After the recent stories about the modest success that has been realized in our attempt to begin to substitute the country’s potato and onion imports with higher levels of local production we are now being told by the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (see story in this issue) that sufficient work has been done in terms of research into farming techniques and the varieties that are best suited to local conditions to give rise to the likelihood that locally cultivated carrots, as well, a few years down the road, will save us further amounts of foreign exchange.
Perhaps the most impressive development that has arisen out of the rise of potatoes and onions and now carrots as crops that can in the foreseeable future be cultivated and marketed on a commercial scale in Guyana, is the level of collaboration that has been realized between institutions like NAREI and CARDI, on the one hand, and the farmers themselves. Many of our farmers have long been traditionalists, sticking to favoured or tried and tested crops over the years, confident in both the methods applied in their cultivation and the financial returns to be realized on the market.
It appears from everything that we are being told by the Ministry of Agriculture and specifically by NAREI that there has emerged a higher level of preparedness on the parts of both coastal and hinterland farmers to work with NAREI on experimental initiatives involving both new crops and more scientifically advanced farming methods. In the instances of both potatoes and onions, it would appear that we are pinning our hopes for success on farmers who have worked with NAREI and with the Canadian-funded PROPEL project and who are now prepared to take the risks of investing more significantly in these crops to meet the needs of the wider market. It is a development that speaks to what appears to be a return to the option of import substitution with the potential for diverting foreign exchange saved into other areas.
In a more modest way, up until now, NAREI appears to be saying that carrot ‘trials’ are heading in the same direction and that we can anticipate larger and larger locally grown crops of carrots in the future.
It says a lot – or at least so it seems – for both the work that has been going on in terms of experimenting with foods that are in demand here in Guyana as well as the open-mindedness of farmers whose minds we were led to believe, were completely closed to any kind of progressive change. It is significant too, that this ‘cultural shift’ (perhaps it may have been going on for much longer than we had thought) comes at a time when agriculture and food production continues to shift ever closer to the centre of our developmental focus in the context of both meeting our own local consumption needs and making the contribution which it is believed we can to responding to the challenge of what is appearing, increasingly, to be a looming global food crisis. It is, as well, a sign of a welcome maturing in our agricultural sector.