The agriculture ministry, through the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) hosted the first workshop aimed at implementing a strategy to start cassava enterprise and industry development.

NARI Director Dr Oudho Homenauth told participants including farmers from hinterland areas that work has already started on the project, according to GINA.

Guyana’s Ambassador to Brussels Patrick Ignatius Gomes who attended the workshop, said the initiative is based on an agriculture commodities programme that was launched in April in Jamaica. He noted that within the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are the largest number of least developed countries in the world and as a result rural development is fundamental.

Gomes said the session would ensure an enhanced quality of life, and food availability and security. In Rome, he said, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud had pointed to Guyana and the Caribbean as models for nations wishing to diversify their commodities.

Meanwhile, Food and Agriculture Organisation economist Dr Piero Conforti remarked that the objectives of the project are to improve income, livelihood and reduce income vulnerability. He also said it would aid small farmers in the commodity chain.

Persaud who opened the workshop said there was need for a coordinated and deliberate strategy in the cassava industry. He said this was important at the national level and as such his ministry was embarking on a focused agricultural diversification strategy. The agriculture sector contributes about 36% of the Gross Domestic Product and accounts for direct economic benefits to one third of the population.

Persaud said though much effort had not been made earlier to add value to cassava as a crop, other than through products like cassava bread and casareep the ministry is upping its efforts to realise the potential of this crop. It plans to do this through initiatives to help farmers to understand the crop. Persaud said too support from international agencies will aid the industry in this direction as well as in garnering the resources to promote it.

Additionally, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)representative Antonio Lopes Montes also explained the importance of cassava, cassava production, cassava as a food, feed and for other options such as a bio-fuel. He encouraged farmers to get involved in semi-mechanization since it would allow for better yield.

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