Sustainable Agriculture in GuyanaGuyana is one of the smallest countries in South America and a large portion of its population lives in poverty. One study found that nearly four in 10 people in Guyana live in poverty while almost two in 10 live in extreme poverty. Agriculture is the most important productive sector in the country, as it accounts for nearly one-third of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 30 percent of the country’s employment. Programs to aid sustainable agriculture in Guyana are crucial for its economic growth.

The volatility of international price rates and extreme weather changes challenge the Guyanese agricultural sector. However, this sector also has great growth potential in the country, and the Guyanese government and other foreign nations are investing in sustainable agriculture in Guyana.

The Food and Agriculture Organization

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working closely with the Guyanese government to promote sustainable agricultural systems and alleviate hunger and poverty.

Guyana’s 2012-2015 National Medium-Term Priority Framework, which is now known as the Country Programming Framework (CPF), is guiding the FAO’s assistance in the country. The CPF centers on four priority areas:

  • Food security and nutrition
  • Agricultural and rural development
  • Renewable natural resources and climate change
  • Agricultural health and food safety

Among its projects, FAO’s most successful initiative in Guyana’s agriculture sector aims to train people on how to respond to extreme climate change and natural disasters. Droughts and floods severely affect farmers and the agriculture sector in Guyana. The FAO assisted the Guyanese government in the formation of a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Plan.

The project included training Ministry of Agriculture extension officers and other stakeholders in accordance with the FAO Livelihood Assessment Toolkit and a “full assessment of existing mechanisms for prevention, mitigation and preparedness, as well as response and recovery.” As a result, an informative report emerged to help the development of sustainable agriculture in Guyana. This project had success at the community level, and the Guyanese government has called on the FAO to help implement the DRM Plan in response to extreme climatic changes.

Other Projects for Sustainable Agriculture

Several other projects funded by foreign organizations are working to develop sustainable agriculture in Guyana. For instance, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded Rural Enterprise and Development Project (READ) seeks to strengthen “intermediary service providers, institutions whose services add value to production and marketing systems and improve rural welfare.” In addition, the program works with rural communities to improve their capacity to capitalize on market opportunities.

Similarly, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded Agricultural Export Diversification Program (ADP) aims to establish institutions and services for a sustainable increase in the incomes from “the export of non-traditional agricultural exports in aquaculture, fruits and vegetables and livestock subsectors.” This project focuses on developing commodity chains on the nontraditional agricultural products in order to address Guyana’s export growth rate volatility.

Investment in sustainable agriculture in Guyana is crucial in order to boost productivity and sustainable use of resources in the country. Hopefully, with similar continued efforts, the country will be able to reduce poverty and promote food accessibility for everyone.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr

Drug trafficking is a serious issue for Guyana, a nation that serves as a transit country for cocaine that’s delivered to other countries such as the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and West Africa. Drug trafficking influences the country’s political and judicial systems, and traffickers take advantage of Guyana’s “poorly monitored ports, remote airstrips, intricate river networks, porous land borders, and weak security sector capacity.” As a result, most of the humanitarian aid to Guyana goes toward combatting drug trafficking.

The Fight To End Drug Trafficking 

Although the country has its own laws that aim to combat drug trafficking, the humanitarian aid to Guyana significantly helps in the fight. For instance, the Guyanese government has the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act of 2009 in place in order to improve the investigative procedures of law enforcement authorities and prosecutors who are trying to obtain convictions for drug traffickers.

However, “the government has sought no prosecutions under these laws,” and a U.S. State Department report previously disclosed that the government was not doing enough to combat drug trafficking in the country. The U.S. cooperates with Guyana and other Caribbean nations through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) in order to fight illicit trafficking and other transnational crimes that threaten regional security.

