Here are some convictions vital to any large-scale antipoverty programme in Guyana, in light of the diversification from sugar production at Wales Sugar Estate, West Bank Demerara. One -Poverty itself is the problem not the individuals who are poor. They represent immense human capital. Two- The cause of poverty is not lack of money capital but underutilisation of material and especially human resources.
Productive work opportunities outside the rural sector will not be able to absorb more than a fraction of the natural increment in the rural population of working age in the coming decades. Most of these people will have to remain in the rural sector, that is to say agriculture, rural industries, and other rural services.
Intensification of agricultural production could absorb some, but for a majority of the present and potential rural poor, other avenues have to be identified within the rural sector its self. The solution to this problem apparently lies in two concurrent approaches, one relating to promotion of rural industries and the other to integrating this approach within an overall rural development strategy.
It has now been widely accepted that traditional crafts , rural industries and the informal sector, with their labour-intensive processes, have better scope for providing work opportunities to large numbers of people, provided they are efficiently organised and supported. The key to development clearly must be in the expansion of participation in productive activity, an objective that depends primarily on the ability of governments to accelerate the commercialization of agriculture and to expand employment through promotion of small- scale industries in both rural and urban areas.
These two sectors- agriculture and small industries provide the greatest potential for achieving equitable growth at this time in Guyana. A Green economy is the ideal solution for Guyana at this stage of historical and social development. Sugar seems to be set for a fall, the dimensions of which we are yet to visualize. The sugar conglomerate can best alleviate its expected demise through the adaptation of human resources to the rescue.
Our agricultural communities, who are not always operating in ideal farming conditions, have been displaying tremendous acumen in providing food for local consumption and export. We can do better in many areas, especially in post harvest handling of produce and internal marketing, and other areas of good management in the 21st century.
With this human capital available plentiful, we can spread same around to grant Guysuco a soft landing. We have no heritage industrial system, no major pollution; Guyana is blessed with large acreages of arable land on the Coastline of the country, substantial water supply for irrigation and transport, boundless resources from solar, wind and wave; in addition to traditional hydropower resources.
The massive number of unemployed and under-employed citizens of the redundant sugar plantation at Wales, are the other resource we under estimate for their entrepreneurial values and skills. Wales presents a window and particular set of optics to create jobs for the population in light of the need to find work for citizens of the country. In presenting the case of small farmer agriculture, we include the use of family labour in the many aspects of agri-endeavours.
Dis-aggregation of land and devolution of control of land usage to individual small farmers would be the first wave of change to promote and widen private sector oriented sub-sector of the traditional agricultural population. With proper planning simple post-harvesting processing possibilities are introduced in the form of juices, fruit pulp, dried fruits, dried herbs and spices can be packaged and marketed within local and foreign market places.
The creation of market oriented operation in area will naturally attract and create opportunities for people with industrial skills. As these industrial and agricultural skills grow together to expand the economy, they would attract IT Specialists and Services to help manage storage logistics, water management and marketing activities.
With the interlinked and evolving developmental patterns, Wales offers the prospects to becoming a stellar example of how a green economy could be established, and private sector operations enhanced to create the better life for our nation. With the placement of an army of small farmers on the Wales lands, we can ensure the maintenance of the bed and drains, established since enslavement times, and would attest to various agronomic research which suggest that the Wales soil ranging from the aluminium toxic clays to the organic pegasse soil types, clearly showed that there were benefits from intensive hand work – forking and shovel work – and fertilizer additives. We venture to suggest that small farmers would be more adaptive to the use of organic manure, since many of them would be inclined to keep livestock and practice integrated farming, thus proclaiming organic farming, which is more of a necessity than a food fad.
From a crop diversification perspective the Canals Polders adjacent to Wales is known for its fruit, vegetables and ground provision potential and already supplies the local market and exports to a small extent. For national economic consideration, the challenge is to upgrade this potential for a bigger export market through a combination of a labour intensive and mechanical production initiative.
Cut flower is also a potential market, as haliconias, and some lilies grow abundantly on the organic soils in the West Demerara areas. The cultivation of non- traditional fruit such as rambutan, now being grown in Canal 1, suggests that other fruits from climates similar to Guyana’s, could add to our own unique fruits, such as the sapodilla, mammy apple, sour sop and others to be considered as export oriented.
Chairman, Management Committee
National Farmers Organization
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