Guyana Chronicle
February 25, 2007

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THE development of appropriate research and technology transfer through efficient extension services are needed to ensure Guyana’s food security is not threatened by the effects of climate change globally.

According to the Honourable Robert Persaud, Minister of Agriculture, Guyana’s agriculture sector has increased its export capacity tremendously through the implementation of a number of initiatives including the CARICOM’s Jagdeo Initiative.

However, with regards to the UN International Report and Stern’s Report on Climate Change, a number of new initiatives will be implemented shortly.

“A National Climate Committee was formed comprising of stakeholders from the various agencies. The Guyana Government is very committed to take the necessary actions that will help us adapt to changes in climate in both the short and longer term,” he says.

According to Minister Persaud, a National Climate Change unit will be created within the Hydrometeorological Service Ministry of Agriculture.

Creation of the National Climate Change Unit and the possibility for a Centre represents “the government’s comprehensive and wholistic response to climate change.”

One of the most effective activities implemented to cushion the impact of climate change is the effective water management systems throughout the various agricultural zones in Guyana.

“All of our water management plans take climate change into account. The improved designs of our drainage and irrigation systems and capacity building through the Water Users Association.”

The Stern’s Report on climate change was compiled by Sir Nicholas Stern, a distinguished development economist and former chief economist at the World Bank.

According to the report, our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th Century.

There will probably be both more droughts and more floods. An increased incidence of devastating storms is expected. There is also an increased risk of famine in the poorest countries.

The Report warns that we are too late to prevent any deleterious consequences from climate change. The prospects are worst for Africa and developing countries, so the richer nations must provide them with financial and technological help to prepare and adapt.

In recognizing the importance of research and development, Minister Persaud outlined government’s commitment to strengthen the extension services and the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI).

“This year the Ministry of Agriculture has made available 216 million dollars to NARI since research and development is critical and in our context we want research and development to be adaptable to our local conditions and also that NARI places emphasis on technology transfer. In Guyana, we will be working to conduct collaborative activities with institutions in India, China, USA and regionally with the UWI so that we can benefit from research works conducted.”

According to Minister Persaud, farmers will soon benefit from a structured extension service and ready access to information using information technology.

“We will be utilizing the services of NARI our in drive to reorganize the extension unit. This year 140 million dollars will be expended in the new extension services.

“For the first time in recent years, there will have a structured interaction between research and extension and the twp will have to operate hand in hand because they are intrinsically linked in us providing better services to our farmers.

“In another month, five of ten kiosks will be made accessible for farmers where by a farmer can go into and have access to all the information we have on production systems, market intelligence and technology. The extension services will also provide feedback for appropriate research activities to be undertaken.’’

Apart from the provision of improved services, some of the areas earmarked for further development will include inland communities both in Regions 9 and 10.

“In Region 10, both the Intermediate Savannahs and Linden have shown considerable progress in the area of agricultural development and as potential source of food security.

“There is a great economic opportunity in agriculture since the soils can be used for cultivation of Soya beans and cashew by adapting improved technology. Region 9 has its strength in terms of livestock.

“At present, we have officers on the ground working with farmers to resolve some of the issues affecting them. We want to work with them very closely. We want to work with other areas too which would be vital for our diversification programme.”

In highlighting NARI’s research and Development agenda, Director Dr. Oudho Homenauth stated the Institute is geared towards the delivery of advance technology especially in the areas of biotechnology, water management, as well as improved crop and animal husbandry practices.

“In 2007 NARI will aggressively continue work in establishing various drip irrigation systems in various inland agricultural communities especially Linden and the Rupununi Savannahs. We also project the resuscitation of the country’s only biotechnology laboratory which will have the capacity for molecular characterization and GMO detection.

“More emphasis to be placed on the production commodities such as cashew, herbs and spices and rambutan especially in rural communities to enhance livelihoods and the expansion of greenhouse technology.”

Further, major focus would be on projects which would assist in categorizing commercial agriculture development.

This would include the promotion of plantation type agriculture as well as large scale livestock production. Another area that would be emphasized will be agro energy with the emphasis on bio fuel production in collaboration with the Institute of Applied Science (IAST).