In Suriname, the Kalpoe family recently harvested their first watermelons. They have a plot of land on the Uitkyk plantation. Vijay Kalpoe is one of the plantation's many land tenants. He grows all kinds of fruits and vegetables on his little farm. He does so with the help of his cousins who live in the Netherlands. "Partnering with Dutch growers and traders would be the ultimate dream," says cousin Mahinder Kalpoe.
The Kalpoe family project sprung from a strong family connection. "We regularly sent food and clothing packages to our relatives in Suriname. Then, we got the idea to encourage my cousin, who's a farmer, in that which he excels. Now, they have more income and no longer need packages. My parents were hobby farmers, so we had a passion for it."
"That's why, within our circle, we decided to put a bit of financing together. We could then apply modern Dutch agricultural techniques in Suriname. Think of, say, a small tractor. That already saves a lot of labor. Such a small investment can mean a significant increase in production and quality," continues Mahinder.
That has proven successful. The project started about a year ago. The family has since received photos of the farm's first watermelon harvest.
"It's still a very young project. But we're trying to work with as many long-term crops as possible. We're investing in the future. We've decided to also cultivate some faster-growing fruits, for now."
"The watermelons are an example of this. We've taken the first step and will now continue. I've heard the watermelons are delicious and are selling like hotcakes," says Mahinder enthusiastically.
Vijay is not Uitkijk's only grower. "There are many other fruit and vegetable growers who lease plots of land from the state. As long as you farm it, it's yours. Everyone has about five hectares acres. Vijay farms on two lots. There are residential plots too, where the growers live. Our investment means other growers can see what we're doing and learn from us. Thus, they too can make strides in their process."
Working with Dutch growers and traders is the ultimate dream for Mahinder and his family. "We want to keep expanding. Suriname has a low population. So, the local market quickly overflows with products. That leads to very low grower prices," he explains. "Export to the Netherlands, for example, is therefore vital. The Suriname/Dutch relationship hasn't always been great under the Bouterse regime. But cooperation is improving."
"Suriname's long-neglected agricultural policy is now blossoming. After the Netherlands, Suriname has the most Dutch-speaking inhabitants. It would thus be invaluable if we could develop an alliance with Dutch growers or traders. We have the ideas. It's just the financing that's challenging," Mahinder concludes.
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