On Thursday, Agriculture Minister Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, received a number of inputs from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that will be used to empower small-scale farmers across the country.
The items were handed over by FAO’s Country Representative in Guyana, Dr. Gillian Smith at the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute’s (NAREI) office in Mon Repos, ECD.
During the simple handing-over ceremony, Minister Mustapha said although, in recent times, the budgetary allocation to the sector has increased, governments still require partnerships with international organizations to assist with developing the sector. He further stated that the items will be donated to small-scale farmers across the country to assist with modernizing their agricultural activities.
“This is where organizations like the FAO and the World Food Programme are able to play a critical role by partnering with us to bring much-needed help to these small-scale farmers. Although this may seem like a small gesture, these items are very important and critical because we are working with small-scale farmers by giving them the resources to modernize their plots. Post-harvest handling of commodities is also very important. Long ago farmers would use packaging like recycled salt bags to transport their produce. This is somewhat unhygienic and can result in damage to the crop further resulting in loss of income,” he explained.
Minister Mustapha said that the government has been steadfast in its efforts to develop and modernize the sector by making additional funding available through budgetary allocation. He also said that hinterland communities are now receiving inputs to develop their production as the government aims to elevate the rural village economies.
“We’ve seen close to a 150% increase in budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector over the last three years. This shows the government’s commitment to developing and modernizing the sector. Only last week we had the toshao conference where some 242 villages were represented. These indigenous and rural villages need items like these to expand and modernize their agricultural activities. When we give them these items it also helps to develop their village economies. We are also building agro-processing facilities in these communities in an effort to bring them to a level with the farmers on the coast, giving them the same facilities so that they can increase their livelihoods,” he added.
FAO Country Representative in Guyana, Dr. Gillian Smith while offering brief remarks said that the FAO was pleased to partner with the Ministry of Agriculture to support the work that is being done to develop the sector and the livelihoods of farmers, particularly small-scale farmers.
“We’re very pleased, as always, to collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture. Some two years ago, we had the opportunity of an SDG Project that funded was within the UN and it included the World Food Programme and FAO and we immediately came to the ministry to ask how these resources can support the work that is being done in Guyana to support agriculture. Thankfully, with a conversation with NAREI and our other partners, we came up with the idea that these are inputs that can support particularly small farmers who need a little bit of extra support considering the changes in global food prices and global crises that affect everyone,” Dr. Smith noted.
A total of 500 plastic crates for post-harvest transport of fruits and vegetables along with 300 electric knapsack sprayers, 20 tillers, and spare parts were handed over to the ministry and will be distributed to farmers across the country.