“No politics in agriculture!” Minister Mustapha tells Region Seven farmers

– commits to supplying tillers, other inputs for farmers to improve their cultivation

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha has maintained that the government has no political agenda when it comes to the agriculture sector adding that all farmers are key to ensuring food security as they are the ones who are supplying the food we eat.

The minister made these utterances while meeting with farmers from riverine communities in Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni). The meeting which was held at the Bartica Community Center Ground on Wednesday came as a follow-up meeting to one held recently by His Excellency, Dr. Irfaan Ali, during which several agricultural issues were raised.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while addressing the farmers

During the engagement, farmers told the minister that they were grateful for all that the government was doing to drive agricultural development in the country but needed better farm-to-market access roads, agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds, farming tools, and the need for better drainage of their farmlands.

Over the past year, farmers in several communities in the region have been left to count their losses due to extensive flooding, which is a direct result of the impacts of climate change. Extended rainy periods and swollen riverbanks continue to affect many farmers, often resulting in them suffering severe losses due to flooding. Apart from issues with flooding, farmers present also told the minister that in order for them to operate they would need assistance with farm implements such as tillers as well as agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and Acoushi ants’ bait.

Minister Mustapha while responding to issues raised, explained that the issues faced in the region, more so the issue with flooding, were mostly due to heavy rains and overtopping of the river into the farmlands. However, he said that a team from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) would visit the affected areas to see what can be done to minimize the flooding. 

Minister Mustapha while engaging a farmer from Bartica

Additionally, he told the farmers that a team from the ministry comprising officers from the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) and the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) will return to the area within a week to conduct an assessment. He also said that the ministry will make some of the requested farming tools available.

“Through the Ministry of Agriculture, two tillers will be made available for the region so that the farmers can benefit. A management committee will be put in place to monitor the use of the tillers. We’ll also make about five bongo pumps and a motorized fogging machine available for farmers in the region.  For those farmers who reported flooding, a team from the NDIA will come back and look at the entire drainage system to see what can be done. Maybe we can do some empoldering. In terms of chemicals and seeds, we’ll see how best we can assist,” the minister said.

Minister Mustapha also told farmers that there is demand for root crops in several CARICOM states and that the government through the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (New GMC) was willing to assist with securing markets for those crops.

A swine farmer raising an issue

“This is an area where we can do a lot of root crops. Things like cassava and sweet potatoes. We can work along with you to develop a processing facility here. During a recent visit to Barbados with His Excellency, there were interests made in accessing cassava flour. We are the only country in the Caribbean that can supply them with cassava flour. There is a ready market there. We can provide cassava mills and help the farmers. The ministry has made similar interventions in Region Nine where about 50 cassava mills were donated to villages to produce cassava flour. We can also help you to package it to make it more attractive and find markets for you,” he added.

Minister Mustapha also said that the ministry through NAREI will also work with farmers to develop shadehouses to minimise the effects of climate change on their cultivation in addition to improved extension services which will see farmers benefiting from monthly engagements with extension staff attached to the ministry.