The Ministry of Agriculture under Noel Holder has been missing in action (MIA) for four years. Now with the addition of Minister Adams-Yearwood, the Ministry is still MIA. Four years too late, after assuming control of the Government, APNU/AFC has done the right thing, for all the wrong reasons, in giving Noel Holder support with a second Minister. Minister Adams-Yearwood was appointed in the Agriculture Ministry not because APNU/AFC recognised they were wrong in not appointing a second Agriculture Minister four years ago, or conceding Minister Holder has been ineffective and unable to run the Agriculture Ministry alone. Her appointment is a stunt falsely proclaiming they are serious in combating corruption.
Minister Adams-Yearwood had been under public outrage for presiding over the Ministry of Housing that awarded contracts to her husband. In the face of public condemnation for corruption and nepotism, President Granger banished the Minister to Agriculture in the “public’s interest”, saying she was “fit and proper” for a new Ministry. A Minister found unfit for one Ministry because of possible corrupt practices cannot be “fit and proper” for banishment to another Ministry. If there was enough reason to find her “not fit and proper” for the Housing Ministry, then it is improper and irresponsible to reward her by foisting her on the Agriculture Ministry.
Minister Adams-Yearwood shuffling into the Agriculture Ministry is cosmetic jiggery-pokery, nothing else. Her placement in agriculture was intended only to distract people from the clear cases of corruption in the Ministry of Housing, no matter how much President Granger and Minister Adams-Yearwood try to spin the story. But this newest stunt will not remedy the complacency and the persistent MIA of the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry has been MIA for all important agriculture matters, including matters such as the unemployed sugar workers coping with unemployment and poverty. The promised new economic planks in the closed sugar estates have not emerged, even as three years have now elapsed at Wales Estate. The Ministry of Agriculture is MIA in conceptualising and implementing new economic activities for the closed estates.
During the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) in 2013, I spoke of cyber-agriculture, using cyber-technology to advance agriculture in Guyana. This generated much interest among several international organisations. Between 2015 and now, at least one of these organisations showed up with a funded proposal for cyber-agriculture in Guyana. The Minister of Agriculture and the Ministry showed no interest and only provided a lukewarm reception to the organisation’s representatives who expended both financial resources and time to come to Guyana. Guyana’s articulation at the CWA 2013 encouraged the agriculture international bodies to focus attention on Guyana. Because the Ministry of Agriculture has been MIA on this issue since 2015 and because of their lukewarm reception of the organisation which was willing to start a cyber-agriculture project here, Guyana lost a golden opportunity when that organisation shifted the proposal to Africa, where cyber-agriculture is flourishing.
In 2014, Guyana played an important role in getting the European Union (EU) to include more than 6 million euros in the 11th EU Economic Development Fund (EDF) 2014-2020 for the further development of the coconut industry, with Guyana being a major beneficiary. I had lobbied and it was agreed that Guyana will be on the coordinating mechanism for the coconut project. It is now 2019; I have not seen the manifestation of any meaningful activity under the 11th EDF for the coconut industry, nor for any of the agriculture projects in Guyana. I do know that Guyana is not included in the coordinating mechanism. How did we get left out? It is nothing short of the Ministry of Agriculture MIA.
Both the cyber-agriculture and the 11th EDF coconut projects are significant projects and on both of these the Ministry of Agriculture, by being MIA, cost Guyana valuable resources and the opportunity to advance agriculture. Just as they have been MIA with the $30 billion GuySuCo loan in twilight zone, as unemployed sugar workers struggle, as rice farmers face unending challenges, paddy bugs being their latest catastrophe, this Ministry continues to be MIA at all important times. When farmers are faced with onerous increases in land leases or drainage and irrigation fees, the Ministry of Agriculture is MIA. When farmers have their land leases revoked, the Ministry is MIA. Will any of this change with the addition of Minister Adams-Yearwood in the Ministry of Agriculture, with responsibility for rural development? Maybe, the real question is will Minister Adams-Yearwood be doing the Ministry of Communities work, addressing rural development, from the Ministry of Agriculture?