NAREI aiding crop diversification in North Pakaraimas
In communities such as Kato Village, Paramakatoi Village, Kopinang, Monkey Mountain Village and Tuseneng Village, North Pakaraimas, Region Eight the main economic activity is farming. For generations these farmers have been producing mainly ground provisions (cassava, eddoes and yam), plantains and bananas.
The National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) is helping to promote the diversification of agriculture in these hinterland communities. The production of other crops, particularly cash crops in these communities would provide nutritional balance for residents, reduce the price for food items and provide employment. Some of the crops being promoted in the hinterland are potatoes and carrots.
The production of potatoes in the hinterland is not new. In the 1980s farmers produced potato on a large scale at Kato village. Farmers there are now engaged in a trial process that involves the cultivation of four different varieties of the Irish Potato (Picobello, Shepody, Spunta andChieftan).
Though the main staple of the residents in these areas is cassava, potatoes are also consumed on a large scale. Residents of these communities are paying as much as $320 (US$1.60) per pound of potatoes, almost four times the price on the coastland. As such, farmers have been requesting potato seeds to produce their own potatoes.
In April 2016, NAREI commenced a potato trial at Kawa Valley in Kato village. The potatoes are being grown without the input of fertilizers. This trial would inform farmers which variety of potato is least susceptible to pest and diseases and the cost of production. The potatoes were planted on two quarter acre plots belonging to two farmers.
Potato is a 90-day crop. To date, 95 percent germination rate has been recorded. At the end of this trial, the particular variety of potato that could withstand the conditions in the hinterland would be chosen for multiplication purposes.
The cultivation of carrots is relatively new to the Region. A trial was previously conducted but owing to challenges NAREI was unable to record the production data.
Three farmers of Paramakatoi Village have volunteered quarter acre plots each to carry out the trial. Thus far, one plot is being utilized. The carrot seeds were planted in March 2016 and have already germinated. NAREI will be providing additional seeds to the other two farmers shortly. Farmers involved in the exercise would be exposed to training in the areas of land preparation, seed planting and post harvesting care.
In the second phase of this trial the communities that will benefit from this exercise are Kato Itabac, Kopinang, Tuseneng and Monkey Mountain. It is anticipated that at least six farmers from each village would be involved in the production of carrots.
Market for potatoes and carrots in the hinterland exists. Miners operating in the Region import potatoes and carrots from the coastland at high costs. Local farmers want to secure this market. They are also looking forward to supplying the Kato Secondary School kitchen.
However, with abundant production and an affordable retail price, potatoes and carrots could become a main income earner for farmers in the hinterland region. NAREI estimates that within the first year of production the importation of potatoes to the Region could be reduced by 10 to 15 percent.
Potatoes could be prepared in a number of delicious ways and complement different meals. It is low in calorie and high in fiber offering significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Meanwhile, carrots could be eaten fresh and prepared in meals such as stew and fried rice. It is a good source of antioxidant agents and is rich in vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, vitamin B8, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese.