FAO Investment Centre
ocio-economic and Production Systems Studies

  Le Centre d'investissement
de la FAO
tudes des systmes socio-conomiques et productifs

El Centro de Inversiones de la FAO
Estudios de los sistemas socioeconmicos y productivos




The main objective of this study carried out by the FAO Investment Centre was to increase the understanding of the characteristics of the physical resources, the farming systems and the communities concerned by the project and to identify and describe the farmers' needs and priorities. This survey was undertaken in view to determine mechanisms for the sustainable rehabilitation of the Drainage and Irrigation (D&I) system, involving farmers' participation and focusing the project activities to poverty alleviation purposes.

The study was conducted using Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods. At the beginning of the study, the government provided a list of proposed project sites in Regions 2 and 3. In both regions, representative villages each proposed sites with the regional government representatives and technicians. In general, one day was spent in each of the sample villages. In each community, information was gathered in the following ways:

In total, 13 villages were visited and 58 household were interviewed including seven landless households. Thirty-nine of the household interviews were comprehensive enough to be used as a sample for household economy analysis.




The project area is located within the coastal plain of Guyana where most of the country's settlement, population and infrastructure, as well as its best agricultural land, are located. The development of plantation agriculture on this coastal plain, which started during the period of Dutch colonialism (1580-1803) and continued during the British period (1803-1966), dictated the scale and intensity of labour importation. In spite of post-colonial efforts to diversify the economy, domestic agricultural production remains oriented towards the export of sugar and rice, both grown on the best lands and both necessitating water management measures.

Settlement Patterns

Villages are generally about half a mile in frontage, defined by the secondary D&I system. Most settlements within the project area are rural and tend to be either wholly East Indian or wholly African in population, reflecting the colonial pattern of spatial separation between the villages of freed African slaves and East Indian indentured servants. Coastal settlements also tend to be ethnically homogeneous, while more ethnic diversity is found in the riverain and municipal areas.

According to the 1991 Census, 18.7 % of Guyana's population live in Regions 2 and 3 (6 % in Region 2 and 12.7 % in Region 3). Most of the population is rural, concentrated in the villages and settlements that line the arterial coastal and riverain roads.

The generalized pattern is that most of the population farm on lands close to the settlement areas. In the areas where there is greater disparity in holdings and the frontlands are concentrated among a small part of the population (Salem to Morasi), the majority live along the roadway, but have their holdings in the third and later depths, behind the better soils and drained frontlands.

The other pattern which was repeatedly encountered during the fieldwork in Region 2 was for farmers to have holdings in neighbouring villages or even considerable distances away, sometimes as historic tenants, cooperative members, squatters, or renting land for each cropping season. The mechanization of rice cultivation facilitated this trend since, as many informants phrased it, one could live in Georgetown and be a rice farmer in Essequibo, live on the coast and drive one's tractor into Cozier whenever one chose.



Recent and reliable information on population figures and shifts in population is lacking. Another problem faced by the diagnostic team was the lack of clear definition and/or changes in the administrative boundaries used to take the different census1.

Since 1980, the data on national population has registered an absolute decline in numbers, attributed largely to the rate of out-migration exceeding the rate of natural increase. This national trend is also reflected in the project area. However, in the six years since the 1991 census, there have been many changes in population characteristics throughout Guyana which have not been officially recorded and which, therefore, may lead to unaccountable error in any current studies. For example, Region 2 officials claim that, since 1992 there has been substantial increase in the regional population owing to the return of an estimated 65,000 Guyanese re-migrants from Venezuela.2


The project area comprises about 8,000 rural households and a rural population of almost 41,000 people. On average in the 118 villages comprised in the area, there are 64 households per village. However, the concept of village is quite vague in the non declared areas such as Dredge Creek, Somerset and Berks and in Kent Dam where part of the population is settled without title and the other part lives in neighbouring villages. In Bonasika Creek as well, the settlement pattern is quite loose along the river so that there are no proper distinct villages.

