Ituni farmers engage Agri. Minister on land leases, hemp cultivation

Farmers from Ituni, a village located in the interior part of Region Ten (Upper Demerara-Berbice), on Tuesday last, sought the government’s assistance with expanding their cultivation.

While some own and operate small farms to sustain their families, many persons in the village are now engaged in the large-scale production of a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while handing over agricultural inputs to farmers from Ituni

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha visited the village to meet farmers to discuss how the government can assist with ramping up production. This is in keeping with the government’s and CARICOM’s efforts to reduce the regional import bill by 25% by the end of 2025.

Minister Mustapha told farmers present that the time for subsistent farming has passed and that the government was serious about agriculture as it is the only sector that can guarantee food security.

Referencing the impacts that the closure of the bauxite industry has had on the economic status of many persons in the region, the minister said building resilience in sectors like the agriculture sector remains a priority for the President Irfaan Ali-led government.

Minister Mustapha while engaging a farmer during the meeting

“We’ve seen what happened to the economy in these parts when the bauxite industry closed. This is why we have to develop the agriculture sector. Although we are now an oil and gas producer, we have to continue to develop the sector. We have to use the earnings from the oil and gas sector to develop the productive sectors like the agriculture sector,” he noted.

Farmers present said that they have taken note of the government’s efforts to transform the sector so far. While explaining that they too are passionate about agriculture, several farmers indicated that access to farmlands to expand cultivation continues to be a hindrance.

A section of the persons who attended the meeting

One farmer present said that he believes in the president’s vision for the sector but needed land so that he can expand. While expressing his optimism that under this government he will be issued a lease for agricultural lands, the farmer said that he was fully into agriculture and would like to leave a legacy for generations to come from the sector.

“I chose to vote for this government because I believe that the President is a man for the people. I’ve heard of instances where people applied for land and waited for years. I’m 48 years old and I don’t want to have to wait for another 25 years to have a license or a lease for this land. I am not doing this for myself, I am doing this for my children and grandchildren to come. So, I’d like to ask the Honourable Minister to please look into my application because it is there. I want to be able to say that through my choice and President Ali being elected I’ve been able to achieve what I wanted which is to put things in place for my future generation,” he noted.

One of the farmers who engaged the minister about receiving a lease for agricultural lands

Additionally, farmers present expressed their interest in getting involved in the cultivation of hemp. Citing the industry’s profitability, several farmers sought clarity on how they can be given access to the necessary permits to cultivate industrial hemp.

Minister Mustapha told farmers that although the Ministry of Agriculture is not responsible for issuing farmlands, the ministry often engages the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission on issues relating to leases for farming.

“Our President, His Excellency, Dr. President Irfaan Ali is very passionate about agriculture. Guyana is currently producing 60% of the food we consume but as a government, we are not satisfied with that. We want to produce all of the food we consume and also diversify and increase our exports. We’ll speak with officials from the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission to set up a meeting soon in Ituni. Our officers will also come back with that team to have meetings so that all the farmers who applied for lands to do agriculture can receive those leases as soon as possible,” the minister said.

While answering questions about hemp cultivation, Minister Mustapha said that the process to develop the regulatory body to guide the industry has commenced.

“We recently passed legislation to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in Guyana. The legislation stipulates that a regulatory body has to be in place and we’ve commenced the process of having that body developed. Two regions were identified for the initial cultivation of hemp; Regions Six and Ten. So, when the regulatory body is in place you will be able to apply for licenses to cultivate industrial hemp. I want to assure you that small-holding farmers will benefit. This project will target farmers who have small acreages, maybe one or two acres,” he explained.

Minister Mustapha, while encouraging persons to develop farmers’ groups, committed to assisting the Ituni Superfem Women’s Group with Black Giant chicks as they look to develop the poultry sector in the village.  He also committed to supplying several bongo pumps and Acoushi ant bait to assist farmers who are constantly affected by the pests. 

Officers from the ministry are expected to return to the village soon to deliver on commitments made by the minister in the coming weeks.