$2.5M boost for Intermediate Savannahs Project
June 15, 2004
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According to Director of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) Dr. Oudhu Homenauth, the project will also cater for the monitoring of activities carried out at the savannahs and the provision of technical advice.
Several large and small-scale farmers who have benefited from Government's distribution of over 50 land leases in the area. These include large-scale investors such as LIDCO, Georgie Caribbean, Alex Mendez and Goldfield Investments, as well as small farmers in the Wiruni Savannahs.
The savannahs offer an ideal investment climate for pioneering farmers and entrepreneurs in agriculture and agro-industrial development. The Intermediate Savannah's eco-zone is considered the "second frontier" for major agricultural development, after the highly populated low-lying coastal area dominated by rice and sugar cane.
The savannahs were first used in the 1940's as a resting area for cattle that were driven through the Rupununi Cattle Trail from the South Savannah region, to markets in Georgetown. The vast expanses of brown, sandy soils provided a native grass that was nutritionally inadequate for the recuperation of the animals.
During the past 20 years, some pioneering farmers ventured inland away from their traditional 'slash and burn' corn food crop systems on the riverain soils, and adopted improved technologies for the cultivation of peanut and cowpea on the savannah's sandy soils. Although farmers have achieved modest success, much more could be achieved if the appropriate technology is used.
Scientific investigations were done to generate technologies in soil management, agronomy, pest management and integrated sustainable agricultural production systems appropriate for agricultural development.
In the 1970's and 1980's, some large and medium scale investments were launched. The investments included row-cropping with cereals and grain legumes, cotton and cassava, as well as livestock pasture systems.
The elevation of the area is between 35 and 85 metres above sea level. The Intermediate Savannah is in northeast Guyana, immediately south of the Coastal Plains, about 160 km from the ocean and forms a unique and fragile eco-zone. It spreads in a south-westerly direction on both the east and west banks of the Berbice River and adjoins the upland rain forests.
There are about 80,000 hectares of grass and scrub tree-covered savannah in the eco-zone and about 50,000 hectares of soil with fair to good potential for agricultural development. The soils of the savannah have been generally classified by the United Nations' Soil Survey as land capability Class 11, moderate agricultural land.
NARI has also been actively involved in assisting farmers in the Savannahs with technical assistance to further enhance their farms and production systems.
At present the blackeye peas and red beans cultivated at the farm supply the local market. A simple, locally made dryer is being used to dry the beans so that they can be packaged for sale. The management of the farm is looking to expand its market for peppers, which are successfully grown on the farm.
Corn is being cultivated on 300 acres of land at Goldfield Investments farm and the produce will be sold to local mills, which manufacture chicken feed. Some experiments are being carried out by NARI on the corn cultivation.
There is also a plant nursery, providing seedlings and small plants for planting. Crop rotation is being done on the concession to ensure fertility of the soil is enhanced. Crop rotation reduces the fertilizer requirements. NARI has been actively involved in providing technical assistance to Goldfields Investments.