Land tenure population density shows great differences between the project sites. The Region 2 coastal area from Evergreen to Good Hope is a highly populated area with at least 32,533 people, representing 84% of the population in the project area. This area has the highest population density: 150 to 180 persons per hectare while the population in the other project sites is between 20 and 65 persons per hectare. The major implication of this high population density, which may even be underestimated due to the fact of the immigration from Venezuela, is that the accessibility to land is very limited, with a theoretical average of 7 to 8,5 acres per family. Not surprisingly, the percentage of landless households exceed 30% in the coastal area. On average, there are 5.1 persons per household in the project area.


The ethnic composition of the population in Guyana was shaped by colonial importation of labour, which resulted in the numerical predominance of the immigrant populations over the indigenous Amerindians who now make up 6.3 % of the total. The largest ethnic group are East Indians (48 %), followed by African Guyanese (33 %), and then people of mixed descent (12 %). The non-indigenous majority are concentrated on the coastal plain, while most of the Amerindians live in the interior regions. There are no significant Amerindian populations affected in the areas studied.

As a result of historical settlement patterns, the distribution of ethnic groups varies among the project sites. The Salem/Bonasika area is predominantly settled by persons of East Indian descent. In Potosi/Kamuni, while the population in the more northerly villages is predominantly African Guyanese (Free and Easy to Concordia), there is a mixture of East Indians and African-Guyanese settled in the communities to the south between Kilmarnock and Georgia.



In Guyana, land is owned either by the State or under private freehold tenure. Part of the land, including dams and canal banks, is common propriety. This is used as grazing land and even to cultivate some ground provisions and vegetables especially by the landless. Given these two categories of land, four types of land tenure were identified in the project area: freehold; leasehold individual or cooperative; and squatter-occupied lands.

Freehold Land

Freehold refers to land owned by persons who hold title deeds to the properties. Referred to as "proprietor's land" or "bona fide" land within the project area, freehold is the most secure form of tenure. Freehold is generally located along the sea coast and riverbanks in the first depth, which fronts the access road or river, and can vary between 450 to 750 rods (1,665m to 2,775m) from the frontage. Therefore these lands benefit from the best conditions regarding transportation, drainage and irrigation and soils. The percentage of freehold land varies from area to area within a region.

In many instances, freehold lands are rented out for large-scale rice cultivation, particularly if an individual proprietor holds only a relatively small acreage. Freehold land rentals vary depending on location to other holdings, accessibility, D&I status, etc., from about 15,000-20,000 for rice area, currently GYD 3,000 to GYD 4,000/acre for non-rice area.


According to the Lands & Surveys Department (L&SD) in Region 2, publicly owned land covers nearly half of the total cultivable area in that region. A great part of the publicly owned land is leased either to individual farmers (80%) or to Land Cooperative Societies (LCSs). In Region 3, most of the publicly owned land is leased to the LCSs. Whether it is leased through a cooperative or directly to individuals, the land is usually managed at household level. The size of the land leased per household is relatively small: between 5 and 10 acres in Region 2 and between 15 and 20 acres in Region 3.

There are two categories of publicly owned land in Guyana:

State land: former Crown Lands which were transferred to the people of Guyana at Independence in 1966, and Government lands: to be developed for public purposes. This includes land development schemes.

The condition for leasing of publicly owned land are very similar for the two types of publicly owned land. The duration of the lease is slightly different: 25 years for State lands and 21 for Government lands.

Procedures to obtain a lease of State land are lengthy and cumbersome. The current land tenure system on state lands, with a considerable proportion of farmers operating with insecure titles or tenure, inhibits growth by discouraging long-term investment and limiting access to credit through absence of collateral.

Within the project area some cooperatives hold title as freehold, while the majority have provisional leases to State lands. In all cases, the lands obtained by these cooperatives were divided and allocated to members of the society and are worked on and managed individually. Although these cooperatives have enabled many landless to acquire access to lands, cooperative ownership of land is fraught with many difficulties.

Private Leasehold. Under this category there are two types of tenants - historical and seasonal. The former are tenants of freehold land whose rights were transferred at the time of purchase of a `proprietor' estate. They enjoy special rights3: they pay a low annual rent (10 GYD/acre), may transfer or bequeath their tenancy and, with the written consent of the landlord, may also sub-let their holding. Historic tenants are found on many `proprietor' estates in Region 2. Seasonal tenants are those who rent land for a season or a crop (in the case of NTCs). Land markets are very vibrant in the project area, and rental rates vary according to the type of crop which can be grown, the location of the holding, accessibility, status of D&I, etc.

