that this mutually supportive relationship between local farmers, growers and community members helps create an economically stable farm operation in which members are assured the highest quality produce, often at below retail prices. In return, farmers and growers are guaranteed a reliable market for a diverse selection of crops.

Government and international donor agency policy and assistance, in Guyana, has seen the establishment of an Organic Cocoa Industry in Mabaruma/Hosororo area in Region One, Joint Project for improving the processing the Cashew Nuts at St Ignatius, Rupununi, Development of the Peanut Industry in the North Rupununi and the Wakapoa Coffee Rehabilitation Project, Lower Pomeroon, Region Two. All these projects, with some variance to the ideals of CSA explained before are exemplifications of this process.

Establishment of such schemes are the micro-economic foundations of realising food security as discussed at the recent COTED meeting in Georgetown, recently. It can be seen from the local examples mentioned that:

· direct marketing gives farmers the fairest return for their products,

· keeps food dollars in the economy and contributes to maintenance and establishment of regional production,

· communication and cooperation is encouraged among the farmers,

· with ‘guaranteed markets’ farmers can spend their time specialising in production,

· there is biodiversity and diversity in farming through the preservation of small farms producing a wide variety of crops,

· creates opportunity for farmers and consumers to communicate,

· creates a sense of social responsibility, and

· adds pride and prestige to area specific production.

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