St. Denys using peanuts to transform village economy
Farming is one of the main economic activities in St. Denys, an Amerindian community situated in Region Two. For years, the community has been processing cassava into delectable cassava bread but other crops are sold fresh. The community is hoping to change this shortly.
St. Denys is a beneficiary of a $5M grant funding from the Government of Guyana to transform their village economy. The processing of peanuts to make value added products and the expansion of cassava production are included in their Community Development Plan.
The community through its farmers’ group has engaged the services of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) to ensure the crops are produced using good farming practices. The group headed by Mr. Jorge Fredericks comprises both male and female farmers. Family members of the farmers also provide a helping hand on the farm since their livelihoods depend on the success of the projects.
The peanut crop at St. Denys is seven-week old. NAREI assisted farmers to identify and prepare the land for cultivation. Through self-help and the use of machinery, the farmers were able to clear the jungle-like plot and till the soil. The craftsmanship of community members were also put to the test. A wooden tool was made to provide uniformed bore holes and accurately spaced plants.
The seeds were placed in the holes to germinate. These were then watered regularly to keep the soil moist until the plants begin to flower. The soil was allowed to dry between watering until the plants were established. This was done since too much watering can result can result in the growth of empty pods.
The peanut plant grows best in loose sandy soil under warm-weather conditions. This leguminous crop requires adequate moisture for good yield. Depending on the variety, it grows from six to 30 inches in height. Some plants grow upright while others spread.
The plant protrudes two sets of opposite leaves on each stem and self-pollinating flowers. The flowers grow on extended, pea-like stems just above the soil and after pollination they dip and push into the ground to develop pegs- the seed pods called peanuts. The crop takes about four months to harvest.
Farmers are advised to mulch around the plants to keep the soil surface from crusting and becoming hard. This is to ensure pegs get to penetrate the soil. In addition, the farmers need to keep the planting beds weed free and the soil loose. Importantly, mulching around peanuts will make harvesting easier.
The community embarked on the peanut project with the dream of producing peanut punch, peanut butter and other related products for the local market. They are presently trying to source an appropriate affordable machine to process the peanuts. Once, the processor is installed in the village, this may very well be the last crop of peanuts they sell fresh.