There is need for Guyanese to embrace the notion of eating locally grown foods if Guyana is to remain successful as an agricultural driven country, said Education Minister Shaik Baksh.
His comments were forthcoming recently, even as he lamented the fact that local supermarkets are laden with foreign products which are appealing to the eye and pockets of consumers.
“If we do not change this we will not be able to succeed, we have to eat what we produce over time…and we have to start in the school system to do that,” the Minister asserted.
According to him, the onus is currently on the Ministry of Education’s School Health and Nutrition Unit to promote this notion in a more vibrant way.
“I have challenged them to have booklets and try to get programmes in place so that our children eat what we produce…We can change the situation if we try but this is just a part of it.”
The Minister was at the time trying to raise emphasis on the work of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to help put an end to world hunger. Statistics, according to the Minister, suggest that there are in excess of one billion people that are hungry in the world, a dilemma which continues to expand with each passing day on a global scale. “When you look at the need to improve food production by 70 percent by 2050 that is a big challenge for the world at large so therefore we have to support the end of hunger campaign to highlight the need to bring pressure to Governments and stakeholders such as institutes, farmers, the education systems, financial institutions and international organisations to bring it over clearly that unless new strategies are developed to end the pangs of hunger it will live with us for a long time.”
As such, he noted that the local Education Ministry endeavours to continually support the FAO’s end of hunger campaign.
According to Agriculture Trade Specialist within the Ministry of Agriculture, Ms Johan David, young people have a greater role to play in aiding in the alleviation of chronic hunger which the world now faces. She asserted, though, that while it is no longer acceptable that people just talk about the problem, this does not negate the fact that much can be done to fight hunger simply by being informed and spreading the word. The technological age, she noted has afforded many opportunities to voice concerns about the growing problem of hunger.
She related that ensuring food security entails that all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious foods to meet their dietary needs and food preference for a healthy and active lifestyle.
In Guyana, she noted that agriculture is the pivot around which much of the other sectors rotate. “It might even be said at this juncture that it is central to our development as a nation…” she added. And for this reason, she revealed, that the Government of Guyana, through the Agriculture Ministry has recognised the urgent need for a comprehensive strategy to ensure that the national goals are put forward in a document that would guide the future policies on the issue of food security in Guyana.
In drafting the 10-year strategy, all data available indicate that women and children are the most vulnerable to food insecurity. The Ministry of Agriculture in this regard, she disclosed, has recognised that an increased participation by youths in agriculture is vital to ensuring food and nutrition security since in Guyana.
David however noted that enrolment in educational institutions of agriculture nationally, has suffered in recent years despite growing opportunities for graduates in Food and Agriculture Sciences. “There is no reassuring evidence on the horizon that either of these trends will be reversed in the coming years. Correspondingly, growing pressures for youths in public schools to pursue rigorous academic tracks to meet increasing university entrance requirements have reduced the pool of secondary age students who study agriculture and have an interest in studying agriculture at university level.”
As a result, a serious brain drain away from agriculture is on the way with fewer youths going into the sector, David lamented.
Moreover, she added that the long term future of the Agriculture Industry is in question, as is the future of the extension system which draws a major portion of its clientele from agriculture and its employees from the institutes of agriculture.
For this reason, she concluded, that the burden is now on the current school population to seriously consider agriculture as a viable area of study to pursue.
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