Guyana Diaspora

'89 percent of Guyana 's graduate population live and work in the 30 relatively rich countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) -"Fruit that falls far from the tree",
The Economist, 03 November 2005'

It is estimated that there are as many Guyanese living overseas as they are in Guyana
They are spread out far and wide to almost every country on the planet
This blog was created to chronicle the news and and stories of the Diaspora

Monday, January 23, 2006

Growing food for the soul

After coming to Canada from Guyana in 1978, Anan Lololi noticed how disconnected many people in the city were from the land.

One of Anan Lololi's fondest memories, as a young boy growing up in Guyana, is of climbing mango trees.

"I loved picking the mango fresh off the tree and biting into it," says Lololi. "There's a holistic experience to picking a fruit and eating it. It's a way to get connected to the country."

Lololi feels it's that connection to the land that makes people respect the environment and also leads them to live healthier lives. After coming to Canada in 1978, Lololi noticed how disconnected many people in the city were from the land.

"Toronto is a big city and you don't see much green space here," says Lololi. "To get that, people have to go to the suburbs or head off to their cottages, so it's hard for people in the city to have a relationship with the environment."

Lololi felt that the best way to give people that experience, especially those who live in low-income areas, was to show them the value of urban agriculture. So three years ago he started a community garden at the side of the Lawrence Heights Community Centre.

"The first year we didn't have a great harvest," says Lololi. "People needed to be educated about the whole process of managing gardens and growing organically."

There were other hurdles to face as well.

"The demand for urban agriculture was greater than we expected. We needed more space to plant. We had to establish a dialogue with the city and apartment building superintendents so we could get permission to use their land. It wasn't easy in the beginning, but things have worked out."

Through Lololi's organization, the Afri-Can Food Basket, they were able to secure more garden space.

They now have community gardens at Jane and Finch, Lawrence Heights, Jane and Wilson and Islington and Albion.

The gardens have been so successful that last year, the Afri-Can Food Basket was able to put on the Toronto Urban Harvest Festival. The festival was their way of showing the community how much food can be harvested through urban agriculture. It was also an opportunity to educate people about the benefits of growing their own food.

"Community gardening is more than just growing food," says Lololi. "It can also help supplement the income of low-income families. Tending the garden is also a good way to relieve stress. Plus, families usually garden together, so the children will get a good opportunity to see a seed planted, a tree grow and then get to pick the fruit from that tree. These are magical things to children."

Urban agriculture isn't a new phenomenon in Toronto. Lololi says there are over 100 community gardens in the city, not to mention the thousands of people who grow food in their backyards, on their balconies or on rooftops. But he felt it was important to get these gardens in neighbourhoods like Jane- Finch and Lawrence Heights.

"I come from a tradition where food is respected," says Lololi. "When you plant something, watch it grow and see how it can sustain you, you begin to have a different appreciation for food. I think young people in our community have lost that appreciation and respect for food. Once you have it, you start to eat better, live better and treat the environment better."

Getting young people involved in urban agriculture is something Lololi wants to focus on over the next few years.

From The Toronto Sun

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