Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha’s presentation on Hand in hand towards prosperous and inclusive rural societies during day 2 of the XXXVI FAO Regional Conference

Hand-in-Hand towards prosperous and inclusive rural societies

Director General of the FAO

Minister of Agriculture in Nicaragua

Ministers of Agriculture and your delegation in Latin America and the Caribbean,

Representatives of the Latin America and Caribbean countries,

Delegations from the United Nations, intergovernmental and civil society organizations, the private sector and academia

Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Government of Guyana I am pleased to speak on the “Hand-in-Hand towards prosperous and inclusive rural societies” initiative.

Please allow me first to thank the government of Nicaragua and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) team for their efforts to make this conference successful.

Working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Government of Guyana lauds the FAO’s Hand-in-Hand initiative, which promotes the goal of achieving the SDGs, especially SDG 1 and 2. The Ministry of Agriculture is cognizant of the fact that of the 169 targets included in the SDGs, 78 percent depend on actions undertaken in rural areas of the world.[1]

It is a well-known fact, that economic growth in agriculture is about three times more effective at reducing poverty and food insecurity than growth in other sectors. As most of our poorest and hungriest live in rural areas and are involved in agricultural activities. Investment in agriculture is therefore critical for the resuscitation of rural livelihoods in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and enabling the rural economy to recover.

We must work together, towards ensuring that there are sustainable agriculture policies and measures that contribute to poverty reduction in our rural communities.

Therefore, improving farmers’ livelihoods in rural areas and diversifying the rural economies through the enhanced competitiveness of the agriculture sector is a priority of the Ministry of Agriculture.   This requires working assiduously with the Public Sector, Private Sector, and International Organizations to implement programmes that will increase agricultural productivity and income of farmers. Not forgetting, south-south cooperation and integration, as an essential tool for strengthening alliances in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In order to make informed policy decisions for prosperous and inclusive rural communities, improving agricultural and rural statistics is a priority of the Government of Guyana. The Ministry of Agriculture of Guyana is therefore committed to working with the FAO to prepare a Strategic Plan for Agricultural and Rural Statistics. The FAO’s support to the Ministry of Agriculture to prepare a National Strategy integrating the SDGs in its National Agricultural Planning will aid the promotion of working Hand-in-Hand towards prosperous and inclusive rural societies in Guyana.

Investment: A Key component to strengthening the new rural development agenda

In Guyana, Agriculture Month is observed in October, this year our theme is “Investing in Agriculture for Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development.”  One of the key components to strengthening the rural development agenda is the strengthening of budgets for inclusive and sustainable rural development. Investment in the development of public goods such as agricultural mechanization, innovation, infrastructure, technical assistance, and access to farm to markets in rural areas is important for development.

Realistically, it is not feasible for a government budget to sufficiently finance all the projects necessary. Therefore, increased investments through enhanced international cooperation with organizations such as the FAO are welcomed.  However, we are aware that funding from international organisations has its limitations and therefore private investment and public-private partnerships are encouraged to increase the coverage of public goods and services, particularly in the rural communities. 

Some of the measures we have begun are the creating an enabling business environment for the private sector by reducing burdensome taxes and other budgetary support. Additionally, we are strengthening our alliances with the private sector and have started internally to have open dialogue. With the FAO’s support, we intend to widen this to the Caribbean and Latin American countries to supply exportable products to your countries.

Poverty Reduction

The sugar Industry in Guyana was once the largest employer of agricultural workers. However, the livelihoods of over 7,000 Guyanese sugar workers were affected by the closure of four (4) sugar estates in the past five (5) years by the previous government. As a poverty alleviation measure, the PPP/C Government of Guyana has committed to investing in the sugar industry, reopening the closed sugar estates, bringing the industry to a break-even point, and creating many socio-economic benefits for the thousands of persons that will be re-employed.

Further, the Ministry of Agriculture of Guyana agrees with the FAO that the vision of the agricultural sector, as a generator of employment, must be expanded to involve related value-added sectors in food production, processing, rural services, and market access, and that these should be supported by policies that stimulate their growth through innovation and investment.

New Opportunities:  Initiatives that will allow the agriculture sector to remain relevant in an oil-based economy

Guyana stands to benefit tremendously from the emerging oil sector. However, the availability of this revenue presents a challenge to the traditional agriculture sector, as it is likely to influence Guyana’s labour supply, wages and exchange rate, which could impact the competitiveness of the tradeable sectors such as rice and sugar in Guyana’s overall economy.

As a result, the Government of Guyana is working towards developing better functioning institutions, training the labour force, and diversifying the agriculture-based economy.

Changes in markets with greater access requirements, the accelerated pace of technological transformations, and demands for knowledge and management skills impose new challenges for our farming population.  Technological change is one of the important challenges to be addressed if Guyana is to compete with technologically advanced nations, especially in our crops and livestock research initiatives in areas such as artificial insemination and genetic improvements. Further, technical cooperation would be welcomed as technological changes will serve as an engine of positive transformation for rural development.

In closing, the Ministry of Agriculture of Guyana supports the recommendations of this 36th Session of the Regional Conference and looks forward to continuing working with the FAO to develop sustainable rural communities that will help to achieve the SDGs, through policies that will, one day, eradicate hunger and extreme poverty.