There’s a lot of digging going on in Guyana. New discoveries of natural wealth have almost everyone interested in what lies beneath the country’s land and sea. Gerard Mekdeci is also doing some digging, but he’s planning for a different kind of harvest…one, that he hopes will bring everyone to the table of his National Fresh Farm.
While he is best known for his involvement in the transport sector, Gerard has been working for years to bring his other dream of a fresh farm to life. He envisions a green wonderland which produces at least thirty unconventional crops and an on-site restaurant that uses the organic harvest to create healthy meals for customers. Gerard proposes that his farm would also provide employment and contribute significantly to Guyana’s economy by catering to the many foreigners that Guyana’s energy exploits have already begun to attract.
Nearly two decades ago Gerard began cultivating exotic crops in Guyana’s Savannahs. He was the first person to do so on a commercial scale. However, when profitability struggled to keep up with increasing operational costs, he was forced to temporarily abandon this venture and return to more traditional produce. Gerard continues to cultivate these local crops using innovative and climate friendly techniques, all the while not losing sight of his dream farm.
Gerard’s back yard is just about a quarter of the size of a track and field pitch. However, he efficiently uses the space to cultivate crops such as pumpkin, corn, honeydew melons, and cantaloupes. He is also testing the production of temperate crops such as strawberries, grapes, zucchini, and asparagus using green houses and hydroponics. Gerard is also a leading supplier of lettuce to retailers and supermarkets in Georgetown due to the quality and quantity produced on his farm. But satisfying the demand for this particular crop is becoming increasingly difficult due to space restrictions.
Skillfully employing his engineering expertise Gerard has managed to overcome many challenges by investing in practical, low-cost solutions. A bicycle wheel acts as a turning lever, repurposed PVC pipes cradle the produce, and low-tech coolers cool water for the crops. All of this is contained within a space-saving shade house. When the bicycle wheel is rotated in a clockwise direction, the PVC pipes expand, allowing the lettuce to be easily tended to. When that is completed, the pipes are returned to their original position.
Sadly, the inability to scale up operations due to a lack of space is preventing this green gold from yielding its true benefits. Gerard’s efforts to access a suitable plot of land have been futile for over 10 years. Yet, he continues to dig deeper to unearth the potential of Guyana’s agricultural wealth.
Daniella Chase is a part of the Operations team in the IDB’s Guyana country office. She is Technical & Administrative Assistant who provides program management and IT support. She is a graduate of the University of Guyana, with a major in communications.