PPP/C Govt’s commitment to revitalisation of agriculture in Guyana

Dear Editor,
Food is essential for our survival, a fundamental requirement of life and the provider of strength, vitality and energy. It is also the keeper of our cultural traditions and indispensable to our social lives — think of any celebration, and it will involve food. In some parts of the world, communities are converting football fields into community farms as their populations continue to grow and their citizens depend on farmers for food more than ever before. In Guyana, we are fortunate that we have land and water combined with the correct climate for agriculture.
However, our relationship with food is dangerously imbalanced. We produce enough food but many still don’t have sufficient to eat, cannot afford a healthy diet. At the same time, we waste one-third of all food produced along with the natural resources that went into its production.
Our food and agricultural systems stretch planetary boundaries beyond their limits. Valuing quantity over quality and driving farmers to produce monocrops for low prices, using the natural resources needed for sustained production and degrading the land, will lead to climate change and extreme weather events.
As the coronavirus crisis unfolded, we started to understand how fragile our food systems are. We saw news stories of food destroyed, milk dumped and crops rotting in the fields, while consumers faced empty shelves. Our complicated supply chains couldn’t adapt fast enough to our changing realities.
To mend our damaged relationship with food, there are critical questions we need to answer: How do we produce sufficient food that’s healthy for both the people who produce it and the people who eat it? How do we ensure our food systems are fair, resilient and equitable? How can we feed our growing population and protect our planet for generations to come?
We have a choice: We can continue to grow our food systems in a linear, exploitative and extractive way; or we can move to a system that promotes biodiversity, regeneration, nutritious food, equity and healthy people. We believe the decision is clear. We must choose to work with the planet — not against it — for the benefit of people. As our population continues to grow, people will depend upon farmers for food — more than ever before. We must empower farmers to drive solutions and be at the forefront of Guyana’s regenerative revolution by making them an integral part of policy discussions. They can help build the system of products and services that are locally relevant and reduce dependency on patented and/or chemical inputs.
This is critical to overcoming the biggest challenges of our time: a degrading environment, loss of biodiversity and climate change. Regenerative agriculture leads to healthy soil, capable of producing high quality, nutrient-dense food. It also improves rather than degrades the land and supports productive farms and healthy communities. This helps safeguard farmers’ livelihoods so they can grow the food we need now and in the future.
Though we’re hopeful for the future, we are quickly running out of time. We urgently need to remove the barriers that prevent us from transforming the way we produce and consume food. This involves changing mindsets, trying new things and learning fast. We don’t yet know all the answers, but we do know that business as usual is the problem. We must change course and do it now. We are privileged to have the PPP/C Government’s commitment to the revitalisation of agriculture in Guyana – modernising and upgrading infrastructure; strengthening support to our farmers.
Which is only possible through collaboration between farmers, consumers, our Government, businesses and NGOs.
Together, we can work toward a food system that not only feeds us but also celebrates life — one that nurtures people, adds colour and flavour to our plates and palates and, most importantly, ensures a future for ourselves on this planet’s important finite minerals like phosphates. Food loss and waste can be composted so valuable nutrients return to the soil instead of being thrown away. And organic farm waste can be used for bioenergy to power homes and agribusinesses. New nature-based technologies such as the use of black soldier flies to compost waste, can generate multiple useful products including compost, fertiliser and animal feed.

David Adams