Humanitarian aid to Guyana through CBSI includes efforts to improve law enforcement capabilities, border and port protection, workforce development and anti-money laundering effectiveness. CBSI-funded programs “support Guyana’s maritime operations by providing interdiction assets, including riverine patrol boats delivered in December 2013 and relevant command and control systems.” The programs also offer logistical support and training, but Guyana still believes that it needs more assistance to combat this serious issue and has asked for additional assistance from the U.S.

Combatting HIV 

While the human trafficking battle rages on, Guyana has been quite effective in its response to HIV. Humanitarian aid to Guyana to fight HIV has proven successful so far; for instance, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) was first launched in 2003 in Guyana when the country “appeared to be on the precipice of an HIV/AIDS crisis with a growing infection rate.”

The HIV/AIDS rates in Guyana have stabilized over the years as the people have an adequate supply of blood, and HIV-infected mothers receive necessary preventative care in order to prevent infecting their unborn children.

The success of humanitarian aid to Guyana in fighting the HIV virus illustrates that increasing foreign aid to combat drug trafficking can cause a plethora of positive results as a result.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in guyanaGuyana is a small nation of around 740,000 people in northeastern South America, sandwiched between its much larger neighbors of Brazil and Venezuela. While infrastructure in Guyana is sorely lacking and the nation missed out on the commodities boom that enriched much of Latin America in the past decade, the country is now on the verge of an unprecedented oil windfall that could provide it with hundreds of billions of dollars when oil begins to flow in 2020.


Green Infrastructure

Despite the allure of black gold, the government of President David Granger is embarking on an ambitious plan to build green energy infrastructure in Guyana. The aim is to export virtually all oil and gas and instead use renewable energy to power the country’s small population.

Infrastructure that will need upgrading includes the port of Georgetown, the capital; paving of unpaved roads beyond the capital and linking to borders with Brazil and Suriname and air and ferry links to neighboring countries in the Caribbean.

While it waits for the revenues to flow from the oil exploration contract with ExxonMobil and other partners, Granger’s administration is partnering with the Chinese government to improve infrastructure in Guyana. The most recently approved project will widen the East Coast Demerara road, an important coastal highway in Guyana that links many highly populated villages to the capital.


Investment and Upgrades

Beyond investments from Beijing, the government receives aid from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) to build much-needed roads and highways and upgrade transport infrastructure in Guyana. The IADB is investing $24.3 million in a loan to rehabilitate bridges and culverts that connect major coastal highways in Guyana, helping the country maintain and expand its road network while also upgrading conditions to ensure better safety.

In addition to better transport links, oil infrastructure in Guyana must be upgraded if the country is to reap the full benefits of its game-changing oil discovery. The estimated four billion barrels in the find could eventually be worth more than $300 billion at current prices.

“It’s not often that a country goes from 0 to 60 so fast like this,” said Matt Blomerth, head of Latin American Upstream Research for consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie, to the New York Times. Such a whirlwind infrastructural improvement bodes well for the nation of Guyana, and time will tell if this newfound optimism proves fruitful.

– Giacomo Tognini

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in Guyana
The early 1970s marked the mainstreaming of women’s empowerment in Guyana, with protection and gender equality coming next, followed by the establishment of the Women’s Affair Bureau in 1981. Since then, efforts are constantly made to keep Guyanese women safe. In ten years, female participation in the labor force increased from 48.2 percent in 2003 to 52.9 percent in 2013, ranking 154th according to the World Bank ratio of female to male labor force participation. In 2015, President David A. Granger stated, “we seek to build a country in which women and girls can expect to live in safety, to be protected from abuse, such as trafficking in persons, domestic violence and workplace hazards.” He took action soon after this statement at a Global Leaders Meeting.

The Five-Point Plan

President Granger created a five-point plan that would boost opportunities for women. The plan would focus on: improving access to education for women, taking on violence against women, enhancing employment opportunities for women, eliminating poverty and promoting equality of women in politics. These issues have been addressed in the past but there is still more work can be done.  Adjusting these foci into modern approaches will significantly push forward women’s empowerment in Guyana.