Squatter Occupied Lands: Occupation by squatters (the majority of which are landless) of abandoned lands, of State lands or of land legally belonging to others is common in the project area and is the cause of a number of potential and actual conflicts.

Constraints Related to Land Tenure

Most of the holdings in the project area are small or medium size holdings of less than 50 acres.

The main constraints related to land tenure raised by the farmers were the following:



In the project area, some agricultural productions are oriented to market rice, sugarcane, tree and fruit crops. Ground provisions (roots and tuber crops) and plantain, as well as livestock production are a combination of subsistence and commercial agriculture. Crop production is predominant while livestock represents a secondary source of income for the rural households. A major constraint mentioned by the farmers is the lack of grazing place. The overall strategy adopted by the households is to minimize risks associated with uneven market conditions, poor infrastructure in particular D&I conditions and limited agricultural support services. Most of the households visited have adopted a low inputs approach in order to face these constraints.

There is a large range of crops cultivated in the area, some in combination. They can be classified in the following categories: rice; provisions comprising plantain and root crops such as cassava, eddo or yam; vegetables, the most common of which are: bora (yard long bean), carilla, cabbage, hot pepper, pumpkin, cucumber, pak choi; fruit trees: different kind of citrus trees, avocado, coffee, and a great variety of other trees cultivated in the kitchen gardens; ratoon crops: pineapple and sugarcane.



The available census data confirm the opinion of informants and the evidence of field work that, throughout the project area, a smaller proportion of women are involved in agricultural production, down from 39% in 1946 to 15% in 1992-93.4 A principal reason for this decline in participation is the mechanization of the rice industry since the early 1960s and the contraction in sugar production.

At the same time, these statistics underestimate the degree of female participation in agricultural production, post-harvest activities and the unremunerated and undervalued (by themselves) contribution of women to the economic activities of rural farm households. Throughout the project area, female agricultural labour is paid at lower levels for longer hours of work, particularly at such tasks as preparing greens in bundles (vegetables) for market, and marketing produce. In some rice areas, where harvesters cannot operate due to floods, landless women harvest by hand as agricultural labourers. In livestock rearing, cleaning, sanitation and tending of animals is carried out by women as unpaid wage workers.

In the NTC areas, women, especially those from poorer households, assist their husbands especially in land clearing and in harvesting and in the marketing of vegetables. Women are heavily involved in the processing and marketing of foodstuff, which is an important source of income, especially for the poorer households.

In addition, women are generally in charge of the kitchen garden, where vegetable and fruits trees are grown and fowl raised mainly for household consumption and for occasional sale. Women are also generally in charge of shopping for the household except in the areas where transportation to the market requires a boat, such as the Morasi/Bonasika area.

Most of the female headed households are either landless or tend to operate smaller holdings and belong to the poorest groups. According to field observation, 5% to 10% of the households in the project sites are headed by women.


Origins of Differentiation

Accessibility to land is the major factor accounting for the socio-economic differentiation of households. The villagers were asked to classify themselves into categories of households, each one gathering the households sharing common constraints, opportunities and needs. Their first distinction is between the landless and the households having access to land, which is not surprising as accessibility to land and land tenure status are very inequitable throughout the project area.

When asked about their perception of the origins of differentiation between those who have access to land, the villagers mentioned other assets of production as the key factor to socio-economical differentiation between households.

Main indicators of wealth according to the groups of farmers interviewed are: holding size; tractors or boat with its own motor; security of title (freehold or leasehold); and ownership of cattle.

For households having access to land, the minimum area necessary to fulfil household requirements was considered by the farmers to be 20 acres for rice, 15 acres for sugarcane for the provisions/vegetable production system.


Following the categorization of the farmers themselves, four main types of households have been defined based on the household resources: land and assets of production. These four categories are landless (20 to 35% of the population of the project area) and households with access to land, including small farms (less than 15-20 acres), medium farms (between 15-20 to 50 acres) and large farms (more than 50 acres).

