MANY of Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s numerous initiatives in the agricultural sector
during his several terms in office folded every time he was manoeuvred out of office, for instance, the milk pasteurisation plant, among others.
During Guyana’s lost years when the country regressed and retracted in every sector, especially the human quotient, production of sugar, rice and non-traditional crops – every area of agriculture, folded.
The virtual collapse of the agricultural sector forced this nation into large-scale importation of milk, chicken and eggs. Shamefully, even sugar and rice had to be imported to satisfy domestic needs at one time or another.
The steep decline of the national economy between the late 1960s and the early 1990s was largely due to the spiralling decline of the agricultural sector. However, irrefutable statistical data has indicated that Guyana has climbed over the safety net into the global radar where the FAO has authenticated this country’s status as the only CARICOM state to have achieved food security and this is only one of the several areas where Guyana has reached the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Statistical indices have also reflected the enormous expansion of Guyana’s global market share in agricultural products.
A study that was commissioned by the World Bank and the UN has concluded that the global agricultural dynamics will have to change radically if the world is to avoid future environmental and social problems. The findings revealed that a minimum of 850 million people – and climbing, were not getting enough to eat.
The “Grow More” campaign that was launched by former Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud is merely one in a series of dynamic initiatives that have catalysed the astounding growth of Guyana’s agricultural sector, so vital within the national, regional and global landscapes.
No one should starve in this country, where food can be grown with ease and in plentitude. Much savings can be accrued by householders who convert their yard-space to grow their own vegetables and fruits, instead of covering their land-space with concrete. Vegetables can be grown in half-drums, old fridges, old buckets – any container that can hold a plant. This would be ecologically and economically advantageous and can be a beneficial hobby by way of which the family can bond spending quality time together, even workplaces and entire communities can do collective communal farming, so gardening can also become socially advantageous: even academically so, because the scientific dynamism requisite in achieving best practices in agriculture requires much research and compilation of data bases.
Extra produce can also generate incomes for mothers who elect to stay at home; which gives them time for value-added activities, such as making achars, pepper and other sauces, juices etc.
In his feature address at the dedication of the Guyana office of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, former President Jagdeo had called for the establishment of an agricultural business sector that will certainly prosper, even within the context of current and emerging challenges of climate change and global financial crises so that the country can move on to higher levels of production and productivity; and this can only be achieved, optimally, with all stakeholders working cohesively and coherently together.
The Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture has already had an impact on regional agriculture, because many nation states within CARICOM have ramped up their agriculture sector since he began promoting the initiative. However, he had said, time and again, that regional states need to become more energised in pursuing their own food security through interventions and investments in their agricultural bases.
The Agriculture Ministry and related institutions are currently manned by a dynamic group of young persons who are impacting, in no small measure, on the heartland of Guyana’s economic and social landscape, which is its agriculture sector, so Guyana is well-poised, with the Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture, which has driven this momentum, to become the breadbasket of the Caribbean, and even farther afield.
Our nation has the requisite quality of leadership that has been systematically optimising this country’s potential for growth and development. We can only make interventions that can minimise the effects, but we cannot completely avert natural crises – natural or man-made- especially those caused by the climate change phenomenon.
However, Guyana’s development has accelerated at such a pace that has catalysed this nation onto the radar of the world as one of the fastest growing and more stable economies in the world.
Agriculture is one of the main planks that has stabilised Guyana’s economy and propelled the expanded dimensions of the nation’s development, despite global imperatives and constraints. Guyana has already achieved the Millennium Development Goal in relation to food security, and with all the factors that have been carefully nurtured and dynamically driven by the administrative construct, Guyana’s agriculture sector is poised on the brink of an explosion on the landscape of global food security.