More investments in agriculture needed to address issues of poverty, malnutrition – President Ali

as FAO regional conference opens

President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali on Monday strongly advocated for increased resources directed to agriculture and food production, emphasising its potential to alleviate global issues including malnutrition and poverty.

President Ali made the appeal during the opening ceremony of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 38th Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), Liliendaal.

President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali

According to Guyanese leader, with approximately 700 million people in the agriculture sector living in poverty, significant investments must be made for this to be addressed.

“We cannot come here with the best ideas, and then forget that we have 700 million people who we represent living in poverty. How are we going to represent them, their rights, and their values after this conference ends? Food production is not just about food, it is about people who are involved in the system of producing food,” the head of state stressed.

Added to this, the agriculture sector is said to be responsible for 70 per cent of the world’s water consumption and 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“What is this conference going to say about that? What technology are we going to deploy? How are we going to ensure that we have availability of water and that our systems are built to better utilise water?” President Ali questioned.

He lamented that these are some of the threats to the sector that must be addressed during the conference’s discussions.

“Many of us say we want to end hunger, starvation, and malnutrition. But if you look at our budgetary allocation, it does not reflect that will. If you look at the expenditure profile, it does not reflect that will. Political will is not only shouting out a message, it is about taking policy action and making policy intervention that addresses the issue,” he added.

In demonstrating this political will, the government has increased the budgetary allocations in the agriculture sector from $13.3 billion in 2019 to $32.2 billion in 2023.

The president pointed out that this represents an increase of 150 per cent.

As a result of these investments, significant growth has been recorded in areas such as forestry, livestock, and fishing.

A section of the delegates gathered at the ACCC for the FAO conference

In addition to increased and structured investments, the president said newer technologies must be implemented into food production operations.

“The food production system involves technology, processing, transport and logistics, fabrication, and agriculture. But for me, the future of food production revolves around women and young people. How do we get women and youths more involved in the food production system?” the president expressed.

He said the government has already set a target for the country’s growing agriculture sector to ensure that 35 per cent of all new farms are owned by women and young people.

The country is also well on its way to achieving this, President Ali said, through programmes such as the hydroponics farming, shade house farming, the cut rose project, and black belly sheep project.

The head of state was in the presence of the current chair of the FAO regional conference and Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha; FAO’s Director-General, Qu Dongyu, and cabinet ministers, regional ministers, and other stakeholders.

The regional conference is slated to run from March 18 to 21.