On average, less than 50% of the holding land is cultivated. The two main reasons for not cultivating part of the land are the following: some areas have to be left fallow in the provisions/vegetable system to regenerate fertility; and poor drainage and irrigation conditions or flooding. Of the 21 households which were not cultivating all their land, 14 mentioned lack of drainage or flooding as a major reason for not cultivating.

The following table presents the main characteristics of each category and their distribution in the sample of households interviewed.

Household Typology and Characteristics



Small-scale Farmers

Medium-scale Farmers

Large-scale Farmers

% of sample of households





Estimated % in Region 2

30 to 35

50 to 55



Estimated % in Region 3





Holding size

0-0,5 acres

if land: house lot

0,5 to 15/19 acres

15/19 to 50 acres

>50 acres

Land tenure

Squatters, house lot borrowed from relatives or rented

Freehold or leasehold (mostly with provisional tables)

Freehold, rented or leased (with provisional tables)

freehold, and complemented by rented or leasehold

Crop production systems

kitchen garden: fruits, provisions and vegetable for household consumption

- provisions/vegetable shifting


- double rice crop with hired machinery;

- sugarcane and provisions.

- provisions/ vegetable shifting


- provisions/ vegetable shifting

cultivation and pineapple;

- double rice crop with hired


- sugarcane.

- provisions/vegetable shifting cultivation

and citrus;

- provisions/vegetable shifting cultivation

and livestock;

- double rice crop with own machinery;

- sugarcane.


Hand tools, little or no inputs

Hand tools, minimal inputs, sprayer, boat without engine

Hand tools, sprayer, boat and engine, water pump.

Hand tools, sprayer, tractor, boat and engine, water pump.


None or few chicken or 1 or 2 head of cows grazing on communal land

None or few chicken or 1 or 2 head of cows grazing on communal land

Chicken for own consumption. Rarely a few heads of cattle.

In region 3, often cattle grazing on own pasture land.

Off-farm activities

Seasonal jobs, mainly as agricultural labourers representing their main source of income.

Seasonal jobs necessary to complement the agricultural income.

Generally few off-farm activities, the family labour force being occupied in agricultural production.

Trade, processing of agricultural products, agriculture machinery services.



This section is based on the household survey conducted by the mission through in depth interviews. It presents the results of the 39 farm households interviewed, which were complete enough to be used as a sample.

Household Composition and Labour Force

The average number of household members in the area studied is 5.1, but the sizes of households varies greatly from 2 to 14 members. Though no great differences exist between the three main types of households, the number of family members in large farms households is slightly higher than those in medium and small farms households (at least one married child and his family live with the parents). Moreover, these households tend to have comparatively more adults and more family labour at their disposal.

Land Tenure

Farmers interviewed were owners, tenants, lease holders, squatters even borrowing land from other farmers. Twenty percent of the households interviewed even had two kinds of land tenure arrangements. The majority of the large-scale farmers are owners of the land they cultivate. However, some of them, wishing to get access to more land, also leased or rented land. The case of small-scale farmers is different in Regions 2 and 3. In Region 3, most of the small-scale farmers rent land while in Region 2, most of them are proprietors. All types of land tenure status were found for the medium farms, except borrowing.

Land Tenure by Category of Households

Land Tenure

Small Farms

Medium Farms

Large Farms



Free Hold












Freehold and Leased




Freehold and Rented












Source: Household interviews.


About one fourth of the households (10) have cattle. Half of them are large-scale farmers with an average of 14 heads per household, this number varying from 1 to 20. Only two medium-scale farmers had respectively 4 and 5 heads and three small-scale farmers had 1 or 2 head of cattle. Most of the small-scale farmers met during the survey, as well as landless, complained about the fact that their number of livestock have decreased during the last years as a result of lack of grazing land. The major source of grazing land for these households is the community land, such as the dams and the banks of the canals. They complained that larger-scale farmers, in order to facilitate transportation, prevented animals from grazing on or nearby the dams. Most of the households raise poultry for their own consumption.

Other Assets

In Region 3, except in the northern part of Potosi to Georgia site, the only means of transportation from the house to the field or from the village to the market (in Bonasika and Dredge Creek) are rivers and canals; therefore, a boat is the most important production asset. All the households interviewed have boats. However, only two small-scale farmers can afford engines. In Region 2, all the large-scale farmers have at least one tractor. All tractors are big tractors (80 to 110 HP), equipped with a disc plough, a harrow and a trailer. Apart from a paddling boat for those living in Region 3, small-scale farmers have no production assets except a set of hand tools and a sprayer.

