Jagdeo says NARI must focus on initiative driven programmes
-notes agency gets about $200M per annum
Stabroek News
February 15, 2007

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President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday urged the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) to focus on more initiative driven programmes as Guyana does not have the capacity to be involved in big research programmes.

Jagdeo told Director at NARI, Dr Oudho Homenauth, that the institute's job is to look at new initiatives that have sprung up and to explore whether they can be adopted in Guyana. "At the end of the year we must measure performance by production, that is the only way we can make a difference," the president said. Jagdeo made these comments yesterday afternoon during a budget meeting at the institute. He pointed out that about $200M per year is allocated to NARI and there is need to see where and how the money is being spent.

Jagdeo opined that one of the problems in the Caribbean is that there are too many pilot programmes in the agriculture sector which seem to be circular. He said he has criticised this pattern at Caricom and urged NARI to ensure that they are not trapped in the same mould. Jagdeo said he wants to see NARI leading the way in diversifying the country's economy. The president said Guyana has been charged with the responsibility of leading the agricultural crop group in the region and as such he is looking at the national agenda to see what they are doing to support this agenda. He reiterated that focus should be on initiatives. Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud also attended the meeting.

In response, Homenauth told the president that NARI is promoting commercial agriculture and it has submitted an initiative to the Ministry of Agriculture for approval. He also said the institute is involved in a liquid manure programme and an organic pineapple project at Lake Mainstay. Homenauth then gave the president a document which detailed the project they had submitted to the ministry and highlighted some of its points. Jagdeo said he had already been involved in discussions about some of the issues and some have actually been on stream for some time. The president said soil testing has been ongoing in Regions One and Two and it should conclude in June. Persaud then pointed out that this programme would be included in the National Soil Usage programme.

Jagdeo then asked if the programme needed technical scientific assistance and, after some time, Homenauth said it does. He also said the institute needed equipment though he did not reveal specifics in the presence of the media. Jagdeo then said that he has found that there are problems and very general needs but people are often left aimless when there is nothing specific for them to do. In an attempt to underscore what he needs Jagdeo sent one of his security officers for an item from his vehicle which contained among other things, two large dunks which he said he had brought back from St Vincent after attending the Heads of Government conference there. He recalled seeing large dunks as a boy and asked how the country could start producing same. He gave the items to Homenauth and suggested that the institute wait for them to mature and plant them to see what happens. Jagdeo also showed Homenauth some samples of agricultural products that were "nicely packaged" which he also brought from St Vincent.

After the meeting, Jagdeo and the team toured the institute.