With the launching of the Black Belly Sheep Project on Sunday last, farmers, residents, and university students have praised the initiative as one that will thoroughly transform the outlook of the agriculture sector.
As the government continues its aggressive approach towards the further advancement of the sector, secretary of the West Berbice Sheep and Goat Farmers Association (WBSGFA), Debra Gopaul expressed that this significant investment into the small ruminant industry will expand the sector through the mixing of breeds.
“I think it’s an excellent initiative because it would increase the population of the sheep production and black belly sheep what I know of, it’s a milky kind of animal…and so if you have a black belly and you mix it with any other breed, you’re gonna have a good offspring… I must commend the government on this initiative of importing the Barbados black belly,” Gopaul explained.
Further, the secretary said with His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s announcement that a significant portion of the project farms will be led by women and another portion with direct youth involvement, a massive boost in economic development will be seen in these communities.
“I am very pleased to know that women and youths would be involved in this. There are times where you have a lot of single mothers who take care of their kids, and so this will be an excellent initiative that the government is looking forward to doing with women and youths,” she related.
Meanwhile, cattle farmer Terrence Moore shared similar sentiment noting that the move to invest in the Barriga nigra (the scientific name for Black Belly Sheep) is one that will propel agriculture.
“It very good for agriculture, because it gon create more jobs for people. Young people gon be able to mind more stock, more jobs and everything. The bread basket gon be much more bigger for farmers and non-farmers because a non-farmer gon get a job from the farmer like cutting grass, supplementary feeding and what have you,” Moore detailed.
Clive McAlmont, who was part of a Guyanese delegation to an agricultural forum in Barbados in 2017, said this opportunity will be used by several farmers to enhance their operations in the small ruminant industry, ultimately leading to the expansion of the industry.
“I’m saying this is a wonderful initiative, and we the West Berbice Farmers, will capitalise on this and work along with the Ministry of Agriculture with the government at large to enhance this and make ourselves better farmers within this region,” he said.
From an educational standpoint, both past and present University students have also lauded the investment, highlighting that not only is it a move to expand the industry, but is a direct investment in the country’s human resources.
“As everyone knows, human resource is an important asset to the country so when everyone has jobs, not only will it help them to contribute to taxes but it would help them to be self-sufficient and it will also help in social mobility, so persons that didn’t have let’s say…they can now have the opportunity to be self-sufficient… and also to climb the social ladder,” Crystal Charles expressed.
Charles also pointed out that the move will assist in achieving Guyana’s goal and commitments to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
“I think it’s a wonderful venture, the president spoke about reducing 25% of the importation bills by 2025 and through this project, we will be able to help along with that,” she explained.
Malika Russel, who is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Agrotechnology and Business, asserted that initiatives and investments like these will allow for women and young people to directly benefit from the economic expansion to come.
“I was most elated [hearing] that from the president himself because as a woman in agriculture, we have been very pivotal to the development and we are qualified and we have the capacity to drive the agricultural sector in Guyana so I am grateful that he has considered women and young people, graduates from UG as well as GSA to use their competencies to have this dream realised,” she explained.
On Sunday last, President Ali launched the highly anticipated black belly sheep project in Mahaica-Berbice (Region 5).
With over $900 million budgeted for the development of the livestock industry, this initiative is just one of the many programmes expected to enhance and expand the economy with 4,500 jobs to be created.