Agriculture in Focus: Advancements of Agriculture in keeping with Climate Change

A Ministry of Agriculture Feature…..

The Ministry of Agriculture’s efforts at ensuring Guyana adapts to climate change has been boosted with the advancement of plans for the start of water harvesting in the Rupununi and Intermediate Savannahs. A team of Engineers of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), have commenced work on the mapping out of feasible areas for the construction of Water Harvesting ponds in the Savannahs.

The team which departed Georgetown on Wednesday, will be examining sites earmarked for the establishment of holding ponds for irrigation water. The plan is for water to be harvested during the rainy season and maintained through the dry spells for access to farmers.

Presently, the climatic conditions of the savannahs differ from that of the coast with residents experiencing 7 months of drought-like conditions and 5 months of rainfall.  Water Harvesting is utilized in drought prone areas and is a directly productive form of soil and water conservation which has proven to increase both yield and reliability of production. It is considered as a form of irrigation during dry periods.

The incorporation of water harvesting is nothing new to Guyana’s Savannahs, as the method is presently being used by J.R Ranch located in Region Nine, for the advancement of its aquaculture operations.

In pursuit of the planned establishment of water harvesting structures in the Rupununi savannahs, the NDIA has dispatch two long boom excavators to begin the excavation works in areas identified.

Agriculture Minister, Hon. Noel Holder, has been the driving force behind the transition of the country’s agricultural base beyond the coast to the hinterland, which is a key strategy in the face of climate change and rising sea levels. Over the last decade, Guyana’s coastal farmers have faced significant agricultural losses due to changing weather patterns. It is against this background that emphasis is being placed on developing the potential of Guyana’s hinterland.

However, before agriculture potential can be realised there, the development of key drainage and irrigation structures must be established and the necessary linkages made to ensure year round access to irrigation water by farmers both in the areas of crops and livestock.

Meanwhile, in Government’s quest to fast forward the diversification of agricultural production, major emphasis is being placed on the transfer of technology from institutions such as the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) and the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) to Guyana’s farmers.

In this regard, work on accelerating efforts at realising superior genetic lines of disease resistant plantains and bananas, carrots, beets, peas, etc. continues at the NAREI as well as at the Rice Research Station at Burma, Mahaicony.

Within months, NAREI will be conducting field trials for its Black Sigatoka disease resistant plantain and banana suckers. This is the result of some five years of research and work by the scientific team there.


Boosting production capacity

Across at the Rice Research Station at Burma, the launch of new blast resistant varieties of high yielding strains of rice has resulted in a major jump in the average yield per acre of Guyana’s rice farmers, which has moved from 25 bags per acre to 38 bags in just over five years.

Not only has the research station been realising superior lines of rice varieties for farmers, but improved agronomic practices have also been part of the package released to farmers across Guyana. While the national average in terms of yields stands at 38 bags per acre, many farmers in key rice growing areas are reporting consistent yields of more than 40 bags per acre. In some instances, farmers have reported yields of more than 60 bags.  However, this is more the exception than the norm, but shows the potential of the various varieties as released by scientists at Burma.

Harvesting of the second rice crop of 2016 is now under way with some 60 % already harvested in some areas. Farmers are reporting that, despite experiencing several setbacks during the early stages of the crop, rice yields are coming in at no less than 35 to 40 bags per acre countrywide.  This, coupled with a price of some $2700 per bag in Mahaica and Berbice and $2300 per bag in Essequibo suggests that farmers could have a profitable crop.

The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has indicated that the total acreage to be harvested this crop (2nd crop) as approximately  77, 906 hectares of which 42 percent has been harvested thus far. This has so far yielded 183,380 tonnes of paddy.  The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has estimated to total production of rice for 2016 to be approximately 560,000 tonnes.

The government’s thrust for development in the agricultural sector over the next five years is hinged on the drive to diversify and expand production in not only traditional but non-traditional areas. The focus is centered on improving production capabilities and looking at markets and scope for diversification.