Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha’s presentation on ‘Sustainable and Climate resilient agriculture’ during day 2 of the XXXVI FAO Regional Conference

Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.

We are living in unprecedented times that require agriculture to be sustainable and climate-resilient now more than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the challenges faced by our farmers and the agri-food system.

Guyana sees this as an opportunity to accelerate transformations in the food and agriculture sector by building the resilience of our farmers and the supply chain system. We, therefore, prioritize initiatives that increase technological innovations, greater investment in research, human capital, and better policies and regulations.

We are grateful to the strong commitment of the FAO over the years in their support to Latin America and Caribbean countries (including Guyana) as we work together to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the agriculture component outlined in the Paris Agreement and the many other agri-environmental agreements.

We recognize the leading role of the FAO in supporting countries in their transitioning towards sustainable agriculture and food systems.  We are indeed thankful to the FAO for its tangible support to countries in accessing climate financing. In the Caribbean and Guyana, FAO has been working to scale up climate investment for the agricultural sector.  There must be much more urgency and vital importance of securing large scale climate financing such as Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Adaptation Fund, which can support scaling up of good agriculture practices so that they can have significant and transformational impacts.  

Guyana is currently partnering with the FAO  in ‘Setting the Foundation for Strategic Climate Change Interventions for the Agricultural sector’ to strengthen our national designated authorities, and strategic frameworks, and support for accreditation and accredited direct access entities.  Additionally, to mobilize funding from the Green Climate Fund, we are working on project proposal for a multi-year, programmatic approach  to invest in low-emission and climate-resilient development to deal with the issues of climate change.

Low Carbon Economy: Reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions

With increased investments in crops with low carbon footprints sectors, such as fruits and vegetables and aquaculture, Guyana envisions a transformation of the food system to include innovation and initiatives that drive changes at each stage of the production chain.

Some of the sustainable climate-resilient productive agriculture systems, being undertaken in Guyana include, crop diversification to adjust to the new temperature and precipitation patterns, changing livestock breeding practices and shifting grazing patterns, developing and managing climate-resilient food production systems, developing and using drought and flood-tolerant crop varieties and adopting water and soil moisture conservation measures.

We invite FAO to continue to support our action in scaling-up sustainable initiatives and to assist with new sustainable technologies and resilient and low-emission innovative models and practices.

Promoting Blue Growth

Guyana is blessed with freshwater and there is potential for greater development in our Fisheries Industry. As the fishing and aquaculture industry expands, systems will be put in place to ensure that this is done in a sustainable manner that maintains low GHG emissions. In 2016, Guyana signed onto the ‘Port of State Measures Agreement (PSMA) and with the support of FAO, has been strengthening our capability to deal with illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

We request continued support in improving national systems for the evaluation and monitoring of fisheries resources and strengthening our aquaculture producers for sustainable and resilient value chains.

Agriculture Disaster Risk Management: Making farmers more resilient to climate change

Climate hazards are a cause of global food insecurity and hunger, particularly when they compound existing economic vulnerability.

Guyana has long been classified as a high risk flood country and there is the risk of greater frequency and intensity, with the greatest vulnerability experienced within the coastal zone. The coastal area accounts for around 90% of the country’s population, this is the same area with most of the agricultural activities. Farmers who face increasing exposure to disaster can find  themselves trapped in a cycle of food insecurity and poverty. Therefore, the high risk of climate related disaster in our agriculture activities requires enhanced mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation strategies.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) estimated that recent flooding events (2006 and 2008) affected approximately 17% of the total population of Guyana and resulted in cumulative economic damage of US$ 183,700,000. Additionally, 19% of the agriculture value was damaged or lossed during the period 2006-2016 in the Small Island Development States in the Caribbean.

In conclusion, we agree that this transformation of agriculture will not take place on its own, strong political commitment is needed, as well as changes in policies, investments, and alliances. We recognize the FAO as an alliance for our government to be successful and pledge our continued partnership.

I advise my fellow Ministers of Agriculture, that we must not just come to conferences and talk and bring ideas, but we must ensure that those ideas and thoughts are put into practice so that we can alleviate the poverty and suffering of our farmers. We should give the support necessary for our farmers produce because they are the people who are producing the wealth in our country.

In closing Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the FAO for giving us this opportunity to air our views and collaborate with our partners so that we can develop agriculture in our countries. Our Government’s aim is to ensure that we create wealth in the country so that our people can live well in a united society. Once again, I am very happy that we are putting out views to the world so that they can listen to Guyana and take active participation from Guyana. We have developed the ‘Jagdeo’s Initiative’, which was adapted by CARICOM and is very useful for development in the Caribbean and around the world. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.