Our flight arrived early this morning, from Miami to Guyana. Our driver recognized us using our F2F hats we were provided in our orientation packages and started the one-hour driver to Georgetown. Like the couple other countries I have visited in South and Central America, ‘highways’ are two or maybe four lanes (maximum), with houses, businesses and all kinds of vendors along the roadside – in other words, it doesn’t quite feel like a ‘highway’. I was a bit surprised to learn that there’s another F2F volunteer here this week at the same time as me, Patrick, who focuses on solar panels and sustainable energy sources for farms.
We arrived at the F2F headquarters, where were given telecommunications devices from a large brown envelope – ok fine, it’s a cell phone for our use during our time here, but it took me a while to remember how to even add a phone number and/or text on this thing! In a way, it’s a bit nostalgic. At the headquarters, we were briefed on the ten administrative regions of Guyana, with the fruit and vegetable production focused along the coast in regions 1-6. F2F has been operational in Guyana for about 30 years with new volunteers coming in every two weeks with different specializations! It’s rather impressive how the small local F2F team is able to quickly address the needs of the local farmers by recruiting foreign specialists and coordinating grower visits/programs for every week.
It’s also quite impressive to see how much Partners of America is able to accomplish, with activity in 30 countries, 5,870+ volunteers worth $1.8M USD in 2017 alone.
Energy in Guyana is expensive and they periodically experience power loss for 3 – 12 hrs. That’s where Patrick’s work with solar power comes in, especially for some of the growers in the region that are producing hydroponically. The local F2F personnel also emphasized that the growers use ‘shade houses’ (rather than greenhouses), with basic frames, plastic (to reduce direct rain) and netting (to reduce sunlight). Apparently water is not an issue in Guyana, which literally means “Land of Many Waters”. Tomorrow I’ll have my first grower visit and look forward to learning more about specific crops and pest management challenges.
The vegetation here is quite different than Texas (of course!). I have seen an abundance of palms, cacti, and lotus. The lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, is actually not native to Guyana and covers the small creeks between the roads and private properties. One of the spindly plants at our hotel was rather peculiar, but felt familiar after touching it due to the white waxy residue that stuck to my fingers. The Pencil Cactus, Euphorbia enterophora (or other related species), is in the same genus as poinsettias (which I do an abundance of work with) and looks like a bunch of green ‘stems’ with disproportionately small leaves.
That’s all for now! Look forward to taking more photos and sharing with y’all more as the week goes on.