A group of Indigenous soap and beauty care producers from Region Nine are in the city benefiting from training at the laboratories of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST)
A release from the Ministry of the Presidency yesterday said that the training is a result of a partnership between the Ministry of Social Cohesion and IAST.
Last Tuesday, 15 persons were flown to Georgetown and taken to the labs for training. The release said that they were introduced to the technology being used to improve the textures and scents of the soaps and lotions that they produce. They were also trained to utilise materials in their environment to achieve the same standard as those made in the laboratory.
The release said that in November, the Ministry and IAST had committed to undertake projects aimed at increasing the earning power of Amerindian producers.
Minister of Social Cohesion, Amna Ally, said that social cohesion and national unity cannot be achieved without economic and financial stability. As such, she said in the press release, the Ministry is speaking to stakeholders to determine what is needed to support their empowerment.
At a meeting with farmers and producers, the release said that Professor Suresh Narine, Director of the IAST, had committed to flying 15 members from the working groups to the IAST labs in Georgetown to see the enhancement methods that are being used to add value to their products.
Since then, the release said that IAST and the Ministry have been working with the Macusi Research Unit (MRU) and Medicine from Trees Women’s Group to add value to their products and making them into attractive shapes and sizes to ensure access to higher priced markets.
In an invited comment, Narine said “The personal care market place is a market place that is high profits and high value, but it’s an appropriate place to move our botanicals into, not just crabwood oil but other botanicals. When you take cultural anthropology and medicinal anthropology like botanicals and you put it into modern products, you are marrying modern science with ancient cultural practices and it’s very important in that transformation that you pay attention to quality, to expected standards that the world has for those products. It’s important to make a high quality product that is safe and has attributes beyond the additives. That is what the market place is about”.
He said that the IAST’s role is to help regularise their methods to ensure their products meet international standards.
“So what we have done is, we have taken all of their raw materials from their communities and we have optimised it. We have ensured that the soaps can be made safely… and with quality.
We added food grade colorants to make it more appealing and fragrances from plants that are grown locally.
We also developed liquid soaps, single use personalized bars, moulded soaps with different patterns and liquid soaps which are carefully controlled in terms of its viscosity and so on,” Narine said.
The group was also schooled on the science of soap making, how to deal with variables, branding for the products, how to maximize profits, maximizing raw materials and labour, cost to profits ratios and how to draft a business plan to access funding.
Further, on a monthly basis, random testing will be conducted by the IAST to ensure that quality control is maintained and technical support will be given until the producers can meet that standard.
In relation to peanut butter producers in the region, the IAST will be providing the necessary equipment to repair broken machinery to put production back on track.