Wakapao adds bamboo craft to its coffee-making experience

By Alva Solomon

Bamboo trees have been around the village of Wakapao, in the Lower Pomeroon, for generations, but today the village is exploiting multiple uses of the plants, including adding to the village’s coffee-making experience cups and trays made from the trees.
“We have been burning the trees for years,” Wakapao Toshao Lloyd Perreira told Guyana Times recently.
Bamboo trees produce a lot of dust after cutting, he said, and villagers would stack the cut trees and burn them whenever they are clearing lands. “We did not know how to preserve it,” the village leader said.
Wakapao village has been working to preserve and market its rich tourism potential, and its unique blends of coffee have been cited as key to strengthening the village economy.

Coffee and tourism
Three years ago, Wakapao launched its “Destination Wakapao” tourism package, a project which invites visitors to the 29 islands which make up the marsh surroundings of the Indigenous village. During that time, villagers started exploring the use of bamboo for various purposes, including making craft items from the stems of the plant.

Lloyd Perreira, Toshao (village leader) of Wakapao, cutting a bamboo stem into cup sizes. In foreground is a cup made of bamboo. Perreira said the village is pursuing a bamboo craft project as part of its coffee-making experience for tourism purposes

According to Perreira, a team from the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) recently visited the village to facilitate training of locals in culinary arts, guiding them on how to prepare fresh and tasty foods, including nibbly snacks as well as fresh juices. The team also taught the villagers how to make cups from bamboo plants, and offered to provide support to the tourism potential of Wakapao.
The village leader explained that Wakapao is well known for its coffee production. According to him, pails of coffee are produced during the two annual crops. “Coffee is a good business here, “he said. There currently are approximately 120 families who have coffee berries. “That is about half of the number of farmers which we have in total,” he said. “When people come, we want to be able to serve our famous coffee to them, and the bamboo cups and trays is what we plan to utilize as part of this experience,” Perreira explained.

Women’s involvement
Perreira said Wakapao’s plan is to serve the best of its coffee to visitors, both local and international, and his aim is to ensure that everyone is involved in making bamboo craft items, including women. “My intention is to start with a group and produce cups and trays,” he said.
He said an idea which he plans to propose to the Village Council is the formation of a women’s group, and as part of its mandate, the group will pursue various methods of making bamboo craft items. The women, he said, can gain a skill from the project while also earning an income.

The challenges
Perreira said preparing the bamboo shoots to make the cups and trays is a delicate process. The trees are first chopped into parts, and then placed in a container of water. Lime peels and salt are then added to the water to preserve and cleanse the bamboo. The water is then drained, and the bamboo is rinsed and placed in another container with water, wherein it is boiled. After a period, the bamboo is extracted from the container and then dried.
It is then cut to size, and the process of cutting into cup sizes begins. He said parts of the stem are also cut into sizes to make trays.

Wakapao village leader Lloyd Perreira is sitting next to several bamboo craft items, including cups made from the tree stalks (Photo: GTA)

One of the challenges the project faces is finding the right adhesive to ‘hold’ the cups and trays in place. He said he is exploring various markets for the ‘correct’ adhesive which can withstand the tests of hot and cold liquids.
Another issue, he said, is the size of the container in which the bamboo stems are boiled. But he posited that the use of steel drums may be the answer to that issue.
Wakapao sits some two miles away from the Atlantic Ocean, and Perreira noted that visitors travel for four miles under the forest canopy before entering the main river leading to the village.
He said currently there is not much accommodation for visitors who wish to overnight, although there is a private guest house that can accommodate eight persons. He said the Village Council plans to embark on this aspect of its tourism project, and he noted that accommodation for large numbers of visitors is another project which is being pursued.
“If we are promoting tourism, we have to set the basis for it, and accommodation is one of those things we need,” he said. “Visitors can come and enjoy our coffee, and go fish-trapping and have more coffee afterwards.”