Water management integral to food security, sustainable agriculture

In light of the reduced rainfall and the possibility of water scarcity, the government has been proactive in addressing the potential challenges this may pose to agriculture.

This was underscored by Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha on Monday at the World Food Day exhibition, open day, and plant distribution exercise at the Georgetown Cricket Club.

World Food Day is being celebrated this year under the theme, ‘Water is life, water is food, Leave no one behind.’  The day serves as a global platform to raise awareness about the vital connection between water, food security, and sustainable agriculture.

Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha

Minister Mustapha noted that agriculture accounts for 72 per cent of global freshwater withdrawal. Like all other natural resources, freshwater is not infinite as it requires sustainable management.

The agriculture minister said the government has undertaken several initiatives to promote sustainable water use and management for agriculture.

These initiatives aim to improve irrigation practices and water efficiency to ensure the long-term viability of the agriculture sector.

A section of the World Food Day Exhibition

These include the construction and maintenance of canals, pumps, pump stations, and water reservoirs, among others for the management of water for agricultural use.

“So far in 2023, the government has invested a sum of $26 billion in upgrading the drainage and irrigation systems across our country…Very shortly, the ministry through the NDIA, will embark on massive D&I projects across the country, not only to drain our systems…to enjoy freshwater and for our farmers to enjoy good irrigation,” the minister said.

The National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) has also promoted the use of a drip irrigation system, to enhance water efficiency in agriculture.

Farmers are also encouraged to practice rainfall harvesting techniques to capture and store water for agricultural purposes.

Minister Mustapha also called for everyone to redouble efforts to manage water more efficiently.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Country Representative for Guyana, Dr. Gillian Smith said everyone must consume and manage water.

FAO’s Country rep, Dr Gillian Smith 

Quoting the words of FAO Director General, Dr Smith said, “We must harness the power of science, innovation, data and technology to produce more with less to make every drop count…We have to transform global agricultural systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable to address the water scarcity issue that we are facing.”

Meanwhile, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture’s (IICA) Country Representative, Wilmott Garnett highlighted that agriculture must develop and implement innovative production systems that prioritise efficient water usage.

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture’s (IICA) Country Representative, Wilmott Garnett 

“The demand for water for agricultural use will increase between 72 to 90 per cent by 2050…Water productivity and efficiency is what we need to focus on,” Garnett added.

Farmers also benefitted from the distribution of various plants at the event.  

Students at one of the booths

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Delma Nedd, Programme Manager for Agricultural and Agro-Industrial Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Shaun Baugh, United Nation’s Resident Coordinator in Guyana, Yeşim Oruç and other officials also attended the event.