Improving Access to Education for Women

Guyana has met the goal of abolishing gender variation in primary and secondary education, and currently aims to achieve the same at college level.

Taking on Violence Against Women

“Break the Cycle Take Control” ran from 2008 to 2013, and served as a national policy on domestic violence. In 2012, many cases of violence against women went unreported, and there’s currently one center for women of violence, funded by the State party and ran by a non-governmental organization.

Enhancing Employment Opportunities for Women

The Women and Gender Equality Commision of Guyana intends to monitor and educate the public and employees on desirable employment practices in relation to women. The State party has been urged to increase vocational and technical training for women — including within agriculture and male-dominated fields — and allow women’s empowerment in Guyana to thrive.

Eliminating Poverty

It was estimated that 50 percent of women lived in poverty in 1999; in 2017, the number was reduced by 2.5 percent, and now reports state that it’s predominantly children 16 years or younger who live in poverty. Nevertheless, the Sustainable Development Goals are on target, and openly indicate that poverty must be decreased among women and children.

Promoting Equality of Women in Politics

For national and regional elections, candidate lists must have at least one-third of gender representatives be women in order for the proposal to be eligible. This regulation has improved women’s involvement in decision-making at a high level, and in 2015, women represented 33 percent of Parliament — a 14.5 percent increase from 1992.

With backing from the First Lady, Sandra Granger, these five points will also include influence from a woman’s perspective. Focusing on equality, safety of children and education, Granger will help instill her husband’s goals while merging the divide of the country through women’s empowerment in Guyana.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

Why Sanitation Is Key to Water Quality in GuyanaGuyana is a country in the northeastern corner of South American, between Venezuela and Suriname. It was a former British colony and is the only English-speaking country in South America. Guyana is an Amerindian word that means “land of many waters“, something that is contradicted by the water quality in Guyana at this moment.

Water pollution is a growing issue in Guyana and action needs to be taken soon to rectify the problem. The main contributors to water pollution in the region are domestic waste, agriculture and industries. Some more specific examples that can be identified are industrial waste, sewage, mining activities, marine dumping, accidental oil leakage, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, leakage from sewer lines, urban development, animal waste and leakage from landfills.

Sanitation is a growing problem that has been affecting water quality in Guyana, particularly in heavily populated areas. Without sanitation, there is a risk of infectious diseases affecting the most vulnerable groups, such as the very young, the elderly and people suffering from diseases that lower their resistance. It has also led to fatal contamination of rivers and other waters that is not only dangerous for humans, but for other species as well, harming the ecological balance of the environment.

Water is key to sanitation because it is used to keep ourselves and our surroundings clean, and it is a resource we must protect if we hope to maintain a general sense of cleanliness. According to the World Health Organization, 5.3 percent of all deaths and 6.8 percent of all disabilities worldwide are caused by poor sanitation. Additionally, there are 1.8 million people dying annually from diarrheal diseases, 90 percent of whom are children.

To combat this issue, Guyana Water Inc. (GWI) was created with the mission of delivering safe, adequate and affordable water and to ensure safe sewerage systems for improved public health and sustainable economic development. Despite these efforts, an assessment of the accounts of GWI has revealed that the company has been operating at a loss. The Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, has noted that an analysis has shown that the economic costs of production of potable water surpass the current tariff, with electricity costs and non-revenue water affecting financial viability.

Residents have been calling on GWI and other relevant authorities to expedite the improvements to the water quality in Guyana so that they can return to enjoying a normal quality of life. By improving the water and sanitation systems, Guyana can eliminate these issues and return to a state where potable water is not a luxurious amenity and instead can be enjoyed by everyone.

Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr

A Look Into Education in GuyanaWith at least 250 million children out of school, education remains a top priority for countries all over the world. The Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals had education-oriented targets that countries had to meet. While some countries did meet the targets for the Millennium Development Goals, a large portion of those countries were already developed, high-income countries.