Household Assets

Household assets reflect the level of economic status of the households. Three types of housing have been distinguished taking into account both the quality of the construction and the size of the house: (1) house in concrete; (2) wooden house recently built, well maintained or large; and (3) old or small wooden house or wooden house in poor condition.

Type of Housing by Category of Farms


Small Farms

Medium Farms

Large Farms

House in concrete

Wooden house in good condition

Wooden house in poor condition










Source: Household Interviews. 


Televisions and radio were commonly found in the households interviewed, even in the small farms. Farmers estimate that about 40% of the households have a television. Most of the households use a kerosene stove for cooking, more expensive gas stoves being used by large or medium-scale farmers. To store drinking water, large and medium-scale farmers are using water tanks, while most of the small-scale farmers use simple old containers.

Only two large-scale farmers in the sample had citrus. As a result of limited area available and insecurity of land tenure, none of the small and medium-scale farmers grow permanent crops. The only medium and small-scale farmers having trees were in Dredge Creek, and cultivate avocado and coffee.

Sources of Income

Forty three percent of the farmers interviews have off-farm activities. Eighty percent of the small-scale farmers' households have at least one member working part or full time out of the farm. For most of the small-scale farmers, farm income are so low that they need other sources of income. However, three cases have been met in which the main source of income was permanent work, often in the local administration, the farm representing a secondary source of income. More than half (56%) of the small-scale farmers with off-farm jobs work as labourers for other farmers. For these, income is seasonal and not reliable.

Half of the medium-scale farmers were also working out of the farm, either as permanent workers, or as labourers. Only 3 of the 10 large-scale farmers interviewed declared having off-farm business income.

Household Expenditure

All the families have a kitchen garden which is usually taken care of by the women and where the great part of the food necessary for household consumption is produced: ground provisions as staple food including cassava, eddo, plantain and other root crops, fruit and vegetables, but also fowl and eggs, as well as milk in some cases. However, none of the households interviewed were self-sufficient for food. All of them not only buy groceries, including sugar, cooking oil, salt and tea, but also staple foods such as rice and wheat flour and, for some of them, vegetables. Processing food at home is not common in the project area, people usually buy processed and conditioned food. For example, only a couple of families making their own coconut oil were met during the survey. Compared with other categories, larger-scale farmers spend a smaller proportion of their expenses on food. Not more than 50% of their expenses is spent on food, while for the medium farm households, food represents 60 to 70% of their expenses, and for small-scale farmers up to 70 or 80% of their total expenditure. However, those small-scale farmers who have higher incomes, due to regular off-farm employment, spend only 40 to 50% on food.

On the basis of the information collected from household interviews, the minimum amount of money that a household needs to spend monthly for supplementary food has been estimated. 1997 prices of food currently purchased by households are indicated in the Table below, as well as the average monthly consumption and expenditure for a family of five persons. The minimum amount spent monthly for rice, wheat flour and groceries to supplement the production of the kitchen garden, is around GYD 3,500 per household.

Minimum Monthly Expenditure for Supplementary Food


Unit Price (GYD)


Expenditure (GYD)


Wheat Flour


Cooking Oil









40 lb

30 lb

15 lb

4 Lit

4 lb











Source: Household interviews. 

The average expenditure for food per category of households is shown in the Table below. Large farm households expenses for food are more than twice that of the medium farm households. Large farm households not only buy more food but they buy a wider range of products and better quality food. Medium farm households spend on average GYD 4,500 per capita per month on food. Cash availability is limited for most of the small-scale farm families. Nevertheless, huge differences were observed within the sample of households. Some small-scale farmers do not have access to regular off-farm employment, so that their expenses for food are very limited. Two of the households interviewed only spend GYD 1,000 par capita per month for food. Small provisions farmers without regular off-farm activities rely mostly on their own production. Small-scale rice farmers have to purchase rice as well. Their cash flow is very limited and they have to sell their entire production of paddy to be able to buy inputs for the next crop.

