Motorcycles, cell phones to boost RPA field work By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
June 21, 2002

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THE Guyana Rice Producers Association (RPA) is now better equipped to provide much needed extension services to rice farmers.

Yesterday, it received 10 motorcycles and 10 cellular phones, worth about $3M, for use by its field officers in executing their tasks in the five rice growing regions across the country.

Funding for the project was provided by the British Department for International Development (DFID), while Oxfam Great Britain and the Building Capacity Community Project (BCCP) provided technical and logistical support.

RPA Project Officer, Mr. Ricky Roopchand, giving a background to the project said, "Today is a good day for the GRPA. This day was made possible through the support the organisation received under a four-year programme which is funded by the Department For International Development and managed by Oxfam Great Britain."

The aim of the programme is to build the capacity of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the areas of financial management, marketing, essential infrastructure, strategic planning, advocacy and campaign and project management, among others.

So far, 10 NGOs in the Caribbean have benefited under the programme, three of which are from Guyana.

During its first phase, the RPA was able to train some of its staff in financial and project management, project writing, computer courses, advocacy and campaigning, as well as acquire a 4 x 4 vehicle which is used mainly for monitoring projects implemented by the association, Roopchand said.

"The support we have received here today, in the form of motorcycles and cellular phones, will significantly improve (the) extension service which we provide to farmers in all five rice growing regions of Guyana through our Field Extension Officers. These officers are responsible for the dissemination of information and transfer of new technology directly to farmers. Now that our Field Extension Officers are fully equipped with the tools that will allow them to deliver more efficient services to members of RPA, rice farmers and the rice industry as a whole, they will no longer have any excuse for not getting the work done," he declared.

General Secretary of the RPA, Mr. Dharamkumar Seeraj said that the provision of the phones and motorcycles marks the continuation of the programme to further improve services to farmers and the rice industry in order to enhance their competitive capabilities against the backdrop of globalised free trade.

What happens at the international level of trade will determine if the local industry will survive, because whilst the powerful nations are advocating free trade, they are subsidising their agriculture sector, making products from the developing countries uncompetitive.

"There is a need to bridge the gaps between the developed and developing nations so as to have fair trade," Seeraj charged, urging Oxfam and DFID to provide more support towards the achievement of fair trade.

He noted that most farmers do not have any alternatives for a livelihood, therefore it is essential that they succeed in farming.

President of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Mr. Jagnarine Singh said that because of deficiencies in communication, there has been weakness in the link between research and extension, and that the motorcycles and phones will greatly help the extension officers to transfer technology from research to the rice farmers in the fields.

He also reiterated the GRDB's desire to continue working closely with the RPA to improve the lot of the rice farmers and the industry as a whole.

Programme Officer of the Caribbean Region for DFID, Ms. Lana Wade, in handing over the motorcycles and phones said the work of the RPA is recognised as important and the assistance provided is part of DFID's worldwide poverty alleviation programme.