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History of Agri Corps

The history of the Agri Corp is created by hard work, fun, fear, bravery and great determination. At Garden of Eden 22km from Georgetown along the East  Bank if Demerara the Ministry of Agriculture handed over an experimental plot of about 60acres to the Guyana Defence Force.

       On 12th February 1968  6 selected recruits from various units were left along the public road to find a path to a site where they began their mission to establish this farm. These men were Private Newborn, Ronald Hamid, Comptom James, Ramnarine, Felix Stephens and Rudolph Wilson.

       There  first objective of occupying the buildings for the first evening failed owing to the density of bushes and they had to resort to sleeping in a school at the entrance. These men though with mixed feelings, began their mission on February 13th 1968.
They successfully made tracks through some unusually large black-sage and moco-moco plants. They cooked, ate, slept and worked co-operatively on a site which many were convinced was haunted. It was here Farm Corps originated.
In 1968, 42 acres were utilized under crops productions of these, citrus  was 25 acres, grounds provision 4 acres and pastures 13 acres. Enough was grown by these six men for their own consumption.

        The farm started with 6 cows and a boar, all housed in one pen. Later two poultry pens housing 3000 broilers and 800 layers were constructed. Four additional cows were bought from Central Agriculture Station and four from Mazaruni Prisons, while a mature boar was purchased from a private farm at Hope East Bank Demerara. These livestock formed the nucleus of livestock population at Farm Corps in 1968. The pens had occupied an area approximately 7 acres. These men under the leadership of the first project Manager, Sergeant Charles Belgrave and the assistance of Corporal Lampley (i.e. Carpenter shop were able to complete the initial instructed work from February to November 1968).

       In November 1968 the second group of six private Soldiers arrived at Garden of Eden. They were Private Anthony, Britton, Collins, Goodchild, Samuels and Yearwood. Then came Private Alves and Persaud. A breeding/fattening pen was completed and construction of a farrowing pen commenced. The soil type made crops difficult to grow and such earth was relocated from other areas to resurface the infertile soil. Sand bags were placed along the river dam to reduce the influx of this salt water.

       It was under WO2 Sealy that the farm made its presence felt during 1971-1973. In 1972 citrus production was about 900kgs weekly. The laying was 1200 birds with about 900 eggs. There were also 8000 broilers and  250 pigs.

       The Farm Corps was able to catch the judges eyes and spectators approval during the National Exhibition in 1972. the unit won prizes in livestock production including pigs, sheep and poultry and continued to do well in following exhibitions.

       In 1973 a farm was established at Onverwagt  West Coast Berbice. 80 acres of land was put under rice production under the management of  Ronald Hamid. The record production for this location was 30 bags per acre in 1977. this location was closed in 1991.
       In 1973 another farm was established at Butenabu 35 miles up the Mahaicony Creek 3000 acres predominately swampy pegasse soil saw 30 heads of cattle and 20 heads of sheep went for rearing. Rice was cultivated on 17 acres and a large quantity of ground provision were grown. This farm was closed in 1980.

       In 1975 a forth farm was established at Vergenoegen on the East Bank of Essequibo and 15 acres of land was placed under rice and cash crop production. In 1978 an additional 6 acres were planted. The first manager was Compton James. This farm was closed in 1981.

       The fifth farm was established at Belfield East Coast Demerara by Infantry Jaguar Battalion.. This unit planted mainly plantain and ground provision. Many recruits will be remembered for their contribution to this location. Many will not forget the integral part played by the late President LFS Burnham who showed personal interest in the development of that farm. This farm was closed in July 1988.

       In 1977 a Hatchery was established at Thomas Lands Georgetown next to Camp Ayanganna. It had a capacity to produce 84000 chickens and had a reputation for producing quality baby chicks. This establishment was closed in 1992.

In addition to the rearing of poultry and pigs the unit also engaged in other activities. Hundreds of Rekin and Muscovy ducks, tilapia(4 ponds) rabbit, cattle, geese, turkey and pigeon were reared.

       In 1979 the then Farm Corps was then renamed to Agri Corps and had its first Commanding Officer, Major Rohan Seopaul.

       At Garden of Eden between the period of 1980 and 1986 the primary focus was the production of meat, eggs, pork, citrus, provision and to a lesser extent green vegetables. There were 12 broiler pens with a total of 45,000 birds. Over 14,000 broilers were present at any given time. There were also 12 layers pens with a total capacity of 8,600 layers. The record production was 5000 eggs daily and the targets were constantly achieved.

       The Piggery had progressed from 3 pens to 8 pens. A new Breeding and Farrowing unit was completed by 1983. This Farrowing pen which was the most modern at that time, housed 99 sows at any one time. Its construction had cost the Guyana Defense Force about $200,000.00. The sow herd increased from about 50 to 150 with a total population reaching as high as 1300 pigs. In 1988 the Piggery surpassed its yearʼs target for the first time in history.

       The Agriculture Corps in the 1990s was reorganizing for self-sufficiency. Improved breeds of swine and cattle have been introduced. Pastures have been improved, an Apiary was established and poultry production was once again on the increase. In 1992, an officer and other-ranks annex was constructed. Also in that year three other workers completed fifteen years consecutive service in the unit: 7267 LCPL Cort.. L, 7270 LCPL Collins and 3012809 W/CIV Sampson. Agriculture Corps has continued to fulfill its objectives:
  a.       Providing food economically for its Staff.
  b.      Providing expert advice and personnel to units for the maintenance of agricultural projects.
  c.       Training, upgrading and rotating the plan for the careers of all farm personnel.

 

       To date this unit remains a source of employment for soldiers, qualified agriculturist and civilian employees. Agri Corps provides on going training for its staff, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and Farmers. At Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) soldiers successfully completed both the Diploma and Certificate Courses in Agriculture, and also a specialized course Animal Health and Veterinary and Public Health . Similar exposures were given for the Degree program at the University of Guyana. There were also participations at various agricultural related seminars and conferences.

      Agriculture Corps continues to provide for the vitualling of the Force, not withstanding its financial constraints                                                              

In 2007, the GDF was provided with 99,339 lbs of chicken at a market value of 18.8m dollars. Pork 42,606 lbs at a market value of 15.3m dollars, eggs 19,474 trays a value of 8.1m dollars. The sale of Farm produce has resulted to a deposit of 8m dollars into the consolidated fund. The GDF can boast of being self sufficient in both pork and eggs. The Farm continues to provide chicken, eggs, and pork for Government and NGOs, institutions and members of the public.
       Crop production which includes the orchard remains at a small scale, but the livestock production continues to remain viable. As at April 2008 the livestock values was as follows.

  a.    Cattle             -      1m
  b.    Swine             -      7m
  c.    Layers            -      32.8m
  d.    Broilers          -      0.8m

      The pen capacity for broilers is in excess of 20,000 birds, Layers 8,000 birds, Swine 1,000 each. The farm is a role model for both farmers and students. In 2007 the GDF in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture has embarked on a Swine Breeding Program, using imported hy-bred animals to boost the quality of breeding animals available to farmers. This project will aid in improving technical and financial services to all pork producers.