Minister meets some NTC toshaos on boosting agriculture in hinterland
Minister ofAgriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, today, met several Toshaos from the National Toshaos Council (NTC) to discuss some of the plans the Ministry has to develop agriculture in Guyana’s hinterland communities.
The Ministry, through the Hinterland Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Development (HESAD) Project, has been working to develop and promote sustainable agricultural development in hinterland regions, primarily in Region Nine and the Moruca and Mabaruma sub-regions in Region One.
The programme is being funded by the United Nations International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), in collaboration with the Government of Guyana.
The project is funding public investments to the tune of $4 million per community and producer groups stand to benefit from $1.8 million in funding. The project targets 50 communities in Region Nine, while 39 communities have been targeted in Region One.
Toshaos present at the meeting used the opportunity to engage the subject Minister on a number of issues faced in the various villages.
Mr. Ralph Hendricks, Toshao for Capoey Village in Region Two, said farmers suffered tremendously due to flooding and would require assistance. He also said many villagers also need solutions to the problem of Acoushi ants and among other issues.
“The rainy season took a toll on us very, very hard. Some of the farmers suffered immensely. Permanent crops died, likewise cassava and other things. I got in contact with some of the farmers and they said they would like to have planting materials and, if possible, tools in the communities. I’m very happy to hear about the Acoushi ants bait, but as we may recognise also that even though we have the Acoushi ants bait, the Acoushi ants have gone to the university also. So, when you put that bait, some of them don’t even touch it.
“One of the best things, at least in my community was using the fog machine. I also rear ducks and chickens and Christmas time when I was ready to sell, we had a sickness. Can you imagine from a hundred creole chickens, I only have four left today, and from 60 ducks, I have two ducks and one drake left? It is sad to know that some mornings you just carry two wheelbarrow of ducks and chickens to throw away. We need advice in that area also. Perhaps a vet to visit us and help us in that area,” Mr. Hendricks said.
Mr. Paul Pierre, the Toshao from Kwebanna Village in Region One, said the village has a cassava processing facility and would like to commence producing cassava flour.
“In 2019, my village was the recipient of what you call a cassava processing facility. We do have a building now. The equipment was purchased directly from China during the Covid period. As it stands right now, I think we are ready to launch into cassava flour processing. We have about 150 acres of both sweet and bitter cassava.
“During the rainy season, our farmers also suffered losses so as it is, I think technical advice or training and setting up of these equipment are priority. A solar dryer would be needed and a source of electricity for that particular project, as long as that is in place, then we can see not only Kwebanna, but the entire Moruca sub-district benefiting,” Mr. Pierre said.
Toshao from Wakapau Village, Mr. Howard Cornelius said the Ministry should work with the villages to develop their human resource capacities.
“While I welcome your support for the villages, I think it would also be important for the Ministry to look at the development of Human Resources in our villages because all of these areas are integral for development in our communities. My community will be looking at coconut oil, cassreep bottling and processing and we would need your help and the expertise of your technical people.
“Also, I’d like to recommend for your Ministry to train our local people because most of the officers who really have the technical expertise are really based in Georgetown and the challenge has been how to collaborate with your Ministry and the communities in the further Regions,” Mr. Cornelius said.
Minister Mustapha, in response to the concerns raised said in addition to the assistance offered under the HESAD project, the Ministry will also set up a committee to work directly with the various village councils to develop agriculture in those indigenous communities.
“I’ll set up a small team from my Ministry to work with the various Village Councils to look at the common issues. For example, training. We will do training in the various villages and communities. We now have to develop on the logistics of having these training sessions. We’ll consult the village leaders to know areas the villages require training in. The New Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) will be a part of that committee to assist you with markets for your produce and agro-processing.
“NAREI will also be a part of that team and we will be working to develop plant nurseries and extension services. As it relates to the issue of Acoushi ants and fogging, there’s an alternative piece of equipment called an insect and ant powder duster or a bumper pump, that we’ll be looking at to assist with these ants,” Minister Mustapha said.
The subject Minister also said the Ministry will continue to establish demonstration sites, supply planting materials and improved breeds, increase access to technical and advisory services, and assist with product development and marketing within these communities.
Project Coordinator of the HESAD Project attached to the Agriculture Sector Development Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Raymond Latchman, said the Ministry would continue to offer assistance to these indigenous communities within the HESAD Project area.
He also noted that in terms of capacity building, that is being done across the board (in the project beneficiary communities) in areas where communities have deficiencies, since the project was designed to offer this assistance.