Min. Mustapha elected VC of the 37th session of the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean

– calls for specific measures to get youths actively involved in agriculture

Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha was today elected to serve as Vice Chairman of the 37th session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while delivering remarks at the 37th session of the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean

The conference, which is being held in Quito, Ecuador from March 28 to April 1, 2022, serves as a moment in which member countries will define the regional priorities to adapt and localise the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-2031 to the conditions of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking on the FAO’s Science and Innovation Strategy, Minister Mustapha maintained that there need to be more measures in place regionally to actively involve youths in agriculture.

Minister Mustapha noted that it was critical for policymakers to take urgent and immediate action to preserve the agriculture sector in the region and across the globe.

“As a body, and as countries in the region that are addressing hunger and trying to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we have to ensure that we take action that will preserve this very, very important sector. And when we talk about agricultural research, challenges and opportunities, in Guyana we have been trying to ensure that we implement measures so that we can try to be very innovative. When you look around the region, I think this is a general fact; when you look around the region you find mostly middle-aged and senior citizens are involved in agriculture. Let us ask ourselves “what are we doing to involve our young people in the agriculture sector?” the minister said.

He went on to say that while examining the age ranges of those in the region who are involved in the agriculture sector, the majority of persons are middle-aged and shared what Guyana has done so far to give young people the opportunity to get involved in agriculture.

“Many young people who would’ve graduated in various agricultural courses from the universities in various territories are not coming into agriculture because they find agriculture as a menial job; a job for school dropouts and people who are old. They see it as a labor-intensive job so to speak. We have to give them opportunities to get into this field through research, improved innovation, and at the same time, make it viable and profitable. For example, recently, in Guyana, we would have done an analysis which revealed that the majority of graduates from the University of Guyana and the Guyana School of Agriculture have office jobs rather than doing practical work. So, President His Excellency, President Dr. Mohamad Irfaan Ali recently launched a programme that targets these young people, bringing them into the agriculture sector to do practical work. As a result of that, we have now launched a programme called the Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme. This programme will see the construction of hundreds of shadehouses for the cultivation of high-value crops like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots,”

“These are the opportunities that we are giving the young people now to take that slot to provide that kind of food security for the country and at the same time reduce the food import bill of the country and the region. So when we are talking about opportunities, these are the efforts we have to ensure are replicated across the region. Specific measures have to be implemented so that we can involve our young people and preserve the sector and have food security across the globe,” the minister said.

During the Regional Conference, the countries will analyse the work done by FAO in the previous two years in the region and agree on recommendations for initiatives and priorities that will guide the Organisation’s work during the 2022-2023 period.

In addition, delegates will present and discuss outstanding innovations that countries are implementing.

During the first two days of the conference, meetings with high-level authorities will be held during which officials will be presenting and analysing the main results obtained by the FAO and Latin America and the Caribbean during the 2020 – 2021 biennium and also highlight priorities for the next biennium.

The following days are reserved for a series of ministerial meetings during which members will exchange their experiences and process these innovations that are underway in order to show how the region is overcoming the challenge of transforming its agri-food systems and the context of the reality of each country.

Additionally, there will be national-level consultations with countries and regional-level consultations with various stakeholders in order to identify areas of interest and emerging consensus in the region.