Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud has urged farmers to change their approach to agricultural practices if they are to adapt to the new and emerging challenges in the sector.
He was at the time speaking at the re-launch the 2nd phase of the Grow More Food Campaign on Wednesday.
“We cannot do agriculture in a manner we have done traditionally if we have new and emerging constraints,” Persaud said, making reference to climate change and its impacts, changes in the global trade environment that resulted in Guyana losing revenue in sugar exports and the near collapse in the rice industry.
The re-launch came with an encouraging message for farmers to Grow More Food in a climate smart way and follows the thriving implementation of the 2008/2009 grow more food campaign.
Emphasis is placed on climate adaptation farming methods such as drip irrigation, high ground planting and rearing, and shade houses.
Under this phase various components of support will be provided including fertilizer seeds, other planting materials, breeding animals and feed. Persaud said that fertilizer has been accessed at a better price.
“Every single farmer will receive a quantity of fertilizer, be it urea, be it 15/15 or even resources,” Persaud said.
Persaud stated the concept of a Grow More Food campaign emerged out of the challenges by countries throughout the world to access food even if they were equipped with the financial means.
It sought to protect Guyana by securing a stock of food at a scale that was enough, not only for its own consumption but, also have enough to export.
“In Guyana whilst we were assured and confident that we would be able to feed our people and assured that our people have access to affordable food, we also wanted to provide additional focus and support so that we maintain our own food security situation but at the same time we convert that food crisis into an opportunity for farmers.” Persaud said.
He noted that, at the national level, government has been injecting much more resources in dealing with the critical constraints that affect sustainable and viable agriculture.
Persaud further noted that one of the constraints is dealing with the issue of climate change and in the second phase of the Grow More Food Campaign the need for a climate smart approach to food production will be highlighted.
“We cannot do agriculture in the way and the manner we have done it traditionally if we have new and emerging constraints,” Persaud said.
With the government’s investment in the agriculture sector, coupled with the low carbon development strategy, Persaud believes the stage has been set for the survival of agriculture.
The second phase was touted as a comprehensive programme that will continue across the country with more than 100 meetings of this kind in all regions particularly in the hinterland, coastal and intermediate areas.
Presidential candidate and adviser Donald Ramotar, who was also part of Wednesday’s activity, remarked that food security is one of the major issues all over the world.
“We in Guyana, we are fortunate, we have the land, dedicated farmers and we have a Government that is willing to support the efforts of the people who are willing to go to the land and to produce food.”
With that, he said, Guyana can take advantage of the markets right here in the region (Caribbean).
Meanwhile, President Bharrat Jagdeo said that Guyana’s reputation as a net exporter of food and the most robust in terms of security is due to the keen interest of local farmers, who have for years been dedicating their time and energy to the sector which other countries seem to be treating with neglect.
Delivering his remarks to the farmers, the head of state assured that the agriculture sector will continue to benefit from government’s support as it has been doing over the years given its vitality to the local economy.
“Agriculture cannot operate without adequate infrastructure and that’s growing. Large government investments have been made in that sector and we will make sure that the policy environment and the incentives are constantly aligned to encourage production,” Jagdeo said.
He told the farmers that the circumstances in Guyana are contrary to that of the Caribbean Community’s. CARICOM has a food import bill of US$3 billion and seems only to generate interest in agriculture when the issue of a food deficit has reached an alarming level globally.
“I’ve been pushing this agricultural initiative in CARICOM for many years, we have identified a regional strategy, the policies that we need to accomplish the goals of the strategy, we have identified the constraints to agriculture, how we can fix those and we have identified what incentives need to be given to agriculture and what government investments need to be made… very few countries have gone along that route,” Jagdeo said.