A 40 acre (16 hectare) plot a few miles from the town of Linden is being developed from scratch as a permaculture farm project.
The JIA trustees visit the land on the Atkinson Trail.
After a two year wait, the application by Jesus In Action Charities Inc. for agricultural land in the Linden area eventually bore fruit, with the new President of Guyana, Donald Ramoutar, signing off the paper work and granting us 40 acres.
Currently we await the surveyor’s final delineation of the plot, but we understand that it will be a strip of around 600 ft x 2900 ft running in a north-south direction between the Atkinson Trail on its northern border, and a small creek at the southern end. It is located at 6° 1'18.75"N, 58°12'3.27"W, which is about 7 miles east of Linden, and is about three miles down the laterite road that extends eastwards from the end of the Soesdyke-Linden highway. This dirt road, which is the start of the Atkinson trail heading to Berbice, is only navigable by four-wheel drive vehicles, and is not used much at present, although other agricultural development plots are being opened up in the area.
Map of Guyana’s central coastline, showing location of JIA Children’s Home in the Parika area, on the banks of the Essequibo, and the JIA Farm close to Linden, which is on the Demerara river.
Historically, the land given for the JIA farm was apparently being reserved for bauxite mining. However, perhaps because of the close proximity of residential development in the Amelia’s Ward area on the western side of the Linden highway’s end, it was felt that it was now too close to the town for mining development. Whilst the land is currently unoccupied, it is far from being untouched by human hands. Because of its closeness to the Linden settlement, not surprisingly it has no large trees still standing, these having presumably been extracted many years ago. But beyond that it would appear that the area had been ravaged by fire in the not so distant past, as none of the current vegetation would appear to be more than ten to fifteen years old.
Dried out and depleted soil
Despite the passage of time since the fire, the destructive effects on the ecosystem are still seen due to the loss of ground cover leading to depletion of the soil of nutrients by the tropical rains, and drying out of the ground surface from exposure to sun and wind. Although there is now a patchy low scrub covering the land, this is regularly interspersed by areas of exposed sandy soil with no vegetation on it. Restoration of such land back to its full productive potential will be a long and arduous process. However we are blessed with the opportunity to leave the plot in a better state than we now find it!
So far, we have only had access to the northern most part of the land, and it is hoped that the existing plant growth will be more prolific on the southern reaches of the land due to its proximity to the creek. The land slopes progressively down hill from its northern end, which is 60m above sea level, to around 35m at its southern end by the creek. Certainly we will need a careful survey of the existing plant growth before we can plan how to develop the land to best effect, and it will be helpful to also try and quantitate the existing animal, bird, and insect life as a benchmark against which we can measure our impact on the environment.
An internet search for permaculture in Guyana at present shows little activity, so we would be in a good position to establish a pioneering centre that could act as a local resource for reference and training in permaculture horticultural techniques. We could arrange training for farmers wishing to learn permaculture, and have school children on visits for nature study and ecological practice etc.
If we developed on-site residential facilities, we could potentially bring in volunteers (eg WWOOFers) who could participate in training and contribute manpower towards the agricultural work. Whilst we would need to meet the cost of building residential space for visitors, it would help to capitalise on the intellectual property that would be created as the permaculture evolved.
Once residential facilities were available on site, they could be used for other gatherings such as Christian meetings, retreats etc.
Integration with the local community could be enhanced by direct distribution of farm products to local residences, and ultimately perhaps by having a stall or shop in Linden as an outlet.
One way of raising finance for the project might be to create a local Community Farm Association whereby people invest in the farm, and are rewarded by a share of the produce when this becomes available.
By accumulating a wide variety of plants we could develop a nursery for propagation and sale of young plants, both for other agricultural users and also for the domestic market, and this would add to the income derived from production of edible crops.
Ideas and suggestions for this development will be gratefully received.
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