Much like other lower-middle income countries, Guyana has had limited success achieving the Millennium Development Goal concerning primary education. The nation is located in South America, just north of Brazil and west of Venezuela. While it has made significant process in other areas, Guyana could do more for education.

Enrollment and Literacy
Perhaps the area with the largest room for improvement, Guyana only allocated about 4 percent of its GDP to education between 2006 and 2012. The lack of spending has led to a decrease in enrollment in primary school education, from 95 percent in 2005 to 84 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, the average amount of time a student should expect to receive education is approximately 10 years, or until they are 16 years old. Guyana’s total literacy rate is approximately 89 percent. The youth literacy rate, however, is 93 percent, suggesting that Guyana’s youth are becoming more educated overall.

Policy and Promotion
Although Guyana’s government has not allocated a large amount of money for education, it still utilizes other methods to promote staying in school. According to Guyana’s Ministry of Education, 2008 marked the beginning of the strategic plan intending to improve Guyana’s quality of education and increase the number of students prepared for the workforce. As recently as 2014, the Ministry of Education has created more plans to encourage students to complete secondary education.

Guyana has also created a large media campaign called “Read. Play. Love.” that stresses the importance of early education. Created through a partnership with the Global Partnership for Education, the campaign addresses parents of children under five and those who live in rural areas. The campaign provides a new way to instill the desire for lifelong learning in children.

Education in Guyana, as in any other country, is a complicated topic with no one-size-fits-all solution. Ways to innovatively address issues in education in Guyana can help lead to solutions for the rest of the world. With the increased spending by the government and more participation by parents, Guyana has the opportunity to make more improvements in education.

Selasi Amoani

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in GuyanaA small South American nation of fewer than one million people, Guyana has faced a history of political and social turmoil that has left its economy and its people struggling in poverty. With a GDP per capita of a mere $8,000, Guyana ranks as the third poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, surpassed only by Haiti and Nicaragua.

A recent UNICEF study found that nearly 50 percent of the country’s children under 16 years of age suffer from poverty – a number disproportionately greater than the 36 percent of the entire nation’s population who live in poverty. Many of those who suffer extreme poverty are from rural areas, where they lack the infrastructure and resources necessary to provide for themselves and their families.

While initiatives that seek how to help people in Guyana will have to turn their attention to helping the nation as a whole develop, there are ways to get involved and help make a difference in the lives of people in Guyana.

  1. Consider volunteering your time with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which, last November, launched a $64 million project to aid and assist the youth of Guyana. USAID gladly accepts volunteers and partners who want to get involved and help reduce poverty across the entire globe.
  2. Some support organizations are already assisting the poor in Guyana, such as UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme. These groups have strategies and goals for helping Guyana; they are outlined on their websites, so you can familiarize yourself with them and consider volunteering time or money to help make an impact.
  3. Write to your representatives in Congress to urge them not to support bills that would cut U.S. funding to Guyana, such as a recently proposed budget which would slash a great deal of federal funding. Many Guyanans feel this budget would likely end with a large amount of essential American aid being stripped away from them.
  4. Recently, Guyana was discovered to possess huge amounts of natural oil reserves – a resource that many companies are hungrily eyeing, particularly ExxonMobil, who already plans to drill in Guyana. Spreading awareness of the largely negative outcome of such drilling can help prevent Guyana’s environment from being destroyed and its people and economy from being further exploited.

While these may not be the most hands-on ways of lending aid, there are plenty of organizations who already know how to help people in Guyana most effectively. However, these groups also need support so they can expand their efforts and send more help to the people of Guyana.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

Lessons in the Causes of Poverty in GuyanaIn this age of development, many small countries look toward a future of economic growth and a higher quality of life. With the level of cooperation among states increasing (e.g., the Sustainable Development Goals), the possibility of eradicating extreme poverty grows more and more realistic. However, the number of smaller states is also increasing. Smaller states are often the most vulnerable to poverty and slow growth, and Guyana is no exception. The causes of poverty in Guyana are complex, but taking the time to learn about them can assist in creating solutions for the future.

