At the turn of the 20th Century most developing nations successfully began to provide food for an exponentially increasing population through the industrialization of agriculture. Rapid increase in staples, such as rice and maize, and dairy products to upkeep with the never ending demands of the world’s population were possible through research and technological advances. Such products, through globalization, have begun to flood the markets of developing countries, such as Guyana.
Being an agriculture based economy, with a land size of 83,000 square miles and a stable population of 750,000 people, the country shows great potential and capacity in producing all the food its people demand. Rightly enough, through a National Strategy to improve nutrition, the country has managed to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty- the first MDG goal before the targeted year, implying an improvement in nutrition.
But to what extent? About 40% of Guyana’s adult population is overweight, where; nutrition and obesity-related diseases - diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease - are among the ten leading causes of death. The quality of food consumed by a country’s people is an issue that must be addressed by any government.
The Private sector and Civil Society Organizations definitely have an important role to play in this area of concern. The government on its own cannot improve the level of nutrition in an economy. The civil society organizations are more capable of mobilizing and educating the public on “smart eating”. CSOs are also capable of lobbying for the needs of the consumers at large, petitioning for policies, and implementation of policies that will better the nutrition of the people. For example, a relatively large portion of food consumed in Guyana is from imports, which consist of tinned foods, processed foods and preserved foods- all of which have negative long term impacts on health. CSO’s are of the capacity to curb such actions, representing the public health, by petitioning for policies to limit such imports. CSOs are also more capable in educating the Public through workshops and awareness sessions on issues relating to health and nutrition. In Guyana, the government can enable a framework to manage and monitor CSOs as done in Nepal to conduct such activities.
Similarly, private sectors can contribute in a greater way to the nutritional enhancements of Guyana, but with the aid of policies implemented by the Government. Being richly endowed with land and fertile soils, it possible that Guyana can produce most of what it eats. Incentives should be provided for farmers to plant more and then for the private sector to process our very own produce. For example, the demand for meat birds in Guyana is high. However when there is a shortage on the local market, private sectors would import chicken which is laden with steroids, (which is negatively correlated with health). Also eggs of such nature are also imported. The private sector of Guyana is more than capable of farming poultry meat and reaping eggs to meet the demand of the nation in a healthier way. The same can be said for other products, such as rice and sugar. The private sector should be motivated to engage and secondary levels of production using raw materials provided by our very own country. This would lead to Guyana capabilities in not only eradicating extreme hunger and poverty but to ensure proper nutrition.
It cannot be overemphasized how important policies implemented by the Government are towards enabling the Private Sector and CSO’s in improving nutrition.
Links and resources:
Earlier FSN Forum ICN2 discussions:
The FSN Forum is supported by the project Coherent food security responses: incorporating right to food into global and regional food security initiatives.