Guyana’s women advance!
Separated by vast tracts of lands, a lot of it jungle, women in rural Guyana are using communications technology to maintain and grow a network of small businesses, centred on agriculture and agro-processing.
The seven groups comprising 84 women are members of the Guyana chapter of the regional umbrella organisation, Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers, and are literally spread out across the country.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner during this year's Caribbean Week of Agriculture held in Suriname, Rosamund Benn explained that the women have been using local produce grown in their respective communities to develop cottage industries, some of which have great potential for expansion into the export market.
"All these groups are into agro-processing, from cassava to peppers to green seasoning, coconut, carambola, peanuts, they even make cocoa sticks and medicine out of the crab wood seed. We meet to do our sales one time per year, but because of being together as a network, we are able to seek markets for each other and wherever there is market linkages we inform the others," she disclosed.
This is where digital mobile technology is really making a difference for these women in the deep rural communities, according to Benn.
THANK YOU, TECHNOLOGY!
"Give thanks for the phones that we have now, because in all these areas people have access to cell phones and that has made life a little bit easier for all the groups to communicate. So when you know that someone would like to have some peanut butter, you give the girls a call.
"Or I call Towiny or send a text message to the girls and say if you can get down some crab wood oil soap, along with the other by-products, please send it on to me because I have a market that I would like to supply - so that's how we communicate together. And because of how we live in Guyana, the distance apart, transportation is a challenge. It's very costly to get our products to (the capital) Georgetown, especially for those people who have to come by plane and that's the only mode of transportation for them."
So despite the vast distances separating them these women had been able to grow their markets, very often without even ever meeting their clients in person, and the potential for growth looks promising.
"So far we have had one export market of the virgin coconut oil, and this was a St Lucian who said she was buying the oil for the Jamaican market and we have exported more than 300 gallons. That came out of Caribbean Week of Agriculture last year and she started her purchases in December. The market is not very fast as we would like it to be but it's picking up because people are becoming more conscious of the benefits of using the virgin coconut oil, so we are hoping to see that silver lining very soon," Benn explained.