Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page



Guyana is located in the northern part of South America. It is bounded in the northwest by Venezuela, in the west and south by Brazil and in the east by Suriname. Total area is 214 970 kmē, with a population of approximately 764 000 people, making it one of the least densely populated countries of the world. The country is endowed with rich natural resources. About 16.5 million ha are inaccessible forests and woodlands, 1.2 million ha are under permanent pasture and only 0.496 million ha are cultivated. Despite the abundant resources, Guyana is one of the poorest countries in the Americas with annual per capita income of US$ 800.

Population growth rate was -0.78 percent in 1997 and there was net outmigration rate of -15.5 migrants/1000 population in 1997.

Total GDP was estimated at US$ 717 million, of which agriculture accounts for 36 percent. The economy is based on exports of gold, bauxite, sugar, rice and forestry products. The agricultural sector has experienced steady growth over the past five years, primarily because of the privatization of the rice and sugar industries. In the case of rice, production has tripled and sugar exports have increased from 50 000 tons in 1985 to 3.5 million tons in 1995. Sugar is the most important industry of the agricultural sector, accounting for 20% of GDP and employing some 30 000 persons.

Guyana enjoys a tropical climate with uniformly high temperatures and humidity. Average temperatures in the capital, Georgetown range between 24 and 30oC and humidity averages 70% year round. Rainfall decreases from the northwest to the southeast of the country with maximum annual rainfall of 2 500 mm near the Venezuelan border to 1 500 mm in the southern savannahs. The rainy season lasts from May to July along the coast and from April to September inland. Coastal areas have a second rainy season from November to January.

The name Guyana is Amerindian for "Land of Water". There are numerous rivers which flow into the Atlantic Ocean, the largest of which is the Essequibo River which runs from the Brazilian border in the south to the delta west of Georgetown. Estimates of surface water resources are unavailable, while the groundwater system comprises three aquifers.

Most agricultural activity is conducted along the coast. As much as 8 km inland, the land is below sea level at high tide so drainage and water control are the major problems and agricultural development is linked to defence against seawater intrusion and rainwater runoff. Land requires

extensive drainage networks before it is suitable for agricultural use. Approximately one-eighth of the area cultivated in sugar cane is occupied by drainage canals. Total length of irrigation canals is 485 km of main canals and 1 100 km of secondary canals. The main and secondary drainage infrastructure is about 500 km and 1500 m in length, respectively. Most irrigation infrastructure needs rehabilitation. This state of disrepair contributes to low water use efficiency in the country.

Sheikh M. Khan
National Ozone Action Unit, Hydrometeorological Service, Ministry of Agriculture
Georgetown, Guyana

Institutional arrangements

Table 1 presents the institutional arrangements of the various governmental bodies dealing with land, water and plant nutrient resources in Guyana.


Institutional Arrangements of Ministries involved in Land and Water Resources Management

Office of the President

  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Natural Resources and Environment Advisory Committee

Ministry of Agriculture

  • Guyana Sugar Corporation
  • Rice Agencies
  • National Drainage and Irrigation Board
  • National Agricultural Research Institute
  • Hydrometeorological Service
  • Commission for Lands and Surveys
  • Guyana School of Agriculture

Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock

  • Fisheries Department
  • National Dairy Development Programme
  • Other Crops Programme
  • Guyana Forestry Commission

Ministry of Housing and Water

  • Guyana Water Authority
  • Georgetown Water and Sewerage Commission

Ministry of Communication and Transport

  • Sea and River Defence Department
  • Transport and Harbours Department

Ministry of Regional Development

  • Regional Extension Units
  • Regional Irrigation Boards
  • Regional Land and Survey Units
  • Regional Coordination of National Policies

Hot spots

The main hot spots are:

Water erosion - this causes surface wash after dry periods and sedimentation and sediment build-up in conservancies (shallow water resevoirs in level areas).

Fertility decline - with the removal of topsoil by erosion, there is a decline in soil fertility. Additionally, the continuous production of rice in some areas and the reduced use of fertilizer lead to overworked lands and a decline in soil fertility

Salinization occurs during dry spells as a consequence of irrigation water having higher salt levels and salt water intrusion into groundwater resources . Since the coastal region of Guyana is around or below near sea level, there is a constant threat of salinization.

Waterlogging - the coastal, agricultural part of the country has two rainy seasons with an average rainfall of more than 2 000 mm per annum. This results in crop loss during flood conditions.

Human settlement stress - despite the country's vast land resources, about 80% of Guyana's population lives on or near the coast. There is pressure from human settlements as more people migrate from the interior in search of employment and "better" living conditions on the coast.

Water resources are inefficiently used and management practices are inadequate.

Global Warming - average temperature in Guyana has shown an increase of about 1.0oC over the past 100 years in Georgetown. Climate change is therefore a real possibility for the country.

Sea level rise and land subsidence - records have shown a rise of about 10 mm per year since 1951; Guyanese may be mining groundwater which may be resulting in coastal subsidence.

Weak institutional capacity - this is a real threat to management of the resources as skill, finance, poor salaries, lack of equipment and inadequate or no maintenance stymie the country's development.

Bright spots

Despite the many hot spots in the country, some advances have been made to protect and preserve the natural resources. These include:

Updating and maintaining the information system and country report

Guyana has a large number of computer-literate persons employed in the Government service and some government agencies have web sites to which linkages could be established. Existing agencies, though operational, are inefficient, however. Institutional support is therefore needed to purchase additional equipment and for establishing networking facilities. There is also a lack of current data on climate and hydrology. The country needs equipment for field personnel to regularly collect the data and transmit them from the field to the main offices.

With respect to GIS, there is a weak coordination of services and a lack of networked linkages.

Some institutions are willing to share information rather than data, but at a cost. However, questions arises as to who will pay for the information and where will the information be housed.

Problems encountered

In Guyana, no team has been established to collect and continually update the database and information required for the country report. It was suggested that FAO should follow up country action and provide funding to continue the work of preparing the National Report.

Top Of PageTable Of ContentsNext Page