Learn from Guyana’s experience – President Ali at launch of Living Soils Initiative in Africa

… promotes inclusivity, climate-resilient agriculture

President Dr Irfaan Ali

President Dr Irfaan Ali has touted some of Guyana’s climate-resilient agricultural practices as the Living Soils Initiative in Africa was launched on Thursday.
Piloted by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Living Soils Initiative aims to accelerate soil regeneration through a collaborative approach throughout the continent of Africa.
Speaking at the virtual launch on Thursday morning, President Ali, who is the current Chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), pointed out that this initiative was not only transformative but also significant for Africa, where there were serious threats of land degradation, and soil health and fertility were declining thus affecting daily life and agricultural activities.
“This initiative offers an approach to addressing key environmental and agricultural challenges facing the continent. By focusing on regenerative agricultural practices that prioritise soil health and biodiversity, this initiative aims to combat land degradation, enhance food security, and build resilience to climate change. In Africa, where a large proportion of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods and where soil degradation threatens the productivity of farmlands, the Living Soils initiative represents a transformative opportunity,” he noted.

President Ali delivering remarks at the virtual launch of the Living Soils Initiative in Africa on Thursday morning

According to the Head of State, the promotion of practices such as agroforestry, cover cropping, composting, and conservation agriculture will improve soil fertility and water retention as well as mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and enhance ecosystem services.
Drawing from Guyana’s experience, President Ali, who is leading Caricom’s aggressive food security agenda, stressed the need for inclusivity in order for this initiative to be successful in Africa.
“Guyana’s own experience suggests that projects should be inclusive. First, they should focus on supporting small farmers in participating countries. Second, the active involvement of women and youth should be integral to these projects. Women and youth constitute significant portions of the agricultural workforce in many communities. By ensuring their participation, projects can benefit from diverse perspectives, knowledge, and skills, ultimately leading to more sustainable and inclusive outcomes,” he stated.
The Guyana Leader also outlined the need for projects that promote climate-resilient agriculture, which incorporates practices and technologies that help farmers adapt to changing climatic conditions, such as extreme weather events like droughts, and shifts in rainfall patterns.
“By implementing climate-resilient agriculture techniques such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and water-efficient irrigation systems, projects can enhance the resilience of agricultural systems to climate-related risks. This not only protects against further land degradation but also ensures the sustainability and agricultural productivity in the face of increasingly unpredictable climate dynamics.”
“I encourage greater use of organic inputs, the use of shade houses, the wider use of drip irrigation and the introduction of resilient crop systems. This includes providing access to strong, stress-tolerant crop varieties and more nutritious staple foods to prepare for potential climate-related challenges. These interventions aim to boost agricultural yield, decrease soil erosion, improve water quality and quantity, and enhance the income and food security of beneficiaries,” the Head of State stressed.
President Ali believes that the continent of Africa is poised to assume a much larger global footprint in shaping a more resilient and food-secure future for all. Like its mineral resources, he said, the continent’s agricultural and environmental potential is massive.
Africa is home to 65 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land and 10 per cent of the planet’s internal renewable freshwater sources. With these expansive arable lands and abundant freshwater resources, the Guyanese Leader contends, Africa has the unquestionable potential to emerge as a significant player in global food supply chains.
Given its potential as a major food frontier, the Guyanese Leader posited, Africa’s annual food import bill should not be the current figures – more than US$60 billion.
“With careful investments in infrastructure, technology, and sustainable farming practices, African nations can harness this potential to not only meet their own food security needs but also contribute substantially to addressing global food needs. Africa’s rich agricultural diversity and favourable climatic conditions position it a key player in feeding the world’s population,” he added.
Despite this, however, the Guyanese Head of State pointed out that the continent’s serious threats from land degradation, including desertification, posed a hindrance to efforts to combat climate change and enhance Africa’s food security.
Some estimates put land degradation and desertification as affecting as much as 45 per cent of all lands throughout Africa. On the continent, soil health and fertility are declining, causing problems for farming, food, jobs, and the environment thus making it hard for soil to benefit from things like fertilisers and better seeds, leading to lower crop yields. It also makes small farmers and communities more vulnerable to climate change.
“I, therefore, wish every success to this [Living Soils] Initiative. I am confident that it coincides with and will contribute to a new era where Africa emerges as a powerhouse in global food production and climate change mitigation. Africa is poised to assume a much larger global footprint in shaping a more resilient and food-secure future for all. Let us, therefore, rally behind the vision of a prosperous and sustainable Africa, leading the way towards a brighter, greener tomorrow,” President Ali posited. (G8)