Indigenous producers recently launched their Rupununi Essence Luxury Facial Cleanser, developed by the Makushi Research Unit (MRU), Medicine from Trees and other groups, in collaboration with the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST).
According to a statement released from the Ministry of the Presidency, “The 100 per cent organic skin cleanser was created through a partnership among the Ministry, the IAST, under the stewardship of Director, Professor Suresh Narine, and indigenous producers from the North Rupununi.”
The partnership started in November 2015, with the aim of adding value to the products produced by indigenous groups. This was achieved by adding flavours and scents and by refining production techniques to ensure a better product that could access high-end markets.
Recognising that there is now a niche market for organic products both locally and internationally, the partnership, along with the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples
’ Affairs and women’s and social activist Vanda Radzik embarked on a “robust business plan” aimed at empowering, in particular, women producers.
They created a list of sustainable products to develop, such as soaps, body lotions and cleaners made from crabwood oil and other botanicals, which the producers are now exporting and which would be available for sale locally at high-end retailers.
The Parishara peanut butter factory was also refurbished through this collaboration, the release noted.
Speaking at the launching, Social Cohesion Minister Amna Ally noted that “this event is of great significance not only to the Makushi people but to all of our indigenous brothers and sisters, because it showcases the novel and innovative mechanisms that can be employed to produce products such as the Rupununi Essence Brand.”
Minister Ally said, “Our indigenous peoples and their civilisations have contributed greatly to the world’s agricultural diversity and its related biological diversity and knowledge diversity. They are the originators and custodians of millennial and dynamic agriculture and food systems that remain viable in the 21st century.”
Ally further disclosed that her Ministry “will continue to work with communities to empower them”. “We intend to promote and develop projects such as these that will ensure economic empowerment of our indigenous population. We will invest in initiatives to provide technical assistance and capacity strengthening programmes for indigenous organisations that require funding.”
The Social Cohesion and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on the application of technology in indigenous communities to alleviate poverty and promote community-based enterprise and cohesion.
Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock extended congratulations to the MRU and other groups for creating the product and noted that it was essential that they all continued to work to create economic stability within their group and the national economy.
According to Minister Allicock, “You have demonstrated the will to stay close to your culture and heritage. You have, therefore, helped with the preservation, growth and development of your culture, customs and practices.”
Professor Narine praised a number of persons instrumental in helping to create the cleanser, including Minister Ally; the “tireless” Radzik; Dr Paloma Mohamed, who was instrumental in crafting the marketing and advertising for the product; Dr Marie Correia, who taught the group how to make liquid soap and the “indefatigable” Mrs Annette Arjoon-Martins, who was accompanied by her husband, celebrated singer/songwriter Dave Martins.
“For too long we have ignored this amazing patrimony, the gift of knowledge from our indigenous peoples. We like to say that it is new knowledge, but they have known this for millennia,” Professor Narine said.
The launching, which was held at the Sophia Exhibition Centre, was well attended by a number of Ministers and notables.