Following the launch of the ‘Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme’ which was conceptualised by President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali on January 11, last, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Tuesday, visited the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute’s (NAREI) commercial farm at Mon Repos to assess the progress made so far with the construction of five model shadehouses that will be used to guide beneficiaries of the programme on how to properly cultivate high-value crops.
The programme, which forms part of the government’s vision for empowering youths while further developing Guyana’s agriculture sector, will see the construction of twenty-five (25) shadehouses in its first phase and targets both current and past students of the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), the University of Guyana (UG), and other budding agriculture entrepreneurs. The shadehouses will be used to cultivate high-value crops such as carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Each model shadehouse will have six beds with the capacity to cultivate approximately 500 roots of broccoli or cauliflower.
President Ali, who is also leading the Agri-Food Systems Agenda in CARICOM, as part of the implementation and execution phases of the programme, instituted a Special Advisory Committee which comprises ministers of government as well as private sector representatives and other stakeholders to monitor and guide the process.
During Tuesday’s visit, Minister Mustapha, who forms part of the Special Advisory Committee, said that response to the programme thus far was astonishing.
“This project will be replicated across the country. We are launching it to help young people get involved in agriculture and also to promote the cultivation of these high-value crops. You’ve heard the amount of imports we have annually for these types of crops. We want to enable our youths to tap into that market. When persons graduate from GSA and UG with diplomas and degrees in agriculture they end up doing office jobs. We want to give them an opportunity to not only continue in the fields but also earn high incomes,” Minister Mustapha said.
He also said that once the shadehouses are complete, NAREI will work with the group to get the cultivation going.
Construction of the first model shadehouse is expected to be completed by Monday, after which, NAREI will be working with the group to ensure seedlings and seeds for the three identified high-value crops are planted.
During the launch, President Ali disclosed that the initiative which he described as massive, will, in phase one, see the establishment of a company named “One Guyana” that will be set up by the special advisory committee and managed by the young agriculturalists.
Existing figures state that shadehouse production per cycle is can yield as much as 3000 pounds, with an annual production yield of 9000 pounds.
Highlighting the fact that the initiative cannot be seen as an experiment since those crops are currently being cultivated in Guyana, President Ali said the consumption pattern of Guyanese shows that the three products are necessary and that with the tourism boost and influx of visitors, there is an economic indication that the type of foods is on demand.
“We are also going to link into the regional food security system. The regional food security system is even more important. We are the agriculture seat of the region and we have to lead by example. Whilst we are working, on one hand, to expand local production in the local market, we are already eliminating the barriers to the regional markets so that we are going to expand this progressively until we are able to reach into the regional market,” the Head of State added.
President Ali also said that the project will be expanded to approximately 300 shadehouses across the country.
Several youths from Regions Three and Four who will benefit from the project were also present at the facility.
Teesha Mangrasingh, who is one of the youths benefiting from the initiative said that she was happy to be a part of the initiative and plans to participate in every aspect of the cultivation.
Crystal Charles, who is also integrally involved in the project said that it gives youths like herself the opportunity to work practically in the fields and make a difference in the sector.
“I am happy to be a part of this project so that I can make a difference in the sector. Many agriculture graduates usually prefer to have office jobs. We are now given the opportunity to work practically in the field and give back to our country and I am very happy to be a part of that,” the youth said.