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Stakeholders here and across the world participated in Guyana’s first national high-level dialogue in preparation for the United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit, which is scheduled for September 2021.
The Summit will bring together stakeholders to work on strategies to take action to transform the way the world produces, consumes, and thinks about food.
Although Guyana is a food secure nation, the Government is aware that more can be done to strengthen the local food system. As such, President Irfaan Ali has placed food and agriculture at the forefront of the Government’s development agenda.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, who also serves as the National Convener for Guyana, said that agriculture has a key role to play in transforming Guyana’s food system. He said other sectors also have important roles and a holistic approach should be taken to strengthen Guyana’s food system.
“The agriculture sector has a key role to play in transforming our food system. However, both private and public actors in all sectors such as Finance, Health, Environment, Tourism, Education, Human Services and Social Security, Local Government, Amerindian Affairs and Public Works have an impact on the way in which the food system functions.
We must therefore recognise the value of taking a more holistic view of our food system. By adopting a “food systems approach” rather than an individual sector approach, we can be more productive, more inclusive of the poor and vulnerable, more environmentally sustainable and resilient, and better equipped to deliver healthy and nutritious diets to all Guyanese,” Minister Mustapha said.
The Minister also said the Government is working to reduce farm and post-harvest waste and loss. He further stated that given the challenges brought on by the current global pandemic, building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stress is necessary to address challenges that may threaten sustainable food systems.
“We will seek to reduce on-farm and post-harvest food waste and loss by promoting the adaptation of harvesting, post-harvest and storage technologies that reduce food loss. Notably, we are also addressing the issue of food safety through the now established Guyana Food Safety Authority…COVID 19 has exposed the vulnerability of food production and distribution systems, especially to the most vulnerable and rural population.
It has had direct and indirect impacts on the livelihoods of farmers, fishers, vendors of agriculture inputs, food traders; and has exacerbated other challenges such as the threat of climate change. Therefore, building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stress is necessary to address these challenges that threaten a sustainable food system,” Minister Mustapha said.
Guyana’s vision for agriculture
In 2021, the agriculture sector is expected to experience massive growth and development after receiving a budgetary allocation of $22.6 billion, the largest allocation to date.
In his presentation, Minister Mustapha said the Government will continue to strive towards ensuring the activities of each sector are geared at transforming Guyana’s agri-food system.
“Guyana’s food system transformation is at the core of Government’s development aspirations. Over the coming years, the Government of Guyana will strive to ensure that all activities of our sectors and subsectors, particularly the agriculture sector, are geared towards the goal of transforming our agri-food system to be more sustainable. We envision a modernized e-agriculture sector with enhanced incomes, enhanced productivity, value-addition, increased market access, and the production of safe and nutritious agricultural commodities that Guyana will produce for itself and the global market. We believe these actions will achieve the long-term transformation of Guyana’s agri-food systems in an oil-based economy.
Indeed, volatile food prices, changing consumption patterns and socio-economic circumstances, external shocks, challenges with agricultural productivity, and the potentially devastating effects of climate change, make it a particularly daunting challenge. Let us all make sure that we do everything within our capacities to ensure we take the necessary steps towards transformation,” Minister Mustapha said.
The Minister called on participating bodies to collectively work on improving the management of every aspect of the global food system, and to take heed of the urgency needed to address existing challenges.
Other presenters included the UN’s Food Systems Summit Dialogues Support Team’s Strategic Director, Dr, David Nabarro, FAO’s Chief Economist, Dr, Maximo Torero Cullen, Special Advisor to IICA’s Director General, Dr. Eduardo Trigo, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, and Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Mr. Paul Cheong. Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the UN, H.E. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett moderated the summit.(DPI)