Indigenous Heritage 2020: Importance of Parakari

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The root crop, cassava, is integral to the way of life of Indigenous people in Guyana. It is the source of a multitude of products, such as cassava bread, farine, casareep and a variety of beverages. In fact, all families in the community likely have a small cassava farm. The variety of cassava most notably is referred to as ‘bitter cassava’; it contains cyanide, so to consume it without first properly processing it would have deadly consequences. This is where traditional knowledge plays such a crucial role. From planting to harvesting, to retaining and storing cassava sticks for future use, and of course, the actual method of initially processing the cassava, traditional knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation. Much of this knowledge is passed down through the process of ‘learning by doing’, where young ones accompanying their parents and grandparents to their farms are taught skills over time. Ensuring the continuity of such knowledge sharing dynamics at the family level is important to sustaining the custom of making traditional foods and drinks.

Today’s video comes to you from the village of Parikwarinawa in South-Central Rupununi. It features the preparation of parakari (a local drink made from cassava). We also learn of its link to self-help which is an important part of community life that continues even to today. Made by community researchers from the Darwin Initiative Traditional Knowledge in Conservation project.

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Grace Albert
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Grace Albert has 5 years’ experience in community development and visual methodologies. She speaks fluent Makushi and English, and has strong skills in community facilitation and engagement, visual methods, and her local Makushi traditions. Following a strong grounding in further education courses of natural resource management, wildlife management, agriculture , information technology, leadership and culture, she has worked for the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), a local Indigenous community-based organization, in several roles. This includes as a radio broadcaster, a community film maker and most recently as a Community Research Assistant. With these experiences, Grace hopes to remain as a resource person for her community and is committed towards development of her homeland.