Agri. Ministry commences ‘new dispensation’ training for extension officers

Today the Ministry of Agriculture held the first session for its new extension system programme. The exercise which was held at the Zara Computer Training Center under the theme Delivering Extension Services in the New Dispensation, was developed in an effort to deliver improved extension services to farmers across the country.

Approximately 250 agriculture extension officers from all ten administrative regions will, over the next new weeks, be exposed to various techniques aimed at revamping the way services are delivered to farmers as the government works to facilitate an increase in the production of both traditional and non-traditional commodities.

Agriculture Minister, Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha while offering remarks said that extension officers serve as the primary link between the policymakers and the farmers, and as such, extension services should be delivered in a way that the government’s policies and vision for the sector can be achieved.

He stated that following his engagements with farmers across the country and extension staff, it became evident that the ministry’s extension arm needed revamping as part of the regional food security agenda.

Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha

“The policies of the Ministry of Agriculture, which are guided by the government will help us to ensure this sector is developed into a robust sector. As critical players in this sector, we are obligated to ensure we achieve and maintain food security in Guyana, while playing a leading role in the Regional food security efforts. As a government, one of our main objectives is to improve and increase outputs in the agriculture sector. Therefore, we need our extension officers to be more aggressive, responsive, reorganized, and result-orientated,” he noted.

He further stated that given Guyana’s potential to become a lead exporter of both fresh and processed agricultural products, investments are being made to improve transportation, logistics, food standards, and traceability within the agriculture sector.

“Being cognizant of accelerating agriculture production and boosting intra-regional trade, the Government of Guyana is creating an enabling environment that will strengthen the agri-food system. As such, there has been an increase in both public and private investment in the agriculture sector. In light of the policy direction, it is necessary that the agricultural extension system be restructured to accommodate the expansion of agriculture production,” he said.

Minister Mustapha also said for sustainable growth to take place within the sector, certain systems needed to be implemented. While underscoring the importance of integrating technology and updated agricultural techniques into daily agricultural operations, Minister Mustapha said that having regional leaders with the ability to drive innovation and productivity in the sector was critical.

“For continued growth in the agriculture sector, we need a robust and coordinated extension and advisory services system that is accessible to all farmers and rural families. This system should be equipped with the latest technologies and knowledge to ensure that farmers are aware of the best practices and methods to enhance their productivity and profitability. There should be a focus on educating farmers and rural families on the importance of adopting sustainable agricultural practices and the most cost-effective techniques. Most importantly, however, we need to create regional leaders in agriculture who will drive innovation, efficiency, and productivity in the sector,” he noted.

A section of the extension officers who attended the exercise

Over the last few months, the ministry has developed a Regional Plan for Agriculture Transformation in each Region, which will guide the efforts to support the development of the sector.

Furthermore, boundaries for the 31 Extension Districts within the ten regions have since been established as well as a standardized reporting format for all Regions to improve data management and analysis capabilities.

The new system which is expected to go into effect as early as June, will see extension officers being multi-functional and equipped with the skillset to address issues relating to every aspect of the sector.

Earlier this year, Minister Mustapha met with the regional agriculture coordinators to discuss the government’s plan to revamp and restructure the extension arm of the ministry.

Officers from the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA), Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), New Guyana Marketing Corporation (New GMC), the Fisheries Department and other agencies under the ministry’s umbrella will, during the course of the day and in the coming weeks, be given extensive training in keeping with the government’s goal of delivering better services to farmers across the country.