Agriculture is pivotal to our development

Dear Editor,
The advent of the Oil and Gas Industry has brought untold millions to our treasury, and for this we are thankful to the Almighty, in blessing us to see this day, Amen. Oil, together with its prudent management by our Government, has caused us to turn the bend, and we are now well on the homestretch of progress and development. It is a road we are on, and must travel with care and caution, because oil remains an exhaustible resource; meaning, it will run out, and where would that leave us?
Then it behooves us to invest in the inexhaustible resource of agriculture. Yes, amidst the rush and aggrandisement of oil, we must not forget that Guyana is still an agricultural country, and, as such, we must put considerable effort and resources into it.
First on my list of reasons is that more persons are employed in the agricultural industry than in oil and gas. There is a vast number of workers in the agricultural sector, over and above those that are employed in the oil and gas industry.
Secondly, we will not fall prey to the Dutch Disease, which is: pouring all our effort and attention into oil and gas, to the detriment of the other employers of our people. Again, agriculture comes right back into focus.
In this regard, I applaud the Government for its efforts to continue the sustainable development of the agricultural industry, and at the same time explore newer avenues of development.
Recent developments wherein the Government has highlighted the need to develop the animal husbandry industry, specifically mentioning the enhancement of small ruminants, are most welcome. This is an area in which small entrepreneurs can cash in. It is a very lucrative market, taking it from the vantage point of the price for mutton (lamb) right here in the Caribbean and on the wider world stage. Guyana needs to take full advantage of this venture.
The growth time of the animal, its feeding and general maintenance are relatively short compared to other animals. The carcass quality is also good. Mutton remains a meat kind preferred by most people everywhere. And, like I said, encouragement of the Barbadian Black Belly sheep in our ruminant population is most welcome, and small farmers should take ample opportunity to rear this animal and take command of the meat market, both locally and overseas.
I would just like to spend a little more time on the rearing of the Black Belly sheep, to say that keen care must be put into its grazing grounds and the quality of forage. Small ruminants like the sheep, which take up less space, are a plus for the farmer. However, the quality of grazing needs to be improved. In this regard, there are valuable lessons we can learn from the Kibbutz of Israel (Recently, I saw Guyana establishing ties with Israel).
Kibbutzim is a unique communal agricultural programme in which animals can be placed on communal farms and the system of rotational grazing can be instituted. Now, the naysayers would readily jump on this and say that Guyana has lots of land, so why go for the Israeli Kibbutz. But I would retort that we must take into consideration that our animals have to compete for the same space that the crop husbandry farmer needs, and many of us are aware of how dicey, if not contentious, this can become. So, my advice to the Agriculture Ministry is to adopt and adapt a system conducive to our situation here in Guyana.
Wherever there is land space for open grazing, that should be encouraged. However, in the present circumstances, wherein the two agricultural pursuits collide (please note: sheep are pesky ruminants), good sense should prevail, and a Guyanese version of kibbutz can be put in place.
Another area of importance is the planting of good quality forage. We in Guyana have the nutritious paragrass at our disposal, and this should be planted in areas where it does not exist. Other nutritious grasses that are found locally should be utilised.
Guyana is well on its way in the development trajectory, and agriculture is a mainstay. All efforts should be put into its modern development, all towards the good and prosperity of Guyana.

Neil Adams