A number of Guyanese women were today exposed to opportunities in the Agriculture Sector as the Women and Gender Equality Commission hosted its first Agriculture Conference at the Regency Hotel.
Access to Finance, Market Linkages and Technology, Risk Management and opportunities for partnerships among agricultural organisations in Guyana and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were among the topics discussed.
Chairperson of the Women and Gender Equality Commission (WGEC), Indra Chandarpal said while Guyana continues to experience unprecedent economic growth as a direct result of its budding Oil and Gas Sector, Agriculture remains the backbone of the country.
She said over the years, women have increasingly engaged in small scale farming, and they should do more to advance development of the Agriculture Sector.
“The time for us, sitting at home waiting, waiting for someone to bring a pay cheque here and there and to give us a little money here and there is over. We have to get up and get, we have to be industrious, we have to be innovative and we have to take charge of our lives,” the Gender and Equality Commission Chair said.
However, Ms Chandarpal was among the first to admit that women in the Agriculture Sector face a number of challenges, including access to finance. She said while women have traditionally engaged in small scale farming, many of them lack the technical expertise to capitalize on the sector.
“So, it is the preparation of the land, it is the identification of the crops you would like to grow to see whether the type of soil, and the type of crop you are growing, whether they are compatible. For example, you start planting cassava, everybody think they can plant cassava but cassava you have to prepare the land in a certain way. If you put heavy clay then you will have a problem with the cassava finding how to get into the soil, because the clay will whole it very firmly. Then also, access to banks, and loans, and those kinds of things, and assistance in terms of helping you to prepare your business plans,” the Women and Gender Equality Chair explained.
CARICOM Agriculture Unit’s Deputy Programme Manager, Milagro Matus, in her address, said at a time when the Region is facing significant challenges in the area of Food and Nutrition Security, women and youths are being better positioned to attend to those challenges as CARICOM embarks on a journey to reduce the Region’s Food Import Bill by 25% by 2025.
The region imports approximately US$6M worth of food on an annual basis.
It was pointed out that with the exception of Belize and Guyana, all other CARICOM countries are net food importers.
Many of the countries, she said, import more than 80% of the food they consume.
CARICOM, she said, is tackling the food and agricultural related issues head-on with Guyana playing a leading role as the Chair of the Regional Ministerial Task Force.
Ms Matus said through the work of the Ministerial Task Force and the Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers the capacities of women and youth are being enhanced to play an even greater role in the Agriculture Sector. She urged the Guyanese women present to tap into the programmes available under CARICOM.
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