Parika project shows farmers how to keep reaping regardless of weather conditions

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A unique project at Parika/Namryck, East Bank Essequibo, is helping farmers see how they can plant and reap despite weather conditions.

On the one hand, the communities are prone to flooding, and on the other, the scorching temperatures also present a challenge for healthy crops.  Added to that, they also must contend with pests and diseases.

Now, through what is called a climate smart agriculture project, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) are helping them see how they can profit despite the weather conditions.

“My son is learning and helping me to produce more and his friends are asking him for assistance,” one farmer was quoted by the FAO as saying.

In a statement, the FAO said the project has provided an opportunity for improved skills and economic gains during the COVID-19 pandemic, while allowing farmers and their children to be more meaningfully occupied in a safe environment.

The FAO-IICA pilot offered an affordable greenhouse solution known as a shadehouse that is effective on a small, sustainable scale to mitigate some of the effects of climate change and provided strategies for smallholder farmers to adapt to the changing environment.

Greenhouses cannot reverse climate change, but they are well suited to increase the adaptive capacity for farming.

The farmers benefited from two weeks of training on the construction management of shadehouses, how to grow plants in a structured setting and making the best use of small spaces. Materials such as wood and greenhouse plastic were provided to offset the cost for farmers.

The FAO stated that greenhouse crop production is a growing reality globally but that the degree of sophistication and the technologies applied depend on local climatic conditions.

A range of materials and techniques are available for shading such as external shade cloths, coloured nets, partially reflective shade screens, water film over the roof and liquid foam between the greenhouse walls.

The use of shade-houses in the tropics has increased in recent years since they are very effective in managing air and crop temperature, provide a better environment (micro-climate) to increase the rate of photosynthesis (photosynthesis minus photorespiration) and reduce mitochondrial respiration thus contributing to a more suitable environment for better yields.

“It is important to understand that agriculture is a business and farmers should do basic book keeping to track cost of production and yields to ensure profitability for their efforts,” IICA Representative in Guyana Mr. Wilmot Garnett noted.

“We also want to demonstrate conservative use of water and urged farmers to use drip irrigation instead of the sprinkler system which not only waste water but also invite fungus and other pests and detracts from what were strive to achieve-Sustainable Farming”.

In a recent visit to the communities, beneficiaries described their first-time experience with the shadehouse as an opening of many opportunities for learning and improving the way they farm.

They also learnt about the safety of crops against climate change and pests, and planting wholesome, high quality crops.  Parsley, broccoli, lettuce and celery were identified as some of the delicate crops which are grown in the shadehouses and exceeded expectations in production and sales. One farmer noted, “I made full use of the five months at home during this Covid-19 and I am enjoying the time planting with the help of my sons. I always wanted to plant celery and lettuce and now I can do it.”

Dr Gillian, FAO Representative in Guyana advised “this is a new technology for these farmers.”

“It gives them many advantages in their efforts to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change.  It also helps them to diversify their production. As they continue to work with the shade houses, they will innovate and achieve much more effectiveness. Together with partners like IICA, we can work to improve agriculture production,” he said.

Among other measurable benefits is the ability to farm consistently during the rainy season and balancing economic gain with sustainable environmental practices. FAO and IICA plan to expand the small greenhouse farming solution to other locations in an effort to foster long term viability and food security while building resilience to climate change. Further, farmers will also benefit from market and price stability through shared agriculture programs, access to farmers’ markets and local distribution networks.

Overall, small greenhouses offer a safe way to protect livelihoods during this Covid-19 pandemic, improve resilience to climate change and create opportunities for lifelong farming and healthy eating habits.  A resilient agrifood system will support Guyana’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 2 – zero hunger which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

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