(by Nazima Raghubir)
A strong Agro-Industrial Industry is what Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar sees as the driving force behind a progressive country.
He painted this vision as the 12th Annual Caribbean Week of Agriculture opened in Guyana. Such an industry would be dependent on cheaper energy and stakeholders are not looking to agriculture to make cheaper energy possible. When the event was formally opened on Wednesday evening, President Ramotar made a case for cheap energy. He said that Agriculture is finally getting the recognition it deserves since it not only produces food but also energy. He believes that the Agricultural based country can develop and sustain a strong agro industrial sector but said that it is the lack of a cheap energy that is a key constraint.
“The direction we are going is very important because the agriculturists of today and of tomorrow will have to be much more education and this stigma that is affecting agriculture from a long time as being bare footed and in the fields and so forth we know now that a lot more science, a lot more education is needed to be a successful farmer and successful producers of food.”
President Ramotar who recently returned from addressing the United Nations noted the growth in population world wide, a figure which stands at 7 billion. He linked this to the need to place agriculture as a priority on governments agenda around the world.
While examining Guyana’s contribution to agriculture in the Region, President Ramotar reflected on the history of the country, a history he said which showed every leader of the country recognised agriculture as an important sector linked to self-sustainability and economic growth.
“In our country we are fortunate we had leaders long ago to recognise the importance of agriculture and some of it was practically imposed upon us in some ways but today we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Guyana School of Agriculture which was specifically designed to help promote and to use science and technology in the development of agriculture…we have a lot to do in satisfying our needs in the region, we have a role to play and I am happy to see that the Jagdeo Initiative which is a very important and far sighted one is beginning to gradually to come into reality.”
Dr. Arlington Chesney, Executive Director of CARDI asked that there must be no “second judging” of how far the region has come when addressing agriculture related issues. He used the forum to reflect on the first Caribbean Week of Agriculture held in 1999 in the island of Trinidad.
“We need to believe in ourselves we need to believe, my reflections tell me we have done well since 1999 especially when we recognise that agriculture is governed by biological parameters which inevitably control the way of implementation.”
Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical centre for Agriculture told those gathered at the opening that Caribbean Week of Agriculture has become the premier event for agricultural related activities in the Region.
“The Caribbean is facing several challenges relating to food and nutrition security. We must counter the challenges with opportunities in Agriculture by boosting productivity of traditional crops, developing inclusive value chains, designing and implementing strategies for climate change adaptation, promoting youth entrepreneurship, creating opportunities for women partners, harnessing ICTs for agriculture in rural life, linking farmers to markets and implementing policies that create enabling environment …CTA is working side by side with partners in the region to support efforts that target these issues.”
Wednesday evening’s launch also saw the CTA/CARDI Regional media awards where journalists from Jamaica, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago triumphed above their Caribbean counterparts and were awarded for reporting on agricultural issues.
Caribbean Week of Agriculture is being held in Guyana under the theme “Linking the Caribbean for Regional Food and Nutrition Security and rural development.”