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The United Nations (UN) International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is contributing to rural development and social innovation in Guyana’s hinterland. Through an ongoing long-term project, the UN Fund is improving rural communities’ lives and livelihoods by supporting activities that generate income, improve nutrition, and help small-scale farmers to adapt to climate change.
Guyana is increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events, including flooding and drought, which destroys cassava crops. This affects the food security of a country where cassava is a centre piece of the Amerindian diet. Overall, access to a healthy diet in Guyana has become more expensive in recent years and surpasses the average costs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Maija Peltola, IFAD’s Country Director in Guyana, made these statements during the opening session of the Agri-Investment Forum & Expo, held in Georgetown to promote investment in agriculture and food production, as Guyana aims to reduce its reliance on food imports.
In a time of rapidly changing dietary habits, “Guyana has the opportunity to boost local production and strengthen food security, rather than depending on imported industrialized products. Amerindian produce has a high nutritional value, and by investing in these villages we are building a more resilient and inclusive food system for the future,” Peltola stated.
Peltola referred to the progress made by an IFAD-funded project, executed by the Ministry of Agriculture of Guyana. Since 2017, the Hinterland Environmentally Sustainable Agricultural Development Project (HESAD) has financed more than 300 initiatives, including supporting people to develop business plans, promoting public investments in rural infrastructure and implementing training programs.
“Around 30,000 Amerindians are experiencing positive outcomes from project services, half of them are women and a third are youth,” she stated.
Through an innovative participatory approach, communities identify business needs and opportunities in coordination with facilitators from the Ministry of Agriculture. Some of the business plans are related to small-scale poultry farms and cattle rearing, crop production, and agro-processing. They also include bakeries, eco-tourism initiatives and community-managed grocery shops, in an effort to diversify and increase incomes of rural families. The first 50 businesses launched have generated US$340,000 in income, supporting rural communities.
IFAD has financed the construction of small-scale rural infrastructure such as roads, bridges and docks, which have contributed to improve transportation for agricultural products, and strengthened community resilience. Many of the supported communities have chosen to refurbish or improve their school kitchen to provide a hot meal to children.
HESAD is also championing innovative approaches to gender equality, youth inclusion and nutrition behaviour change, combining formal training with creative methods like street theatre and radio serials. This approach not only benefits Amerindian communities but also contributes to a culture of innovation within the Ministry of Agriculture.
Through IFAD’s global portfolio and expertise, the Government of Guyana can tap into the latest practices in climate-smart farming, nature-based solutions, and the use of digital tools. Through South-South cooperation, the project has the opportunity to access knowledge and best practices from similar environments, like neighbouring Brazil.
IFAD has been working alongside the Government of Guyana since 1986, financing four projects with a total budget of US$40 million.