Agriculture finally getting the recognition it deserves – President
Georgetown, GINA, October 9, 2013
The priority attention being given to the agriculture sector that was once a source of concern has won the satisfaction of President Donald Ramotar who has always been an advocate.
The wide participation of Ministers of Agriculture in the Caribbean region and other experts at the official opening of the 12th Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA), was enough to convince President Ramotar about the seriousness given to agriculture.
The President’s remarks came after several officials representing the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) shared perspectives about the need for Governments to get involved and equate commitments with actions.
Guyana maintains the reputation as the bread basket of the Caribbean and with its recent offer to make land available to Trinidad and Tobago farmers, the country’s seriousness about the sector is being clearly demonstrated.
Additionally with the opening of the bridge across the Takutu River trade relations and people to people contacts between Guyana and Brazil have been boosted and Caribbean leaders began seeing Guyana as a gateway to South America.
President Ramotar made reference to investments by Barbados in the southern region of Guyana for rice production and Trinidad and Tobago taking up the offer to produce citrus in the intermediate savannahs.
Guyana recently made an offer of 10,000 acres of land to farmers from the Twin island Republic in keeping with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
“We would like to see more and more of that, President Ramotar said as he continued to lament the US$4B expended by the region on food imports.
“We can’t satisfy one hundred percent of our needs, but certainly we can do far better than we are doing at this point in time, and therefore I am happy to see that some steps are being taken to… work on our own food security.”
The encouraging signs being shown in agriculture come amid concerns about the use of lands to cultivate crops solely for energy, and the demands for food by rapidly emerging economies like China and India.
President Ramotar pointed to the uprising in Tunisia that was sparked by food shortages as a harrowing example of what can happen in the absence of a food secure environment.
As holder of the agriculture diversification portfolio in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) President Ramotar said Guyana was fortunate to have leaders who recognise the importance of agriculture.
Among them was the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan who founded the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), an institution that is today regarded the epicenter for training in the Caribbean. As the call for more of the region’s youth to be actively involved in agriculture continues, the overwhelming number of them pursuing studies in the GSA has been applauded.
Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy disclosed that five of those attending the East Coast Demerara institution are nationals from St Vincent and the Grenadines while recent talks with the Barbadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Senator Maxine McClean, sought to have nationals from the island study there as well.
The institution which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has supported capacity building in agriculture which the Jagdeo Initiative has identified as one of the key priorities to promote the sector.
Director of CTA Michael Hailu believes that the perception about farming must change if the region’s youth are to show interest in cultivation.
He chronicled the numerous initiatives CTA has undertaken in the interest of agriculture promotion including media awards and a user friendly Information Communication Technology (ICT) strategy targeting youths.
Executive Director of CARDI Dr. Arlington Chesney who has been integrally involved in the Jagdeo initiative recalled former Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo maintaining resilience about agriculture as a priority.
“Former President Jagdeo had agriculture on the agenda of each Heads of Government meeting, and I think that this is a practice that should be continued,” Dr Chesney explained.
The Jagdeo Initiative zeroed in on nine key binding constraints to agriculture all of which are aimed at helping the region to achieve an accepted level of food and nutrition security.
The initiative was embraced by leaders at the 12th Special meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government at a time when rising food and fuel costs were severely affecting the region.