Before the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria, Agriculture was the country’s major source of revenue. But with the oil boom, the successive governments abandoned and neglected the agricultural sector completely.
However, with the sudden crash in the price for crude oil in the international market in June 2014, Nigeria with a mono-economy became one of the worst hit countries. Since then, the country’s economy has been in tatters.
Now, to revive Nigeria’s economy, the government came up with a plan to resuscitate agriculture as the economic mainstay of the country.
Using Nigeria as an example, Dr. Oudho Homenauth, the Chief Executive Officer of National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) is determined not to allow Guyana to go down the same path. In fact, the other crops sector is projected to grow at 2.5 percent per annum.
Already, the entity is focusing on increasing crop production, enhancing diversification, practising green agriculture, management of pest and disease, hinterland agricultural development, climate smart practices, training and mangrove restoration for 2018.
Over the past years, NAREI has been partnering with regional and international agencies to strengthen the agriculture sector.
Presently, with the assistance of Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages (PROPEL), some famers in Regions Two, Six and Ten were given the opportunity to diversify from traditional crops to produce onions—this will allow them to benefit financially from a product that already has a high demand.
By October, 200 pounds of onions will be harvested during the second trial of the onion project in Region Six. Dr. Homenauth indicated that in 2015, US$1.4 M worth in onions was imported—as such NAREI is aiming to have the importation of onions slashed by half in two and a half years since onions on a commercial basis already looks promising with farmers willing to produce the three-month crop.
The two agencies have also worked on the commercial production of Irish potato which will enable the country to save up to US$4M annually. During the first trial phase, the farmers have yielded successful results.
The entity is also exploring other diversification initiatives which include Quinoa, new varieties of watermelon, tomatoes, cassava and two new breadfruit varieties. For 2018, importance will be placed on increasing the production of plantains, peppers, cassava, pineapples, spices and tomatoes for processing.
Recognizing that there is a high demand for the local coconuts, NAREI established three coconut nurseries at Mon Repos, Wakenaam and Charity.
By next year, nursery production would be enhanced further at the three locations with support from Hope estate.
To ensure the availability of sufficient coconut planting materials the agency will introduce tissue cultured plantlet production in 2018.
Most importantly, the operationalization of a major processing facility at Marudi will see the production of value added products like virgin coconut oil, activated charcoal and coconut water.
As it relates to hinterland development, NAREI will continue to monitor and evaluate the 20 acres of orchard established at Ebini, Region Ten; expansion of cassava cultivation in Region Nine and the Irish potato trial; utilization of a farm at Kato, Region Eight for the production of crops such as potatoes, onions, fejou, and fruits; establishment of a nursery to grow plants and farm at Paramakatoi. Emphasis will also be placed on spice cultivation and processing in Region One.
Additionally, as part of its green agricultural practice, charcoal and biochar—as soil amendments, would be promoted on low fertility soil, especially in the Soesdyke/Linden highway to enhance the water holding capacity and nutrient retention of these soils for enhanced crop production.
NAREI will continue to employ the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies to manage pests and diseases. The institute will be engaged in the recently approved Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) project targeting climate smart agriculture. The project seeks to identify crops that show resilience to the vagaries of climate change and the adaptive measures that farmers could utilise.