Agri ministry, McGill University sign Cdn$5M food security pact

The Ministry of Agriculture and McGill University on Tuesday inked a three-year Cdn$5M agreement aimed at stimulating greater food security. According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) press release, the project, themed, “Improving the Nutrition and Health of CARICOM Populations,” falls under the Caribbean International Food Security Research Fund and is being financed by the International Development Research Centre of Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency.

Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud said the project will significantly allow Guyana to address shortcomings due to climate change which has been affecting production. “I am very delighted that Guyana’s submission was accepted and it certainly gives us the type of confidence that what we are doing in agriculture is certainly making sense and is winning the support in terms of how it is we can do it better and expand,” he said.

The programme is to boost production and productivity in communities along the Coast, particularly Victoria, Golden Grove and Buxton will see backlands within the areas being brought back under cultivation, GINA said. It noted too that Parika farmers will also be targeted. The project will also complement interventions the ministry has already implemented, such as the Agriculture Diversification Project, Rural Enterprise and Agriculture programme and the Agriculture Support Services programme.

“The sector today faces many challenges as well as opportunities and we are hoping that through this project we can convert some of the challengers into opportunities to make change and do things better to make the sector more resilient,” Persaud said. Dr Chandra Madramootoo, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Other Sciences at McGill University, said the programme is part of Canada’s commitment as a member of the G8 to address the food security crisis. The programme, which started two years ago, saw the G8 leaders pledging to contribute to International Food Security effort. A Global Trust Fund on Food Security, administered by the World Bank, was also implemented in this regard. The Canadian Government said its universities can play a leading role by investing in research projects with developing countries. “This saw a proposal being launched in 2009 and at McGill University we decided to submit a proposal in conjunction with several other agencies one of which is the Agriculture Ministry…” Dr Madramootoo said.

According to GINA, the project will address Food and Nutrition insecurities to assist the region in reducing its dependence on imported food, and provide assistance to countries that have immense food producing potential. “This should enable countries to reduce food insecurities particularly in vulnerable areas,” Dr Madramootoo said, while adding that drainage and irrigation, post harvest technologies and improved fertilisation practices will also be administered in conjunction with the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute. Interventions will also be centred on ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’, the release said.

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