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Many industry observers believe that Guyana’s small farmers, and the agriculture sector for the most part, have been neglected for decades. Some argue that ignorance and lack of innovation are two factors which have served to stymie the growth and development in the agriculture sector in any meaningful way.
To be fair, billions of dollars have been spent on rice and sugar by well intentioned governments and billions more have also been spent and wasted on numerous projects which will be later examined for long term impact. One of the consistent criticisms is that consultants, loan officers, administrators and political actors have all benefited from many ill advised projects, often leaving farmers out in the cold.
There is a risk that the expanding oil industry will be the final nail in the proverbial coffin of small farmers and gardeners, however, two things happened that have given the small farmer room to reimagine his and her future and importance to the society.
The two factors that gave farmers this breathing room are elections
2020 and Covid-19. The anticipated disruption due to elections and the impact of Covid-19 curfews and quarantine have brought farmers and
gardeners back into focus, resulting in a resurgence of discussions around food security motiving citizens to once again plant their own kitchen gardens and small community farms.
Quarantines and curfews mean less movement, less work, less disposable
income and less spending power. The government hamper program which got off to a slow start and eventually fizzled presented a key opportunity to expand and distribute the production of local product options like peanut butter produced by the Aranaputa Women’s Coop or local cold pressed coconut oil instead of imported foods.
Whether it’s a plot to sell produce or containers to produce for your
family, Guyanese need to refocus on agriculture on a national level. Farming and gardening have benefits beyond the dollar saved from not having to shop. Farming and gardening are therapeutic activities which can serve to give life meaning and reduce stress. Another area often overlooked but known by many, is food as medicine. It is an established fact that “eat well, live well, eat poorly, live in the hospital”
Another concern for citizens is that the food supply of Guyana is affected by chemical and fertiliser abuse by many farmers who wish to maximise their financial gain; many are often ignorant of the impact of these chemicals on the health of citizens.
Finally, the political element of food is also often overlooked as
well. Guyana is a fractured society with many anomalies and a vicious
political culture. In the battle for victory in Election 2020, there were
persons posting on social media about poisoning or contaminating the food
supply. This kind of discourse sharply brings into focus the issue of food security and the trust one must have to shop in the markets of Guyana.
If your health is a priority to you, then you should be able to have trust in the food you consume. The food you grow or that is grown locally in your community is food in which you can have maximum trust. We should all
reimagine our future, our health and our well being by doing some planting
of our own.