With Guyanese farmers set to benefit from specialised technical assistance under a $5.3 million Caribbean Agricultural Productivity Improvement Activity (CAPA) project being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha on Friday met with a team from the agency to discuss priority areas.
During the meeting, Minister Mustapha disclosed that a lot has been done over the past three years to assist farmers and that the outcomes have indicated that both Guyana and the Caribbean are moving in the right direction.
Minister Mustapha also spoke about Guyana’s plan to commence construction of a food terminal before the end of 2023 as the government gears up to make Guyana a regional food distributor.
“We have a lot of room to collaborate and I know USAID has been a valuable partner over the years. We are seeing a lot of positive results from what we started when we took office in 2020. Those results are very promising for us in terms of food security. We are on the verge of starting our food terminal so that we can be a food distributor for the Caribbean. I have the technical people working and we are looking to get that project started before the year is out because we have a lot in place already. So, overall, I think we are moving in the right direction in the Caribbean in terms of the 25 by 2025 Initiative,” he explained.
Program Director for IESC’s USAID Caribbean Agricultural Productivity Improvement Activity (CAPA), Sandiford Edwards informed Minister Mustapha that the upcoming programme cycle for USAID’s CAPA is scheduled to commence sometime in January. He also said that through consultations with agencies like the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), the local Private Sector, and farmers, they were able to identify three target commodities for support.
“We have identified three value chains in terms of support for Guyana. Turmeric is one as the government has invested in a major plant in Region One. So, in discussion, we agreed that turmeric is an area where we are going to provide some support in terms of working with the farmers.”
We’ve also listed coconuts, recognising that this is the third most exported produce from Guyana. We’ve also looked at cherries and how we can work with farmers to access resources. We met with some of the large producers and there is a gap in supply where we can support farmers to expand production. We are in deep discussion with the GBTI to look at the staff capacity building in agricultural lending to see how we can support them with specialized agriculture loan products. The project will also work with input suppliers,” he explained.
Minister Mustapha said that the government is now repositioning and revitalising the spices sector and has since designated Region One as the spices region of the country.
“We’ve started a lot of work to develop our spice industry. In fact, Region One was designated the spice region of the country. For this crop, the farmers are expected to reap about a million pounds of ginger. We started the cultivation of other spices like black pepper, and nutmeg, and we’ll continue to expand on those. We’ve also, in the three sub-districts in Region One, built processing facilities to support these industries,” Minister Mustapha added.
Earlier this week Regional Representative of USAID in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, Mr. Mervyn Farroe disclosed that the programme is currently in the design phase in Guyana. Mr. Farroe also said the new farmer-to-farmer programme is a five-year initiative that would start this year. “Farmer-to-farmer sends US-based volunteers on technical assignments and these volunteers really have technical skills to provide hands-on training to communities, cooperatives, agri-businesses, and educational institutions,” he said.
The USAID Director for the Eastern and Southern Caribbean highlighted that CAPA is one of the aid agency’s key collaborations with CARICOM that emerged from the 9th Summit of the Americas.
He noted that USAID had responded to Guyana’s mission to ensure food security in the Caribbean by crafting the CAPA project which has three interconnected objectives that are aimed at generating tangible positive impact for smallholder farmers, enterprises, and consumers across the region.