In most developing countries, the socio-economic needs of rapidly increasing populations are the main driving force in the allocation of land resources to various kinds of uses, with food production as the primary land use. Heavy population pressure and the related increased competition from different types of land users have emphasized the need for more effective land-use planning and management. Rational and sustainable land use is an issue of great concern to governments and land users interested in preserving the land resources for the benefit of present and future populations.
Policy-makers and land users face two basic challenges: the need to reverse trends of land degradation in already-cultivated areas by improving conditions and re-establishing their level of fertility; and prevention of the degradation of land resources in new development areas through appropriate and just allocation and use of these resources to maintain productivity and minimize soil erosion. In both cases an integrated approach to planning and management of land resources is a key factor in a solution which will ensure that land is allocated to uses providing the greatest sustainable benefits. The promotion of integrated planning and management of land resources in cooperation with regional institutions, individual countries as well as land users is therefore critical.
Given the expansion of agriculture in Guyana, there is a clear need emerging to develop a set of guidelines to relate the scale and scope of agricultural development. These guidelines are intended to guide land resources specialists, land-use planners and other users desirous of designing and implementing agricultural projects. Successfully applied agro-ecological zones (AEZ) methodology address various issues, such as linking land-use outputs with other development goals in such areas as food production, food self-sufficiency, cash crop requirements, issues of soil fertility constraints, soil erosion risks and land degradation. Continuous expansion and refinement of AEZ land resources appraisal procedures and, more recently, linkage to geographic information systems (GIS) have greatly enhanced the power of AEZ land resources databases to implement a wide range of land resources applications. This includes large multilayer databases, linked with various kinds of models, management and decision-support tools and improved interfaces in order to facilitate the use of the systems by non-specialist users. Several variants of the methodology have emerged as it has expanded and been adapted to local conditions. It is my view that the Ministry of Agriculture should embark on a project that seeks to integrate planning and management of land resources in such a way that our natural land resources are preserved.