Gov't eyes doubling agriculture production in near future - Minister Holder
With the aim of producing safe, healthy and nutritious foods for consumption at home and abroad, Guyana will be moving to double its agricultural production over next few years, Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder has said.
The Minister was speaking at a consultation last Friday, organised by the University of Guyana (UG) at the Marriot Hotel which sought a collaboration with the government on the establishment of an Institute of Food and Nutrition Security.
According to Minister Holder, Guyana has generally been regarded as the breadbasket of the Caribbean, being a net exporter of food in CARICOM. The portfolio he said has placed the country in a position of great responsibility with challenges to meet the region’s food needs.
He said the government has however taken note of the increased challenges to food and nutrition security, especially those of the impact of climate change and changes in the trade environment.
“We are, therefore, constantly reviewing our efforts to ensure that production of food is conducted in a manner that is safe for both the population and the environment,” he said.
In order to guarantee inclusiveness of all, Minister Holder said the government has adopted a multi-sectoral approach to ensure that all stakeholders play a meaningful role in addressing the key pillars of food security: availability, accessibility, utilisation, and stability.
“While we continue to face challenges, we have implemented and sustained various initiatives which support the integration of efforts to address food and nutrition security. These initiatives address all four pillars mentioned,” Minister Holder said.
UG, Agriculture Ministry consult on food and nutrition security
With a determined goal to actualise local food security, the University of Guyana (UG) has collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture to examine the possibility of establishing an Institute of Food Security.
The consultation, which opened this morning at the Marriot International Hotel, seeks to raise awareness and assess the status of food security in Guyana and the Caribbean region and assess the role an institute would have locally and regionally.
Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder, delivering the feature address at the forum, signalled his support for the establishment of the aforementioned institute. He said Guyana has generally been regarded as the breadbasket of the Caribbean, being a net exporter of food in CARICOM.
“The region is not sleeping, especially Guyana. With an investment of over US $60 million in agriculture over the past decade, Guyana has been addressing all areas of food Security from the reorganisation of the support systems, legislative upgrades, stimulation of production, implementation of new standards such as Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), to the introduction of Good Manufacturing Practices and HACCP in the Agro-processing industry”, Minister Holder explained.
According to him, this places the country in a position of great responsibility, with challenges to meet the region’s food needs in the event of another food crisis, while ensuring that Guyanese are afforded ready access to food of sound nutritional quality.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (VC)University of Guyana Professor Ivelaw Griffith said much consideration needs to be given to the real purpose of the country’s premier tertiary institution, and the role it plays in the agriculture sector.
“As any university that is beholden to serving a nation, thinks about what it does and how it does it. It has to ask the question ‘Are we doing what we need to do to address those clear and present dangers?” He said the clear and present danger in Guyana, in relation to food security, is intimately connected to the matter of food security within and beyond the region.
The UG Vice-Chancellor said even as Guyana moves into the oil and gas sector; an area that is poised to boost the country’s economy, it need not repeat the mistakes of other countries and neglect the agriculture sector.
“The pull of the oil and gas leads to a push away from certain industries and I would really like for us not to fall victim of that. To keep our eyes on the agriculture prize, knowing that we also have many preconditions to not only do better for our nation but to better for the world”, he added.
It was hoped that at the end of the consultation, there could be a status report on food production and stability, accessibility and nutritional quality of available food in Guyana, and a strategy on the status of the food and nutrition security in Guyana and the wider CARICOM region.
Article adapted from: http://gina.gov.gy/ug-agriculture-ministry-consult-on-food-and-nutrition-security/
Guyana hosting University of Arkansas agri students
This month, Guyana is hosting three Agriculture sophomores from the University of Arkansas as part of the Education Abroad Program of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB).
According to a press release from Partners of the Americas, the students, Imani Coleman, an Agronomy major, LaTaylor Rembert, an Agriculture Business major and Laura Wright, an Animal Science major, will spend one month (July 8 – August 5) in Guyana learning not only about agriculture in Guyana, but also learning generally about life in a foreign country, understanding Guyana’s history and all aspects of its culture.
The release stated that the Guyana leg of the Education Abroad Program is part of a wider project entitled, “Building Teaching, Research and Extension Capacity at UAPB to enhance Global Learning and Strengthen Sweet Potato Production in Guyana and the Arkansas Delta”. One of this project’s main objectives is to produce high quality, virus-tested sweet potato seed material for Guyanese farmers through the establishment of a virus-indexing laboratory in Guyana.
