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–  new CEO (ag) says improvements needed in services offered to farmers; science must be incorporated into extension services

Former head of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRD), Jagnarine Singh, has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) (ag) of the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI).

Earlier today, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha officially met with senior staff of the agency and the newly appointed CEO (ag) to discuss how the agency is expected to implement the new policies set by the government in an effort to reposition and revamp agriculture in Guyana.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha hands over an appointment letter to the new CEO (ag) Jagnarine Singh

Minister Mustapha told the staff that, with Guyana taking back its rightful place with agriculture in the Caribbean, NAREI has an important role to play, as the agency is mandated to manage agriculture research and development.  

“We are looking to revamp the agriculture sector. If we want to take our rightful place regionally and internationally, institutions like NAREI have to play a very important role. We now have to strategize, we have to come up innovative ideas and we have to implement the policies of the government. What we have done, as a government, we’ve crafted a number of policies for the various sectors. Last year we had the emergency budget and we were able to successfully implement a number of those initiatives. This year, the goal is to build on what we started last year in addition to the new programmes that will come on stream. We have to change the traditional way we have been doing things here. For example, our plant nurseries around the country, we need to have vibrant nurseries with a variety of plants. When people visit these nurseries they must have a choice. Additionally, we have to refocus our energy into revamping what we’ve been doing. While we have been giving support to farmers, we have to now ramp up our activities and bring new ideas because we cannot continue to do things in a subsistent way, we have to move a step further,” Minister Mustapha said.

The new CEO (ag) said that there needs to be some amount of improvement to the services offered to farmers. He further stated that science must be incorporated into the extension services offered to the farmers.

“This (NAREI) used to be the central agricultural station and I would like for us to go back to those days when we used to be the central agricultural station in the country. Over the years at the Rice Board, I remember I had some problems with soils management and I had to end up going around the circle and sending soil samples to Miami. Guyana, a big agriculture producing country; we need to enhance and improve our services to the farmers. Not just soils, but our technical and diagnostic capacity in all areas of plant science. With the extension services, as much as I see it’s being driven on social media, I would want some science involved. The scientists must be involved. Whatever we are doing must be climate smart, it must be sustainable and profitable, so that our farmers can live a good life. The little plots we have around the country, I want to see them grow and move from just trials to a more economic value to the individual, the community and to the country as a whole,” Mr. Singh said. 

Minister Mustapha also charged the new CEO (ag) with implementing quarterly training exercises for extension officers in order to keep them abreast with developments in the sector so that they can be better equip to deliver the kind of services required.

“The traditional crops that we have been giving guidance on, we have to improve on that. I’m tasking the new CEO (ag) to develop a plan to improve what we are doing now. Show us what we’ve been doing, where we want to go in terms of increasing productivity, getting more farmers on board, and what it will take for us to get there. Additionally, His Excellency, President Irfaan Ali has instructed that Guyana must become self-sufficient in the production of protein for the poultry industry. I am also tasking the CEO and his team with crafting a plan to accomplish this. $500M has been allocated in this year’s budget to commence infrastructural work in the Intermediate Savannah. A number of investors have expressed interest in this sector so we have to ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place,” Minister Mustapha said.

Mr. Singh takes over from Dr. Oudho Homenauth, who was employed by the agency for the past 20 years. Minister Mustapha said that even though Dr. Homenauth will no longer serve in the capacity of CEO, his contribution to the development of the sector and the institution over the years remain invaluable. 

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