Washington, 11 August 2021 (IICA). Ensuring the sustainability of agrifood systems requires empowering small farmers and rural communities through the construction of infrastructure, the transfer of technology, and policies that guarantee a fair remuneration for their work, explained the Minister of Agriculture of Guyana, Zulfikar Mustapha.
“We must improve the conditions of food producers, who are the true generators of wealth” said Mustapha, who also advocated the establishment of infrastructure for the processing of crops in rural areas, so as to add value and thus increase the profitability of these communities.
Mustapha was one of the participants in a round table on the role of farmers and rural communities in the sustainability of agrifood systems, organized by the Council of the Americas and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
The debate featured speakers from the public and private sectors from across the continent. Mr. Mustapha was joined by renowned scientist Rattan Lal, professor of soil science at Ohio State University; the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Argentina, Luis Basterra; the CEO of Pepsico Latin America, Paula Santilli; the Global Manager of Sustainability and Business Administration of Bayer, Klaus Kunz; and Walmart’s Director of Global Government Affairs, Christian Gómez.
The introduction and closing remarks were given by Eric Farnsworth, Vice President of The Americas Society / Council of the Americas (AS/COA), and Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA.
The minister stated that climate change is having a devastating impact on Guyana’s agricultural sector and referred to the floods that this year have hit a large part of its territory and have caused losses of crops and livestock that have put the food security of this South American country at risk.
“All the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. We have not only been affected by floods, but also by land degradation, hurricanes and the volcanic eruption in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines this year. We are small economies and we must ensure the health of our agrifood system” said Mustapha.
The minister reported that the government of Guyana this year has given social assistance to 52,000 smallholder farmers, who have been the most affected by the floods.
“We need to adopt good agricultural practices and the private sector plays a key role in this. A concrete way they can collaborate is through investments in technologies to reduce the impact of diseases and pests on agriculture. The government of Guyana is supporting its small-sized farmers”.
Mustapha also revealed that his country has great expectations for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, convened by the United Nations, to discuss the future of the way in which food is produced and consumed.
“For us,” he said, “the Summit is of the utmost importance, and we will surely make a very positive contribution to it. Ensuring food security is essential and we hope that this Summit will help us. Everyone in the world has a role to play in achieving sustainable and healthy agrifood systems”.
“It is paramount”, he concluded, “to underscore the critical role that farmers play. Rural communities must be part of the discussion”.
Institutional Communication Division.