Guyana is a country in South America, north of Brazil and east of Venezuela. A small nation, Guyana’s population only stands at 773,300 people, but over 50 percent of citizens currently live abroad. The nation formerly belonged to the British but won its independence in 1962. As a result, Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America and has many ethnic differences among its people.

Like any country with limited resources, the available resources have to provide for more people than they were intended to. Combined with weak infrastructure, the situation results in weak education and healthcare providers. This has resulted in what is known as a “brain drain,” where the most educated people leave the country for better opportunities. Although these are a few of the causes of poverty in Guyana, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Economic Causes
The economic causes of poverty in Guyana revolve around the country’s lack of resources. The country depends on agriculture and extraction of resources. Because it can only export food products, especially sugar, and some natural resources, it imports most of its goods. The country has a GDP of $3 billion, but the country is heavily in debt to other countries. Poor policies toward business and excessive spending have also contributed to Guyana’s 35 percent poverty rate. However, Guyana’s GDP does show a small positive increase.

Social Causes
One of the after-effects of British colonial rule in Guyana is the presence of many racial groups brought to the country during colonialism. Demographically, Guyana is comprised of primarily East Indians at 40 percent, black people at 30 percent, people of mixed race at about 20 percent and the other 10 percent made up of indigenous peoples and other races. African slaves were first brought to the country to work sugar plantations; after abolishing slavery, Indian indentured workers were brought to the country to work in the plantations. Because of this, ethnic tensions exist between the two large groups. The tensions contribute to the fractured political state in Guyana.

Political Causes
Politics can illustrate economic grievances in the country, as well as tensions in the country between different groups. The government of Guyana has had problems in the past with corruption, as well as issues with one party controlling most of the power. Many citizens vote along ethnic lines, but with the elections of 2015, there has been a small shift towards unity. In 2015, Guyana elected David Granger, a member of a multi-ethnic party, president. The new administration looked toward stopping the corruption in government that contributed to the current state of the economy.

The causes of poverty in Guyana, like any country, are complex and deep-rooted. Understanding and looking for solutions to poverty in Guyana can help lead to solutions for the rest of the world. With the political shifts in Guyana, it has the opportunity for economic growth and increases in its quality of life and the well-being of its citizens. The developments in this country have the potential to help the entire world in the fight against poverty.

Selasi Amoani

Photo: Flickr

Why is Guyana Poor
With a population of 758,000, Guyana is the third smallest country in South America. It is at once considered a middle-income country and the third poorest in the Western Hemisphere. So why is Guyana poor?

Tense History and Natural Riches

Guyana has been ruled by the Dutch, the French and the British. It became an official British colony in 1831 and won its independence in 1966. Since then, the country has faced tensions between its African and Indian populations. These cultural divisions have caused political instability and corruption.

In 2015, former army general David Granger won elections and ended the rule of the Indian-dominated People’s Progressive Party. Granger’s goal has been to end corruption and racial divisions. He formed a multi-ethnic coalition, Afro-Guyanese Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change.

Guyana has one of the lowest deforestation rates in the world. Tropical rainforests cover over 80 percent of Guyana, and its agricultural lands are fertile.

Eighty-three percent of Guana’s exports are natural resources, including sugar, rice, gold, bauxite and timber. While offshore oil also shows economic potential, it has also revived border disputes with Venezuela.

A Fluctuating Economy

Guyana’s economy has shifted between strong periods of growth and impending disaster. In 1982 Guyana nearly faced an economic collapse. The country then saw some recovery from IMF-backed economic reforms. Guyana has since privatized many state-owned industries, which has led to new investments and more jobs.

Guyana’s economy was thriving during the mid-1990’s, growing at an annual rate of more than six percent. In 1998, economic growth stalled due to drought, falling commodity prices and political uncertainty. Growth was halted until 2005 and then increased until 2008 when world demand collapsed. Starting in 2009, the economy showed signs of growth at an annual rate between 3 and 5.5 percent.

