“No politics in agriculture!” – Minister to Region 7 farmers

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha has maintained that Government has no political agenda when it comes to the agricultural sector, adding that all farmers are key to ensuring food security as they are the ones who are supplying the food everyone eats.

A swine farmer raising an issue during the meeting

The Minister made this pellucid while meeting with farmers from riverine communities in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni). In a release from the Agriculture Ministry, it was stated that the meeting, which was held at the Bartica Community Centre Ground on Wednesday, came as a follow-up meeting to one held recently by President Dr Irfaan Ali, during which several agricultural issues were raised.
During the engagement, farmers told the Minister that they were grateful for all that the Government was doing to drive agricultural development in the country, but needed better farm-to-market access roads, agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and seeds, farming tools, and the need for better drainage of their farmlands.
Over the past year, farmers in several communities in the region have been left to count their losses due to extensive flooding, which is a direct result of the impacts of climate change. Extended rainy periods and swollen riverbanks continue to affect many farmers, often resulting in them suffering severe losses owing to flooding. Apart from issues with flooding, farmers present also told the Minister that in order for them to operate, they would need assistance with farm implements such as tillers as well as agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, and Acoushi ants’ bait.
Mustapha, while responding to issues raised, explained that the issues faced in the region, particularly flooding, were mostly caused by heavy rains and overtopping of the rivers into farmland. However, he said that a team from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) would visit the affected areas to see what could be done to minimise the flooding.

A Bartica farmer speaking with Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha

Additionally, he told the farmers that a team from the Ministry, comprising officers from the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) and the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), would return to the area within a week to conduct an assessment. He also said that the Ministry would make some of the requested farming tools available.
According to the release, Mustapha also told farmers that there is demand for root crops in several Caricom States and that the Government, through the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (New GMC), was willing to assist with securing markets for those crops.
“This is an area where we can do a lot of root crops. Things like cassava and sweet potatoes. We can work along with you to develop a processing facility here. During a recent visit to Barbados with His Excellency, [President Ali], there were interests made in accessing cassava flour. We are the only country in the Caribbean that can supply them with cassava flour. There is a ready market there. We can provide cassava mills and help the farmers. The Ministry has made similar interventions in Region Nine where about 50 cassava mills were donated to villages to produce cassava flour. We can also help you to package it to make it more attractive and find markets for you,” he added.
Mustapha also said that the Ministry through NAREI would also work with farmers to develop shadehouses to minimise the effects of climate change on their cultivation in addition to improved extension services which would see farmers benefiting from monthly engagements with extension staff attached to the Ministry.