‘Make Agriculture a Business’

– Minister Garrido-Lowe tells Santa Cruz residents

“Our friends who are looking for business opportunities, they will want to bring fancy fruit juice and fancy plantain chips in fancy packs and open businesses right here, but guess what would it belong to us? And do you want that? So that is why we must utilise our land and start looking at Agriculture as a business. We must start thinking that we can get rich off Agriculture,”

This advice was given to the residents of Santa Cuz, Moruca by Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Valerie Garrido-Lowe.

Santa Cruz is home to more than four hundred residents who are involved in farming and fishing as its main economic activities.

Minister Garrido-Lowe and a team visited the Sub-district in Barima-Waini, Region One on Sunday where fruitful discussions were held with villagers as they embark on value-added agriculture production.

The Minister is ensuring Santa Cruz is fully prepared to become one of the most industrious Fruit Juice, Jelly and Marmalade producing village in Guyana.

With the expected benefits to be derived from the imminent oil sector, Minister Garrido-Lowe assured that “we will have enough people to purchase what you plant … since Agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.”

Guyanese Agronomist and Veterinarian Dr. Leroy Santiago (from the community of Imbetero) who was also a member of the team, shared improved planting techniques with farmers which will be key to future success.

Speaking to the village’s agricultural pursuits, Dr. Santiago said “you cut down a field and you burn the soil, why do you burn it? Because of its tradition, our ancestors told us we must do that .., you have about 12-14 inches of leaves that have fallen for hundreds of years – compost, another two feet of organic matter and when you burn that you get Potash (K20). So, you plant the first crop you get a good crop. What you did, you kill the soil and then we want to know what happened to the rest of the crop”.

Dr. Santiago also shared techniques for pest control which were welcomed by villagers.

Meanwhile, recently sworn in Member of Parliament, Raynard Ward, also an Agriculturist by profession who was also a part of the team, also took the opportunity to interact with residents.

Ward said, “As long as we the government is here; I’ll try to ensure that agriculture is put alongside the oil industry because the revenues coming in from oil can help to develop our agriculture sector. Please ensure that you, as a community, join your voices with those of your community leaders. Let’s not forget that agriculture is important, and we need to keep it going.”

Twelve farmers were selected and will be planting one-acre of land each.  Among the fruits to be planted, processed, packaged and marketed are cherry, orange, tangerine, lime, guava, pear, soursop, papaw, golden apple, pineapple and banana.

It is estimated that fruits will be ready for harvesting between eighteen months to three years and by that time a factory will be established and fully operable. Production will be in keeping with international standards.

Minister Garrido-Lowe underscored the Government’s commitment to continue providing the necessary support needed to ensure the project is sustained, villagers are gainfully employed, the physical and infrastructural development realised and the goal of ensuring food security is achieved.

The fruit farm will complement Kwebanna’s Cassava Processing Facility, the Santa Rosa Ground Coffee Project both in the Moruca sub-district and the Smith Creek Fish and Crab Processing Facility in the Mabaruma Sub-district, all viable economic projects piloted by Minister Garrido-Lowe.

This will ultimately lead to poverty reduction which is on the front burner of the David Granger led Coalition Government.