Average Expenditure for Food by Categories of Farming Households

Food Expenditure (GYD)

Small Farms

Medium Farms

Large Farms

Per Household/Year

Per Capita/Year

Per Capita/Month









Source: Household interviews. 

The other main expenditure include other household goods (soap, washing powder, kerosene, toilet paper, wood, etc.), clothes, medical care, schooling expenses for children, transportation and electricity. Households spend between GYD 15,000 to 20,000 for clothes per year. GYD 1,500 up to GYD 2,500 are spent to buy kerosene for the kerosene stove. Expenses for medical care vary widely from one household to the other. Though the expenses for medical care do not usually exceed GYD 5,000 per year, a family with a member requiring specific medical care spend as much as GYD 120,000 annually. Areas with difficult access to transportation represents an expenditure item. In the southern part of Region 2, some households spend up to GYD 120,000 per year to go to Anna Regina, the nearest administrative and market place. Many poor households also complained about the high cost of schooling for children. Though schooling is supposed to be free, families still have to buy uniforms for children. These have to fit strict conditions defined for each school. On average a family spends GYD 3,000 per child per year.



The Landless in the Project Sites

According to the IFAD/IICA survey, 1994, the landless comprise 35.5% of the rural poor in the project area (Appraisal Report, Vol. 1: 3).

The inequality of land holdings in the project area is also directly related to the growing phenomenon of landlessness. In fact, given the widespread return to farming reported throughout the project area, it is likely that there is even greater inequality in land holdings as landowners opt to cultivate their own land rather than rent it, as squatters are evicted, and as the trek of landless persons returning from Venezuela since 1992 continues.

In the 12 communities visited in the project area, landlessness varied from little or none (Dredge Creek, Bonasika River settlements, Catherina) to as high as 60% of all families (Huis 't Dieren to Aurora area). Landlessness is particularly acute in those areas of Region 2 (Huis 't Dieren to Good Hope) where entire estates were sold off to individual proprietors.

Perceptions of Landlessness

The category of landlessness is perceived differently by the people interviewed; it comprises:

There was some correlation between landlessness and agricultural labour in the project area. At the same time, availability of agricultural labour was said to be scarce in every site of the proposed project area visited. As the national economy has expanded, landless labour has tended to follow more lucrative job opportunities in the resource extractive industries of the interior. As a result, agricultural workers have been able to demand better pay rates and work shorter hours. At the same time, wage rates for the under-aged and women are far below the averages found, GYD 800 in the former instance, and as low as GYD 100 in the latter. On average, agricultural labourers throughout the project area try to negotiate GYD 800/day. Since labour is needed mostly only during the rice and cane harvesting periods, most labourers must supplement their earnings in out of crop seasons by a variety of strategies (perhaps 1-2 months of guaranteed employment twice a year).

Also, salaries were very modest, ranging from GYD 12,000/month (a boat operator employed by the sawmilling company or for permanent staff of the rice mill) to GYD 8,000/month (most categories of employees in the Regional system).

The HIES sample survey in 1991-92 estimated the following percentages of working populations:


Region 2

Region 3

Self employed in agriculture



Agricultural manual labour



Agricultural non-manual labour



Self employed in non-agriculture



Non-agricultural manual labour



Non-agricultural non-manual labour



The figures on manual labour (33% in Region 2, 48% in Region 3) also highlight the low skills level of the population, which reinforces the desire to have access to land. For people who cannot aspire to skilled employment, rice and NTCs "fetch good prices", therefore land as a source of income is at a premium, even if the investment is extraordinarily high and the return is not always attractive. The following Table shows the types of off-farm employment commonly found in the project areas in both regions.

