Guyana ready to resume leadership role for agriculture within the FAO and CARICOM

Following dialogue between Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Guyana’s Country Representative, Dr. Gillian Smith, Minister Mustapha disclosed that Guyana is ready to resume its leadership role in Agriculture in CARICOM.

Minister Mustapha (center) is pictured with FAO Country Rep. Dr. Gillian Smith and MoA Director General, Mr. Madanlall Ramraj

The meeting which took place earlier today at the Ministry’s head office, saw the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture sharing some of his immediate plans for the sector and ways in which the Ministry can collaborate with the FAO.

“I am very eager to have close collaborations with the FAO to strengthen existing and develop new policies to improve the sector. I am looking forward to working with the organization and having it play a pivotal role in having these objectives achieved,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha will also be attending the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is scheduled to be held virtually from August 18 to 21.

Dr. Smith noted that this platform is the organization’s highest decision making body, with Agriculture Ministers from all 33 member states of the FAO meeting to discuss policies and developmental areas for agriculture across the Region.

“Traditionally, in the past, Guyana has had a very significant leadership role in agriculture in CARICOM. When Guyana goes to the FAO Regional Conference, it usually goes in a leadership role. It provides that sort of convening and facilitating for the rest of agriculture and it would be good to be able to see that again because at this conference, FAO makes its decisions about how support is given to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean going forward for the next few years,” Dr. Smith said.

She further stated that it is important for Guyana to be prepared to put its needs on the table, particularly in this post COVID era, adding that if Guyana is not prepared, opportunities can be missed in the area of support.

Minister Mustapha also assured the country Representative that the FAO will also be invited to play an active role on the Guyana Livestock Development Authority’s Board and the Fisheries Advisory Committee.

“By legislation, the FAO is supposed to be on that Board (GLDA). We will continue to engage you. As a matter of fact, agriculture and the Fisheries sector will be collaborating closely with the FAO because we need to work together to ensure we improve our systems in the Fisheries sector. One of my main objectives is to get the ban lifted from the exportation of catfish to the United States. Our fisher folks have been suffering a lot. So we are working assiduously to have that problem rectified,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Minister also indicated that Government is currently engaging the Surinamese Government as it relates to licensing of fisher-folk from the Corentyne area. He added that, “We know those fishermen require licenses from the Suriname and our current engagements will ensure that the system will be easier now for those individuals.”

The Ministry will also be putting systems in place to improve the aquaculture system in Guyana, noting the lack of an organized means of operating. Farmers will now be given guidance and much needed extension services in order to develop the country’s aquaculture systems.

Another issue discussed was the agriculture census. Dr. Smith informed the subject that FAO started working with the Ministry to carry out the census and hopes that the ministry will continue to work with the organization to have this done as soon as possible.

Over the years, the FAO has assisted Guyana with four priority areas: Food security and nutrition; Agricultural and rural development, Renewable natural resources and climate change, Agricultural health and food safety. Collaboration between Guyana and FAO has increased since the re-opening of FAO’s country office in 2009, with a growing emphasis on technical and policy assistance as well as capacity building, advocacy and knowledge exchange.