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Re: What is the role of social relations and networks in household food security and nutrition?

03.11.2013
Future of Agricultural Economics

This post contributes a success story of how social relations in a close knitted rural community have helped to instill the importance of food security and good nutrition in its community members.

I, Dahvis Caldeira, grew up in the village located on the West Coast of Berbice, Guyana. Being a keen observer of the activities in my household and the neighbourhood, I can attest to the fact that social relations has played a significant part in enhancing the environment as we embrace change.  My father is an active planter and at such we have a kitchen garden. I remember the days of sitting on the steps watching my father plant, mold and water his crops while having memorable, warm conversations with me. This was generally the trend for most of my neighbours as kitchen gardens are very dominant in my rural community. The garden had every little necessity, from Eschallot and Peppers to season food, to local main courses such as Pumpkins, Bora, and Pakchoi. The neighbours would share whatever was harvested as well as produce such as Cashew, Pineapple and Owarra received from relatives on the river side areas.                                              

Over the years this practice has not necessarily changed, but the scale of farming has increased. I recall my father along with other villagers, who also had kitchen gardens, attending meetings held among themselves. One farmer, who has a bountiful supply of land by the seaside, generously offered his land temporarily for farming by the villagers. These villagers, however, are not full time farmers but had various occupations; the farming was done in the afternoons or early morning before they left for work. This neighborhood bond and to some extent an informal agreement of the offering of the land came about from acts of love, unity and cooperation shared by the majority of the community. The villagers refer to themselves as “Brothers”. This is in the sense that they attend the same church, have similar culture and is a part of a Brotherhood Union and knew each other for many years such that a common understanding as well as trust has developed. Following this agreement for the land to be offered, relevant actions such as fencing and dividing the land took place. Farming was then done both at home and the seaside. Some of the people, such as my neighbour who retired from his job, as well as those who lost their jobs, made farming their new occupation. As time progressed these farmers continued to pool their resources and bought a pump to access water from the sea as trenches dried up during Guyana’s last El Niño season.

This agreement, which started off with five persons, has now grown and found themselves members of a cooperative society which provided the village with the medium necessary to allow some of the village produce to be marketed. The extra land available was well utilized since there was an extension to include an active Tilapia and chicken farm. My neighbour is now in partnership with members from the Ministry of Agriculture and would be seen from time to time extending invitations to youths in the village, by word of mouth, encouraging them to attend leadership training or management sessions coordinating by the Ministry. This effort is well praised because the workshops held not only apply to agriculture but can be applied to any field.

My father who continues to plant at both locations uses his produce for the family while the remaining is shared or sometimes given to the others for sale, because he uses farming as a form of exercise to keep him fit as he approaches old age. Apart from agriculture and the sharing of produce, an enthusiastic farmer, who is privileged to have a daughter residing overseas, has donated a computer for use in the cooperative society. This enthusiast, in his remarks emphasized “This initiative was taken so that farmers can have adequate information as well as use the internet to learn about the different technology and methods available to deal with pest, as well as new seeds, fertilizers and also to address other issues and concerns to the community farmers.