Addressing Food Insecurity and Gender Stereotypes in North Rupununi – One Woman’s Story

Strengthening Disaster Management Capacity of Women in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and Commonwealth of Dominica.

Posted April 24, 2019

Vera Browne, with her children, in their farm located in North Rupununi, Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region 9), Guyana.

“I never thought I could do it on my own.” Vera Browne, 29, a resident of an indigenous community in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region (Region 9) in Guyana’s hinterland, reflects on the achievements she made in the past 6 months. She still remembers the time when she was invited to a five-day training of trainers workshop on Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) in November 2018.

UNDP-Guyana, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture Hydrometeorological Services, provides this training to support farmers in making informed decisions based on accurate, location-specific climate and weather information. The training was implemented as part of the three-year (2018-2021) Japanese government funded-project, “Strengthening Disaster Management Capacity of Women in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and Commonwealth of Dominica.” Such training is critical for the residents in the North Rupununi (Region 9) as the area is prone to flooding and droughts, which can undermine food security. This is especially so for small farmers and women who are more vulnerable to such disasters and the impact of climate change due to their limited access to finance and learning opportunities.

Vera previously practiced farming 3 miles away from her home and had to walk 3 hours to her field which she says was not easy as a single mother of 4 children. Also, due to the location of her field, her crops would easily rot during the wet season. Through workshop activities, such as constructing participatory seasonal calendar and budgets, Vera learned the potential of kitchen gardening.

“As I have never received training in agriculture, everything to me was puzzling, and I could not digest what I learned immediately.” Therefore, just after the training workshop, she borrowed an agricultural book from her neighbour and started studying on her own to determine what kind of crops would be suitable for her kitchen garden. Since she could not afford to pay anyone for labour, she started to plough the land and set up a garden with what she had. Vera proudly remembers the reaction of her neighbours, “my neighbours were surprised to see that I did everything on my own from cultivating the field and growing the crops.”

The vegetables she grows, including bora, callaloo, and eshallot, are now in high demand. “I am happy to feed these nutritious vegetables to my children. I am also making additional income from selling them to my neighbours.” Vera used to subsidize her income by traveling to a part-time job in another village miles away, but now she enjoys farming her kitchen garden with her children. Moreover, her vision is to make a community garden for women in the village. “I never regretted initiating this change and am appreciative of what I learned at the workshop. I want to teach what I learned from the workshop to empower other women in the village because if I could do it, then other women can do it too.”

Vera is one of the 67 trainers, trained as part of this project and the number of trainees and trainers are growing nationally. UNDP in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture Hydrometeorological Services will continue this training in other regions to enhance farmers’ capacity to alleviate the impact of disaster and climate change.

--- Interviewed by Megumi Uchino, Gender Specialist, UNDP Guyana

For more information or media inquiries, please contact: Jason Chacon, Project Manager – Disaster Risk Management (DRM): jason.chacon@undp.org | 592-226-4040 Ext: 252

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