Green goodies from Guyana

From crabwood oil to soap, see why the North West Organics line of products are good for your health and the environment

Photograph courtesy GMTCS

Did you know that cocoa is twice as rich in antioxidants as a glass of red wine, up to three times richer than a cup of green tea and up to five times richer than black tea?

Cocoa is just one of the products of North West Organics, based in the Shell Beach area of Guyana.

Shell Beach, in the northwest of Guyana, is a 100-mile stretch of mangrove-forested beach that has been identified by the government as a priority site to be named a protected area.

Shell Beach has an extremely rich culture and biodiversity. It is also a major nesting site for four species of marine turtle: the leatherback, green, hawksbill and olive ridley. The Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS), the lead agency for making this a protected area, realised that as well as preserving sea turtles, the livelihoods of the indigenous people needed to be addressed. That was how the idea of North West Organics came about.

It was a visit by Britain’s Prince Charles to the area, Guyana’s official organic region, that resulted in the cocoa industry being revitalised and cocoa growers exporting certified beans to the prince’s company Duchy Originals.

The Blue Flame Women’s Group produces hand-rolled cocoa sticks used to prepare a delicious drink that scientific studies have found is rich in powerful antioxidants that protect against a range of diseases.

North West Organics is dedicated to marketing high-quality products that also include crabwood oil and soaps, cassava bread and cassareep, all made by communities within the area.

Guided by the principles of fair trade, this initiative contributes to the economic wellbeing of the local communities while conserving the environment. The North West Organics line of products aims to benefit the health of local communities, their natural environment and that of consumers.

For instance, at North West Organics, crabwood oil is produced twice a year from the seeds of the crabwood tree, instead of cutting the tree for its beautiful wood, also known as local mahogany.

Recent laboratory tests on crabwood oil by the University of Alberta Lipid Research Center have shown it has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties as well as a high Vitamin E content.

The production of oil, instead of cutting down the trees for their wood, has reduced pressure on the crabwood forest. It has also fostered community support for sustainable natural resource management.

The cassava root is a staple food of Amerindians. Grated cassava is loaded into a matapee, a woven basket used to squeeze it to extract the juice. The juice is then boiled into cassareep, a bittersweet flavouring for food, and the remaining fibre is baked into cassava bread.

But not only that, cassava plays an important part in keeping families together, as its cultivation and processing are a family affair. The task of clearing and burning the land is done by the men, with the planting and tending being done by the women, and the children assisting in both areas. The women congregate to scrape and grate the cassava tubers, especially before important celebrations. The children’s participation ensures that this knowledge is passed on from generation to generation. Cassava is not just a food, but part of a way of life.
For more information on the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) visit: gmtcs.org.gy