Banishing hunger, eliminating poverty Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 2, 2001

GUYANA is more fortunate than many countries when it comes to food-security, and although there is poverty in Guyana, communities are often self-sufficient in the production of their food requirements. These assertions came from Minister of Agriculture Mr Navin Chandarpal, when he made a comprehensive presentation to herald Agriculture Month, traditionally observed in October. "Thus hunger is less prevalent in Guyana than a simple examination of poverty statistics would suggest. This is not to imply that hunger does not exist in Guyana. It is for this reason that we have chosen `Fight Against Hunger' as the theme for Agriculture Month," he said.

Minister Chandarpal is correct in his assessment of hunger in Guyana. Even in the middle of a very dry season, so rich and fertile are many areas of Guyana's landmass, that some item of root vegetable, grain, nut or fruit available, when grouped with other items, could be transformed into an adequate meal to stave off the pangs of hunger.

It is also true that Guyana is far more fortunate than many countries in the realm of food security. And this is because the farmers of this country produce an incredible amount of grain, vegetables and cash crops. The rice and sugar crops that have been the economic planks of this nation for decades have been augmented by bulk production of legumes, (bora, pigeon peas, saem), vegetables (plantains), root crops (cassava, yams and eddoes), succulents (pineapples, pumpkins, papaw, watermelons) and citrus (limes, grapefruit, oranges, and lemons and tangerines).

Compared with some countries, whose hardscrabble and wind-scoured tracts are hostile to crop cultivation or those in which rising flood waters or killer mudslides make daily existence a hazard, Guyana is a blessed and fertile haven capable of hosting a plethora of crops.

The farms on the East Coast and in Berbice supply villages with produce and also ship truckloads of vegetables every week to be sold in the City's municipal markets. On market days at Charity, one of the most stunning sights is the flotilla of produce-laden boats being manoeuvred along the Pomeroon River by men, women and even children. Food manufacturers as well as retailers from other parts of Guyana would make the pilgrimage to Charity every now and then to have the pick of the best avocados, peaches, mangoes, and a range of other fruit and vegetables.

Many Guyanese purchase imported onions and white potatoes unaware that in the reaches of the Kamarang River, deep in the Guyana heartland (which is a lot cooler in temperature than the coastland) white potatoes and beautiful purple unions were cultivated for years and left to rot because the farmers could not afford the cost of air-shipping them to the capital. Delicious cashew nuts, a tin of which costs well over G$1,000, are grown successfully in the Rupununi area. When prepared, the local cashew nuts are superior in taste to the imported variety.

For years, exporters and the experts in food technology have complained that farmers in Guyana need to be taught how to treat and handle crops to obtain the best quality of fruit and vegetables. Fruit to be packed and sent abroad must achieve near uniform sizes and degrees of maturity and be fairly consistent in taste and texture. Farmers have to be encouraged to strive for these objectives if they hope to prosper from their crops.

And these conditions can be met with the right incentives. For years the banana farmers in the Caribbean islands have been treating their produce a certain way so that on arrival in Europe, their state of ripeness is perfect. The Region Two farmers, who are now producing organically-grown cocoa for Britain, are following specific guidelines issued by chocolate manufacturers.

As Guyana's farming community moves closer to cultivating high quality produce, not only will basic hunger be banished from Guyana, but the income-earning capacity of farmers and persons in agro-industry will also multiply one hundredfold.