Over $ 20M expended since 2022 to promote agriculture in schools

─ 24 shade houses constructed in schools across six regions

The Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Agriculture has been working assiduously to promote youth involvement in the agriculture sector.

Since assuming office, the government has been aggressive and steadfast in its efforts to ensure more young people were given the resources to get involved in agriculture at all levels. New and emerging techniques like the use of climate-smart practices are now being encouraged among farmers, and introduced in schools and other tertiary institutions.

Students and technical officers from NAREI in one of teh shadehouses that were constructed

One such method has been the use of shade houses as a method of controlling exposure to harsh or unfavourable climatic conditions.

Over the past 15 months, the ministry’s National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) in collaboration with the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) has constructed 24 shade houses in schools across Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven.

While speaking on the initiative, Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha said that Guyana is now leading the agriculture agenda in CARICOM as countries in the region work collaboratively to lower the food import bill by twenty-five percent by the year 2025. For this to be accomplished, he said more youths have to get involved in the sector.

Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha and others inspecting the corn field in the Tacama area

“We know we have to get our youths involved in agriculture to ensure longevity, sustainability, and food security. We have to build that interest and show how exciting agriculture is by establishing a solid foundation while they are in school. This is why we’ve been working to develop the Agriculture Science departments in secondary schools across the country. To date, we’ve worked with 23 secondary schools to construct shade houses to assist students who are doing SBAs for CSEC. We also built one at the University of Guyana’s Tain Campus. We did 14 last year and already for 2023, we’ve completed an additional 10,” the minister explained.

He stated that in addition to the shade houses, many schools were also given technical assistance, seeds, seedlings, and tools to complement their crop science efforts while some received ducklings and chicks with feed to assist with the livestock aspect.

In 2022, NAREI expended some $10,690,000 to construct shade houses and outfit them with planting materials, irrigation systems, and tools, while to date for 2023, some $20,870,000 has been spent on the initiative.

Workers during the construction of the shadehouse at a school in Georgetown

Some of the schools that benefitted from the initiative are 8th of May Secondary and Cottonfield Secondary (Region Two), Leguan Secondary and West Demerara Secondary (Region Three), Cummings Lodge Secondary School (Region Four), Woodley Park Secondary (Region Five), New Amsterdam Multilateral School (Region Six), and St Michael School (Region Seven).

Of the 14 shade houses erected in 2022, seven were constructed through funding from the BNTF.

The Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme which was conceptualised by His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali was one of the first initiatives launched by the government to promote youth involvement in agriculture.

Citing the fact that many young persons who are qualified to work in the sector are operating from offices, the Head of State developed the programme which targets graduates from both the Guyana School of Agriculture and University of Guyana. To date, approximately 100 persons are part of the programme and have earned over $10 million from the sale