The objective of sustainable agriculture is to ensure society meets its present food needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Promoting sustainable agriculture in Guyana over the years, has become even more important as the country prepares for an accelerated rate of overall economic development.
As we observe Agriculture Month 2019 under the theme “Sustainable Agriculture for ensuring Food Safety and a Green Economy”, it is important that we zero in on every aspect of agriculture. In order to ensure every citizen benefits from sustainable agriculture, every person involved in the food system, whether growers, food processors, distributors, retailers, consumers, or waste managers must play a role.
Sustainable Agriculture in Guyana will also foster Food Security which, according to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means “that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.”
During the month of October and onward, as Minister with responsibility for Rural Affairs my staff and I will be working with a number of groups to promote food security through initiatives such as kitchen gardening. This simple agricultural activity can have a very far reaching overall benefit to the country. Research has shown that fruits and vegetables grown in your own gardens have higher nutritional value than those that are grown on larger farms. Additionally, getting involved in kitchen gardening gives persons the opportunity to save money and adopt organic pest control mechanisms which will ultimately encourage a reduction in the use of pesticides, making produce healthier.
As mentioned before, food security involves ensuring all people, at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their preference and dietary needs. With this in mind, Agriculture Month will also see us coordinating a number of ongoing activities tailored for the elderly and persons living with disabilities. These persons are often overlooked and underrated when it comes to agriculture in Guyana. There will be an “Agri-Cursion” and an “Agr-Ability” field schools designed to offer training in areas of agriculture that will encourage sustainability within these groups.
Since elected to office in 2015, His Excellency Brigadier David Granger has been working to ensure Guyana joins the international race to become a Green Economy. Guyana has been collaborating with international bodies such as the United Nations to meet the goal of becoming a ‘Green State’ by the year 2040.
According to Guyana’s Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040 “at present, there is limited incentive for commercial production and export of organic foods, and except for heart of palm, organic farming in Guyana is at subsistence levels.” The study suggests that with the implementation of green agricultural practices (increasing sustainable practices to 10 percent in the Green Economy-Low Ambition (GE-LA) scenario and 36 percent in the Green Economy-High Ambition (GE-HA) scenario) Guyana would ultimately increase its agriculture production.
I have faith that if we can work towards promoting a culture which moves away from the older generation of agricultural practices, we will be able to encourage a shift to sustainable agriculture. This can be achieved through the promotion of farming practices that conserve resources, reduce emissions and improve the land through less intensive chemical use. The Ministry will continue to work with farmers to promote sustainable agricultural practices such as polyculture, crop rotation, mulching, biodynamic agriculture, drip irrigation, hydroponics, aquaponics, shadehouse agriculture and proper animal husbandry.
Significant emphasis has also been placed on youth and women in agriculture, with His Excellency, President David Granger appointing yours truly with this specific mandate within the Ministry of Agriculture. Youth and women in agriculture now have a direct representative to focus on their needs and encourage their innovations as we continue to marry the best of traditional agricultural practices with the exciting innovations of the future.
As your Government continues to push for improved progressive agricultural policy reforms, we recognize that there is room for enhanced coherent and comprehensive approaches to agriculture and rural development if we are to make agriculture more attractive to youths. Policies are being refined to give youths a place in the ongoing agricultural growth process. Government will also continue to engage youth groups about their basic personal and social needs to be safe, feel cared for, be valued, be useful, be spiritually grounded, and to build skills and competencies that allow them to function and contribute in their daily lives.
Since my responsibilities carries special emphasis on youth and women, I wish to accentuate that if we are to encourage youths to get involved in agriculture, we need to address these complexities by focusing resources on youth development needs. High school agriculture, and related agricultural literacy programs, guidance counselors, science teachers, parents, and policy-makers are therefore being encouraged to build positive images of agriculture among youths.
Women are also being encouraged to play a greater role in agriculture with government investing heavily in training programs for women practicing rural agriculture. This is evident as communities with a large percentage of women practicing agriculture, over the years, have experienced significant improvements in productivity and rural livelihoods.
The Ministry of Agriculture stands ready to work with everyone involved in the agriculture value chain while promoting sustainable agricultural practices to achieves food security, all while making positive strides towards becoming a Green Economy.
Happy Agriculture Month 2019!
Hon. Valerie Adams-Yearwood, M.P.
Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture
with responsibility for Rural Affairs
with special focus on Women and Youths