Guyana is one of five countries included in UAPB’s Education Abroad Program. The other countries are China, Ghana, Mexico and Dominican Republic.
Graduate students from Guyana pursue degrees in agricultural regulations at UAPB
Three students from the South American country of Guyana are currently pursuing master’s degrees in agricultural regulations from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. In addition to regular coursework, they are fulfilling graduate assistantships through work on a UAPB project intended to increase the availability of high-quality sweet potato planting materials to limited-resource farmers both in Guyana and in the Arkansas Delta.
Ryan Nedd, Tiffanna Ross and Kenisha Gordon – all alumni of the University of Guyana (UG) in Georgetown, Guyana – are being trained in plant breeding, virus-indexing and other molecular techniques at UAPB’s state-of-the-art tissue culture laboratory. An integral part of the UAPB Sweetpotato Foundation Seed Program, the laboratory allows researchers to develop and multiply virus-indexed sweet potato slips. The experience the students gain using UAPB’s resources will aid in the development of a similar facility in Guyana in the coming years.
“The UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences (SAFHS) will greatly benefit from the contributions of these new recruits to the graduate program in agricultural regulations,” Dr. Edmund Buckner, interim dean/director for SAFHS, said. “Their work will strengthen sweet potato production in Guyana and help build applied research and international Extension capacity at UAPB.”
At the tissue culture lab, the students are working to breed sweet potato plants with better resistance to common diseases and pests. After hybrid plants are tested in the field, the plant lines deemed healthiest and virus-free will be multiplied for distribution to farmers in Guyana.
“This project is important for both farmers in Guyana and Arkansas because our sweet potato lines are being developed to increase production and yields,” Gordon said. “Often hindered by lack of access to high-quality planting materials, small-scale and limited-resource farmers will now be able to use these plants to expand their farming operations and foster economic stability within rural areas.”
Ross said sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients and are an important part of food systems around the world. The increased production of sweet potatoes at local levels in the Delta and in Guyana can lead to health benefits for both populations.
“I enjoy the in-vitro development and multiplication of virus-free sweet potato plants for student research and production by farmers,” she said. “Just the thought of being a part of a program that aids in improving agricultural science and enhances food production is exhilarating and purposeful. Being able to carry out research on sweet potato DNA and explore new avenues of enhancing this crop for full utilization of its inherent nutritional value is even more remarkable.”
Nedd said continued cooperation between UAPB, UG and organizations such as the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute in Guyana will lead to more shared research opportunities for sweet potato crop enhancement. While studying at UAPB, he appreciates the balance between field research opportunities and lessons learned in the classroom.
“The agricultural regulations curriculum gives UAPB students an edge in learning how to deal with current agricultural and environmental issues, as well as using research to make wiser decisions for the future,” he said. “The master’s program makes you think critically, opens the opportunity for growth through field work and provides access to professors who are very helpful to students and their particular goals. My area of interest has always been agriculture and the environment, and I believe this degree will give me a great advantage in furthering my studies in the area of agricultural and environmental sustainability.”
Ross said the agricultural regulations degree program is structured to give students a broad familiarity with a wide range of subjects including molecular biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, plant breeding, food safety and food microbiology. The versatile nature of the curriculum ensures students can be hired in a number of areas after graduation. To further prepare students for their future careers, the course hours and requirements are designed to emulate the expectations of a professional in the field.
“What is most interesting to me is the fact that our lecturers are not only interested in the academic growth of their students, but are also concerned with our preparation for the world of work, life and responsibilities.”
Gordon said she chose to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural regulations at UAPB to obtain a broad theoretical understanding and practical research experience in the area of food safety and related fields. She believes the degree will propel her toward her career goals of managing and increasing the awareness of agricultural food safety and quality assurance in Guyana.
In addition to the challenging nature of the degree program, Gordon said she appreciates the campus atmosphere at UAPB and some similarities to her home in Guyana.
“UAPB is the epitome of cultural diversity because there are people here from different countries and various walks of life, all of whom are genuinely courteous, jovial and welcoming,” she said. “I like that I get to be a part of an environment where people are eager to know about my country, culture and experiences back home, while willing to share their own history. As an international student, this has made my transition easier and my experience so far excellent and fulfilling. Life in Arkansas is fairly quiet, which in many ways reminds me of home.”
- The University of Guyana