Type of Work



Income (GYD)



Kitchen garden

Greens stall

Selling fish

Rearing fowls

Sweet stall

Reaping paddy (manual)

Provision huckster

Agricultural labour

Seasonal labour

Broadcasting rice

Spraying insecticides

Applying fertilizers

Drying rice


Sugar estate worker

Cleaning drainage


Permanent labour

Rice mill labourer

Skilled non-agricultural labour



Unskilled non-agricultural labour

Security guard


















all year long

all year long

all year long

all year long

all year long

once per crop

all year long

twice a year

twice to trice a crop

twice to trice a crop

once per crop

once per crop

harvest time

all year long

all year long

all year long

all year long

all year long

all year long

home consumption

sales: 500/week





home consumption














9 week per year

all year long

9 months

all year long

9 months

one week/crop

6 months

2 weeks/crop

2 weeks/crop

2 weeks/crop

2 weeks/crop

2 weeks/crop

20 days per month

all year long

6 months a year

6 months a year

all year long

Most of the landless rely on seasonal labour for a living and work as labourers for other farmers. Therefore, their income is irregular throughout the year. In Region 2, there are more opportunities for work twice a year, when paddy is harvested and broadcast. February is a month were jobs opportunities are the fewest.



National Poverty Studies

During 1992-1993, a national Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) was carried out by the Statistical Bureau. In order to provide more data on the social sectors, a Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) was undertaken under the direction of the World Bank in conjunction with HIES. These two surveys provided information used in a World Bank report on strategies for reducing poverty in Guyana.

This report used the data of the combined HIES/LSMS survey as a basis for measuring welfare, which was evaluated as total consumption of the households. The standard measurements resulting from this study based on 1993 data are the following:

Mean per Capita Consumption

GYD 91,602

Absolute poverty line5

GYD 47,500

Extreme poverty line

GYD 35,150

These surveys estimate that 43% of the total population is living in poverty, far below the GYD 47,500 absolute poverty line. Most of the Guyana's poor live in rural areas, extreme poverty being concentrated in the interior regions. Rural poor are self-employed in agriculture or work as agricultural labourers. According to the results of these surveys, poor rural households have access to land resources, which would indicate that low agricultural productivity land linked to poor D&I status is a major source of poverty.

Among the 10 regions in the country, the highest incidence of poverty was found in Regions 1, 8 and 9, located in the interior. However, rural poverty is also prevalent along the coast. The proportion of the population with a standard living below the poverty line was found to be 45.8% in Region 3 and 55% in Region 2. The mean per capita consumption is GYD 75,456 for Region 2 and GYD 78,737 for Region 3, both staying below the national mean per capita consumption.

Poverty Indices for all of Guyana, and Regions 2 and 3


Percent of Population

% of Population Below the Absolute Poverty Line

Mean Annual Per Capita Consumption (GYD)

Mean Per Capita Consumption per Month (GYD)

All Guyana





Region 2





Region 3





Source: Strategies for Reducing Poverty in Guyana, World Bank.

Poverty in the Project Area

In order to compare the situation in the project area with the poverty indices elaborated by the World Bank, the results of the sample households survey presented above were utilized. As these poverty indicators are defined in terms of consumption, they can be compared to the households levels of expenditure recorded by the mission. The expenditures for food were compared to the extreme poverty line food basket, while the total expenditures (food and non-food) were compared to the absolute poverty line.

As the data used by the World Bank were collected in 1993, values were actualized using the annual inflation rates from 1993 to 1997. The results are presented in the following table:

Poverty Indices (1997)

Unit: GYD






Inflation Rate






Mean per capita consumption Region 2






Monthly average






Mean per capita consumption Region 3






Monthly average






Extreme Poverty Line






Monthly average






Absolute Poverty line






Monthly average






The following Table summarizes the level of expenditure for each category of the sample households as compared to the World Bank poverty indices.

Unit: GYD

Small Farms

Medium Farms

Large Farms

Average Food Expenditure Per Capita




Monthly Average Food Expenditure Per Capita




Extreme Poverty Line




Monthly Average




Average Household Expenditure per Capita




Monthly Average Household Expenditure Per Capita




Absolute Poverty Line




Monthly Average




Source: Household Interviews and Strategies for Reducing Poverty in Guyana, World Bank.

According to this Table, the small-scale farmers are below the extreme poverty line and the medium-scale farmers only slightly above. The medium-scale farmers are just below the absolute poverty line while the large-scale farmers find themselves far above the absolute poverty line, and even far above the mean per capita consumption for Regions 2 and 3. If the latter result was expected, the fact that small and even medium-scale farmers are on the edge of poverty is surprising. This can be explained by the fact that farm products grown at home and used for family consumption will not be monetized in the estimates of the food expenditures, therefore, underestimating the food expenditure levels. Nevertheless, practically all the small farms and the portion of the medium-scale rice farms whose holdings are below 20 acres, fall below the poverty line. As a consequence, the above food expenditure level is underestimated.

