Multi million dollar project afoot to aid small farmers by Shirwin Campbell
Guyana Chronicle
March 5, 2004

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The ability of the Small-scale fruit and vegetable farmers in Guyana will be significantly enhanced shortly with a multi million dollar experimental project for the implementation of better water management systems to enhance crop production.

According to a release from National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), the programme is funded by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the Government of Italy, under the CARICOM/CARIFORUM Food Security and Safety Programme

The programme, which is being coordinated by NARI, targets small farming communities throughout the Caribbean region and will extend for a three-year period.

In Guyana, $35 million will be made available to NARI for sharing the cost of designing, establishing and operating a seed quality improvement facility at NARI's Demonstration Station in Black Bush Polder, Region 6.

In addition, nineteen million dollars will be injected to provide assistance for a sample of farmers who will be provided with both technical and financial assistance for the provision of water management system and irrigation technologies on their farm holdings.

According to Dr. O. Homenauth, Director of NARI, 'The adoption of improved systems will increase productivity and efficiency in water use so as to enable better year round returns from intensive vegetable and fruit production for both domestic and export markets'.

The release noted that in a recent visit to Guyana, Mr. P. I. Gomes, FAO Representative held discussions with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and NARI pertaining to criteria for selection of farming systems for the programme.

According to Mr. Gomes, the criteria for selection of farmers for the project is based on their willingness to commit their holdings for the establishment of one acre of demonstration of irrigation systems. The venture is expected to be a partnership in which inputs and equipment will be funded on a cost-sharing basis with the project, NARI stated.

The release stated that keen interest has been shown by farmers in regions 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10. The design and costing for the demonstration will be prepared in consultation with farmers. On farm meetings and skill training session with farmers groups and community-based organization will be planned for later this year.

The main aim of the project is the promotion of food security and safety by the increased production and consumption of vegetables and fruits at affordable prices by a great majority of people in the Caribbean.

In a recent study conducted in Barbados by Food Technologist, Reggie Clarke revealed that the consumption and increased production of fresh fruits and vegetables can contribute to the reduction of chronic diseases such as obesity, stroke and diabetes while at the same time improve the live hood of farmers.

A significant component of the CARICOM/CARIFORUM Food Security and Safety Programme will be a series of community nutrition enhancement workshops and public awareness campaign with the view to encourage better eating habits and the spending by rural households on more nutritional and economical foods.

Other countries visited for the implementation of this programme were: Belize, Jamaica, Grenada and St. Lucia. Farms in these areas have been identified for intensive production of vegetables, roots and local fruits. Considerable potential for agro processing as well as links between the tourism sector have been planned. The introduction of market intelligence and agri business planning tools through related FAO project will form part of the on going training for farmers processors, vendors and hoteliers

A core group of 100 - 120 farmers and their households in each member state will be targeted for exchanges and sharing of experiences in order to identify the best practices for wider diffusion across rural areas and farming entrepreneurs.

The common knowledge of the key stakeholders will be used for the formulation of policies both regionally and nationally with regards to food safety and security, the release stated