The People Facing Poverty

The most recent poverty survey in Guyana was in 2006. The survey revealed that 36 percent of its people live in poverty and that 18 percent live in extreme poverty. The per capita income in 2015 was $4,090. Guyana’s currency is the Guyanese dollar. The exchange rate equals 206.55 Guyanese dollars for one U.S. dollar.

Children and indigenous people are the most likely to experience poverty. In 2006, UNICEF reported that 47.5 percent of children under the age of 16 in Guyana were living in poverty. Young adults between ages 16-25 are the second most affected, with a poverty rate of 33.7 percent.

Poverty levels vary by region. Rural coastal communities are the most impacted, followed by urban areas and the rural interior. Thirteen percent of people in urban areas are considered poor. In rural areas, 22.5 percent are considered poor, nearly doubling the urban percentage.

Why is Guyana Poor?

The poverty rate in Guyana is a case of contradictions.

Guyana has a growing economy and an abundance of natural resources. While this seems to suggest prosperity and jobs, the youth unemployment rate is over 30 percent. Current estimates are closer to 40.

Education is another factor that contributes to why Guayana is poor. The country has one of the highest reported literacy rates in the Western Hemisphere. From 2008-2012, youth ages 15-24 had literacy rates of 93.7 percent for females and 92.4 percent for males. However, the functional literacy rate is considered low, due to poor quality education, teacher training and infrastructure.

According to the World Factbook, Guayana has one of the highest emigration rates in the world. Over 55 percent of Guayana’s citizens are residents of other countries. More than 80 percent of citizens with higher education emigrate, causing a deficit of skilled workers, especially in healthcare. In addition to a lack of professionals, Guyana’s healthcare sector also suffers from a lack of medical resources.

Hope for Sustainable Growth

Guyana has the potential to reduce its poverty level. One of the first steps is to update the 2006 poverty measurements. UNICEF recommends that Guyana adopt methods to monitor poverty that takes various ages, regions and ethnicities into consideration.

Guyana has signed onto to Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty by 2030.

Christiana Lano

Photo: Flickr

Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project
On April 28, 2017, the World Bank approved a $13.3 million credit toward the Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project. The project aims to improve various aspects of school operations at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels in Guyana.

While school enrollment is rapidly expanding at all levels, many Guyanese students still fail to meet baseline standards in math or English. In the 1970s, Guyana faced major economic decline and public schools received little funding. Many teachers left the country in order to pursue higher-paying positions, leaving schools with untrained and inexperienced teachers.

The economy began to improve in the 1980s as Guyana diversified its exports. Several education-focused aid programs began implementation. Approved by the World Bank in 1989 and completed three years later, the Primary Education Improvement Program of Guyana aimed to train more teachers and provide better physical facilities at the primary level. From 1987-1992, UNESCO sponsored the Equal Opportunity for Girls in Technical and Vocational Education, which involved the training of teachers and female students in the industrial arts at the secondary level.

These and similar programs that ran at the same time had mixed successes. Girls studying the industrial arts program scored better than their peers on standardized tests, and a significant number went on to take courses in the industrial arts at the Guyana Industrial Training center. However, despite the amount of work that has been done to sufficiently train teachers in different disciplines, the Cyril Potter College of Education, Guyana’s main teacher-training facility, simply cannot meet primary and secondary schools’ demand for teachers.

Taking this into account, the Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project will mainly work toward developing new curriculums at the primary and secondary levels and training 6,500 teachers in these curriculums. As a lack of facilities continues to pose a problem, the project will also build a new facility to house the University of Guyana’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Tahseen Sayed, the World Bank Country Director of the Caribbean, notes that “[q]uality education is one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty.” As Guyana’s GDP has continued to rise dramatically every year since 2005, the Guyana Education Sector Improvement project will hopefully reinforce this economic growth–and vice versa.

Caroline Meyers
Photo: Flickr