Guyana to benefit from US$100M agri project
...focus on drainage & irrigation
By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
February 6, 2003

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GUYANA is among 15 Caribbean countries to benefit from a Regional Special Programme for Food Security (RSPFS), under which the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the Italian Government will make available US$100M to boost agricultural production.

The focus will be on water and water-related activities such as improving drainage and irrigation for farmlands, and already $50M has been disbursed.

A team of officials from the FAO, a United Nations body, on Tuesday night arrived in Guyana for a two-day visit to assist with preparations for the RSPFS.

The programme has three main components - enhancement of small-holder agricultural products, productivity and markets; trade facilitation and food policy development.

The team, headed by Mr. Gian Luigi Ferretti, Senior Programme Officer, Field Programme Development Service/Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, yesterday paid a courtesy call on Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Mr. Satyadeow Sawh at his Vlissengen Road, Georgetown offices.

Others on the mission are Mr. Filippo Alessi, Senior Programme Monitoring Officer, Food Policy Assistance Division; Mr. Hesdie Grauwde, Policy Officer/Sub-Regional Officer for the Caribbean and Mr. J. R. Deep Ford, Food Systems Officer, Food Security and Agricultural Projects Analysis Service/Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Minister Sawh, who said that the Italian Government has pledged US$100M to the project, explained that the focus on water and water related activities applies to the whole of the Caribbean.

In Trinidad, Carib has received $395,000 to support the development of special market information on agricultural activities in the region.

As it relates to Guyana, the visiting officials are looking at drainage and irrigation for the production of paddy/rice and other crops.

Said Sawh: "If we have a good supply - infrastructural development - we could use water as we like, when we like, and this is what the bulk of the programme is about."

Guyana's climatic conditions are characterised by prolonged dry seasons during which rice yields have been known to suffer. More recently, the El Nino weather phenomenon has also seriously affected the industry, one of Guyana's main foreign exchange earners.

Sawh noted that the RSPFS will also enhance food security, since its arrangements will make for improved production of crops and vegetables.

Officials will also help the countries of the region find international markets.

Very often, even though Caribbean countries would have been working feverishly at improving production, one of the most important setbacks has been finding markets for the produce.

And referring specifically to Guyana, Sawh noted that this initiative will boost considerably the country's trading capacity, since "Guyana has the potential to deliver".

Other areas to be explored here include beef production with the setting up of a modern abattoir.

"We are very enthusiastic about this idea," Sawh said, adding, "...we are going to see how the private sector in Italy can come and help us."

Noting that money has already been allocated, he said that through the FAO's feasibility study, the project is likely to begin as early as this April.

Sawh said the team which has already travelled to several of the Caribbean countries to benefit from the programme, is now meeting technical stakeholders in Guyana, and will ultimately assess the needs of the respective countries.

Alluding to the local situation, the minister said: "This, I think, is going to make a substantial impact upon the lives of our farmers in this country."

He sees the project as a fillip for agricultural development with many economies of scale in its favour.

Recalling the myriad problems faced with drainage and irrigation and the difficulty in getting adequate supplies of water for crops under cultivation in the dry season, Sawh conceded that the project is "exciting".

Expressing thanks on behalf of the people of the Caribbean to the FAO and the Italian team for their very meaningful contribution, the minister said: "We are looking forward to the success of the project which will begin about the middle of the year...I hope that down the road, true rural communities will be the ones to benefit..."

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