I am most heartened by my recent visit to the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) and I compliment the Ministry of Agriculture and the institute for the excellent staff and outstanding service at this institution.
Our visit to NAREI this week was to source black pepper, turmeric and ginger plants, and also to seek guidance on the best way to prepare plots for these plants, protect them from diseases and pests and care for them properly until they are ready to be harvested.
NAREI has come a long way from the days when it operated as the Central Agricultural Station located at Mon Repos. Opened in 1962 under the Cheddi Jagan administration, the station has since expanded its commendable mandate and from what I see, they are doing a fine job.
I was a strong supporter of this institution since it started as the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) back in 1984 and I reinforced my support when its services were expanded and it became NAREI in 2010.
This is because I am passionate about Guyana’s
agricultural development and I know that NAREI is playing a vital role by reaching out to farmers and promoting greater efficiency in the cultivation of crops and marketing of their produce.
I travel extensively through Guyana’s farming areas and also grew up among farming communities. As such, I interact with farmers, so I am aware of NAREI’s work to bring farmers up to date with new farming and marketing techniques. I am all for NAREI empowering our farmers and helping them get more value from their investment of time and money.
At this juncture in our history, I observe that there are serious problems with staff performance, attitudes and protocols at many government and private institutions. This results in harassment and confusion for persons attempting to conduct any transactions at these places.
In many instances, when you go for service, people act like they don’t see you or appear not to care about whether you are getting through with your business or not. Many times persons going to Government offices are confronted with staff who are rude, crude and presumptuous.
This is why the well-mannered staff I met and professional service I got at NAREI stood out so much. It was the total opposite to what I am accustomed to experiencing.
We were met at the gate by courteous security staff who gently guided us to the nursery.
A young man named Kumar assisted us at first. He was respectful, caring, patient and helpful. He helped us select the best passion-fruit, lime, lemon, plum rose and soursop plants, as well as some special hybrids. He even gave advice on the best types of soil for the various plants.
The ladies transferring seedlings and the general staff in this area were all polite and helpful to us. In the end, they took our numbers, promising to call and tell us when certain plants we want are available for distribution.
Then we went to another area to get turmeric, ginger and black pepper plants and met another group of excellent staffers who advised us on growing turmeric, ginger and black pepper and even gave us sample plants to try.
We learned that plum stems planted near to black pepper helps to produce a successful crop.
The scientist there, an impressive young gentleman, stepped out of his office from a meeting, to help us. He instructed an employee to walk us through the various beds of plants to see how they grow.
I was so happy with the service and communication and personalities of all the staff that I found it hard to leave the compound. So once again, congrats to the Ministry of Agriculture and the management of NAREI.
However, I felt a bit sad when I saw a gift from the Government of India, abandoned in the compound. I recall reading several years ago about the juice-making mobile vehicle given to us as a gift from the government of India.
I read that the vehicle was to be moved around the country, making fruit juice for people in various communities. The vehicle could have been used as a means to educate people on better ways to make juices as well.
It was sad to see the vehicle parked in a particular spot for years on previous occasions. Now, I see the doors open and everything inside seems to be gone.
I wish someone conscientious at the Ministry of Agriculture can look into this. We should not allow our gifts that could be used to help our citizens to be abandoned.
I am confident that the staff at NAREI would be willing to work with the Ministry to look into this matter, find out what went wrong and make sure it does not happen again.
Roshan Khan Snr.