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Geography, climate and population
Guyana is located in the northern part of South America, with a 430 km Atlantic coastline and a total area of 214 970 km2 (Table 1). It’s bounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the north, Suriname in the east, Brazil in the south and southwest, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the northwest. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into ten regions. Regions I-VI are located in the north along the coast while the others are more inland to the south.
Guyana is a sparsely populated country endowed with ample natural resources for agriculture. It is also one of the few countries in the world where population pressure on natural resources is virtually non-existent: 16.5 million ha of the country’s territory are made up of mostly inaccessible forests and woodlands, about 1.2 million ha are under permanent pasture and less than 0.5 million ha are cultivated land.
In 2012, the cultivated area was estimated at 448 000 ha. Of this total, 420 000 ha were under annual crops and the remaining 28 000 ha were under permanent crops.
The land comprises three main geographical zones:
- The coastal plain, which occupies about 5 percent of the country’s area. The plain ranges 5 to 6 km wide along the coast.
- The white sand belt, which lies south of the coastal zone. This area is 150 to 250 km wide and consists of low sandy hills interspersed with rocky outcroppings with hardwood forest and most of Guyana’s mineral deposits. These sands cannot support crops and, if the trees are removed, erosion is rapid and severe.
- The interior highlands, which is the largest and southernmost of the three geographical zones and consists of plateaus, flat-topped mountains and savannahs that extend from the white sand belt to the country’s southern borders.
Guyana has a tropical climate with almost uniformly high temperatures and humidity, and much rainfall, modified slightly by trade winds along coast. Air temperature usually ranges between 16 °C and 34 °C with the lower temperature experienced in the highland regions. The temperature in Georgetown is quite constant, ranging from 24 °C to 32 °C. Humidity averages 70 percent year-round. The interior, away from the moderating influence of the ocean, experiences slightly wider variations in daily temperature. Humidity in the interior is also slightly lower, averaging around 60 percent. Guyana lies south of the path of Caribbean hurricanes and none is known to have hit the country.
Guyana has an annual average rainfall of 1 500 - 3 000 mm, with the higher amounts being experienced in the southern highland and forested regions and the lower amounts in the southeast and interior. Annual averages are near 2 500 mm on the coast near the Venezuelan border and 1 500 mm in southern Guyana’s Rupununi Savannah. Although rain falls throughout the year, there is a rainy season that extends from May to the end of July along the coast and from April through September further inland. Coastal areas have a second rainy season from December through February. There are two dry seasons from March to April and from September to November. This is influenced by the movement of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) across the equator and the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI): high positive values cause reduced rainfall in the secondary rainy season while high negative values result in prolonged and extensive rainfall, leading to flooding in low-lying areas with poor drainage. Rain generally falls in heavy afternoon showers or thunderstorms.
The total population was estimated at 800 000 inhabitants in 2013, of which 72 percent were rural. During the period 2003-2013 the annual population growth rate was estimated at 0.6 percent. There is a low population density of about 4 inhabitants/km2 but with 90 percent of the population residing in the coastal regions.
In 2012, 98 percent of the population had access to improved water sources (97 and 98 percent in urban and rural areas respectively). Sanitation coverage accounted for 84 percent (88 and 82 percent in urban and rural areas respectively).