Comparison of Farm Incomes with Poverty Indices

Farm incomes in the project area have also been compared to the World Bank poverty indices. Farm incomes for the three categories of farming households defined in the typology have been estimated on the basis of the results of the farming systems and the sample of households. They are summarized in the Table below for different farming systems practiced by the different categories of households.

Farm Income Per Capita by Category of Farm Households

Type of Households

Farming System

Farm Income Per Capita (GYD) and Per Month

% of the Population

Small-scale farmers



\Vegetable pure stand






(32 families)

Medium-scale farmers

Rice (below 20 acres)

Rice (20 acres and above)

Provisions/vegetable and pineapple









(32 families)

Large-scale farmers


Provisions/vegetable and citrus





According to the above Table, 80% of the population in the project area is below the extreme poverty line. The agricultural income of the small-scale farmers is not sufficient to fulfil the food requirements of the family. They rely on off-farm activities to complement their income. The other constraint faced by most of the small-scale provision and vegetables farmers, as well as the small-scale rice farmers, is that they are in very fragile conditions as they mainly rely on seasonal labour for a living. Small-scale farmers growing vegetable pure stand are far above the poverty line.

Farm incomes of medium and large-scale farmers are sufficient to keep them high above the absolute poverty line. However, they still rely on uneven market conditions and poor drainage conditions, which result in great variations in their economic results from one year to the other. Lack of title for land represents an obstacle for medium-scale farmers to improve their income through investment into agricultural production.

Processes of Poverty

The main origins of poverty identified in the project area are the following:

During the survey, drainage and irrigation was always mentioned by the farmers to be the prevalent constraint to improved agricultural production, as a result of poor maintenance and low efficiency. Constraints as perceived by farmers at household and village levels are presented hereafter. This shows that drainage is in any case the most important limiting factor. Other constraints are summarized below.

As indicated in the figure above, at village level, drainage was also mentioned as a main constraint, confirming that it is a predominant limiting factor for agricultural production. Irrigation only came out in the rice producing area. Issues concerning land tenure were second; this shows how critical the situation is for the majority of the population who do not have access to enough land or do not have any security for the land they cultivate. Marketing of agricultural products, fluctuations in force, combined with a lack of information and organization, was also perceived as a major constraint for adoption of improved techniques and long terms investments. Other constraints were flood, transportation of products, access to the villages and to the field, and the weakness of agricultural support services.

Household Level

Constraints at household level, by categories of households are indicated in the figures below, and can be summarized in order of importance for all categories, as:

Other household level constraints included a lack of family labour, high school fees, poor housing conditions, lack of cash availability, expensive fees to enter the coop, and illness within the household.

Poor drainage conditions were mentioned as the main constraint by 30% of the households and was the main constraint for all categories of farmers.

Some constraints were specifically mentioned by households in the rice producing area. These were the low prices for paddy and poor irrigation conditions.

Farming Systems

The main constraints with regard to farming systems as expressed by the farmers, can be summarized as follows:

The availability of labour force was not mentioned as a constraint. The general feeling was that once the farmer can increase his or her productivity, he/she can pay higher wages and attract the amount and type of labour he/she needs.

1 The most recent census data available are the 1991 census and a Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), carried out by in 1992-1993, both by the Statistical Bureau.

2 Support for this claim comes from the recent announcement by the Elections Commission of a possible increase of 100,000 voters in 1997, in comparison with the 1992 figures.

3 Under the Rice Farmers (Security of Tenant) Act, Chapter 69:02, enacted in 1956 and recently revised.

4 Census data for 1946, HIES for 1992-93.

5 The extreme poverty line corresponds to the minimum food basket estimated on the basis of the commonly accepted standard of 2,400 calories and a basket comprising food available on the current market, which provide the most nutrition for the lowest cost. The absolute poverty line comprises non-food consumption expenditures in addition to the food basket. This non-food consumption expenditure was derived from the HIES/LSMS data for the poorest 40% of the population.