Guyanese women grow sorrel for export

Long Creek farm on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway in Guyana, is the site of a government- and business-funded Quick Impact project to encourage women to grow sorrel for export.

On a recent visit to the farm, project director Dr. Faith Harding said the farmers will begin to earn money from the first harvest of some 400 tons of dried sorrel expected from seedlings donated by the Mexican overnment.

Several initiatives were put in place as part of the Quick Impact program that includes scholarships and job-placement opportunities in rural areas where sorrel can flourish on fertile land. The plant was not grown for commercial benfits, but for local consumption only, especially during the Christmas season, but could be specially cultivated to meet growing demand around the world, because of its medicinal properties for curing hypertension, diabetes and other illnesses.

“I discovered that sorrel could be picked four times a year,” said Dr. Harding, who explored the market before initiating the pilot project with 30 farmers, who cleared 10 acres of land, planting an initial 600 seeds which produced some 5,000 plants.

Now, farms are littered with thousands of the red buds and doing quite well, Dr. Harding said, but cautioned that raising funds was crucial. The program received assistance from the National Agriculture Research & Extension Institute (NAREI), but needs more resources.

“We must raise funds for an irrigation system for the Long Creek farm,” she said, adding: “The yield has not been as good as we had hoped, but we gained experience, and have been able to ship a few pounds as an sample, to show the Mexico Agricultural agency our progress.”

“We have applied to the Ministry of Agriculture for further assistance and are awaiting approval,” Dr. Harding said, adding that the farms at Moraikobai, Mahaicony Creek, are producing very well but not at the projected yield, while the Corriverton, Berbice group has germinated over 4000 seeds which were recently transplanted.

“We’re making every effort to plant at least 400 acres of sorrel (which would) yield the 400 tons required by Mexico,” she added, but cautioned that 400 acres in Guyana is but “a drop in the ocean,” and would take “a whole lot of energy and other resources to bring this young nation’s people to produce like their lives depended on it.”

Michael, a resident and project manager at Long Creek, recalled that Jamaicans were some of the first farmers in the region to cultivate farmland with pineapples in the ‘70s. He noted that the sandy soil in the area poses a challenge to the crop and suggested that a “drip system” would have to be put in place to water the plants.

“There’s a variety of sorrel, that include the Spider, Mexican and Jamaican varieties which could produce bountiful crops,” he said.

Juanita Melville, leader of the women farmers, said: “The best idea is for us to secure an international market. Sorrel has come to Guyana and Long Creek, where it will be available all year long, but I would like to see more women involved,”

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