As the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) completed one of its Alternative Livelihood sessions yesterday, former sugar workers said there is need for more regular and extensive training.
Eighteen former workers gathered yesterday at the Wales Estate training building where they participated in a one-day training course on dairy and pig production.
While most of the workers related to Stabroek News that they were very happy to be able to attend the training session since they have been learning a lot, they were of the opinion that there was a need for more frequent classes that will cover more extensive topics in farming and agriculture as a whole.
“Whatever they say, they don’t follow up to do anything and they always taking too long. This one day thing nah work out either. Nah everything we gon pick up at this one meeting, so what I suggesting is that they got to do it more frequently. We like it ’cause we here and we learning a lot of new things but you can’t learn everything in one day,” Shameer Laljeet, an ex-sugar worker who gave the industry some 36 years of service, said.
Laljeet, who is currently involved in rearing cattle, said that even though he has years of experience milking cows, he learned new techniques at the training session, for which he was grateful.
“Me accustom to pulling the cow bubby and now he telling me to squeeze and it’s a new technique. I still learning a lot, nah lil bit. But everything me can’t learn. They even teaching you about how it gon affect you religion and reminding you of them things and how it affects your business,” Laljeet said.
Another ex-sugar worker explained that even though he has never been involved in livestock rearing, the training was very insightful as he was able to learn a lot of new things.
“Right now, me learning a set of new things because I never do them things. By the time I ready to go into cattle farming, then I gon know what to do,” the man said, while pointing out that he is also of the opinion that there needs to be more classes that cover the entire agriculture sector, which would give the workers better insight it.
Another worker, Romeo Charles, who worked for two decades at the Wales Estate, also related that while he appreciated the training classes and attention that they have been getting from GuySuCo, there is still room for improvement.
“At least what I saying is everything has to start from somewhere. Without a start, you won’t know where you going. At least you get a lil start but this is not the kind of start we looking for. We want other things in place, otherwise when people actually ready to do them things, they won’t be able to,” Charles said, while pointing out that most of the workers are still waiting to receive lands.
Some of the other workers also echoed Charles’ sentiments and explained that what they really want at the moment is land so that they can begin their own ventures.
According to James Thomas, Senior Assistant Field Manager of the East Demerara Estate, who is also conducting the training sessions, most of the workers raised questions about acquiring land and the available markets for their possible produce if they do decide to follow the ventures that are being presented to them.
“They’ve been asking questions. One of the thing is marketing. They are saying that ‘Yes, I have cows currently but I am not getting the milk sold.’ The import thing we told them is about diversifying the market. It’s not only about selling milk but you can get into ice cream production, ghee production and there is a market for such things,” Thomas said.
He explained that the participants were taught about the importance of dairy in Guyana, the scope of the market for dairy, the uses of milk, breeds, feeds and feeding, pasture development and management, basic animal health and record keeping.
“The important thing here is to allow them to have a feel or taste of dairy production because they have signaled an awareness for it based on a survey. In dairy, there is an alternative means of employment and supplementing income and we are talking about an industry that takes in US$36 million annually,” Thomas said.
The training session was the eighth of its kind and another session is planned for the Enmore Estate on Thursday.
According to Stacy London, Principal Training and Development Manager, GuySuCo also plans on taking its sessions to Rose Hall and Skeldon next month.
She also noted that so far they have been able to expose more than 140 ex-workers to various training sessions.
The move is part of GuySuCo’s plan to provide the thousands of retrenched workers with alternative plans to sustain themselves.