By Staff Writer
Acutely aware of the disastrous impacts climate change has had on the agriculture industry over the years, the PPP/C Government has assured that no effort will be spared in strengthening the institutional and infrastructural frameworks needed to avert the dangers that lie ahead.
These assurances are documented in the administration’s draft Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) 2030 which outlines Guyana’s pathway to economic prosperity buttressed by a sustainable transition to renewable sources of energy.
To ensure the agriculture sector is protected, the government has committed to strengthening sea and river defense systems, improving flood control and water management (drainage/kokers) infrastructure, addressing drought prevention (including in Hinterland regions), implementing climate-smart initiatives, and strengthening institutions such as the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and the Hydrometeorological Department, etc. The government has also pledged to improve the country’s response capability for climate change events such as flooding.
The government was keen to note the importance of boosting the resilience of the agriculture industry since it contributes approximately 31.9% to non-oil GDP, employs about 17% of the labour force, and generates almost 21.3% of Guyana’s non-oil export earnings in 2020.
The two largest subsectors are rice and sugar, with a combined contribution to GDP of 7% or 24.8% of agriculture GDP over the period 2016-2020.
The fisheries industry is also vital to Guyana’s economy and dietary intake. It contributed on average, 0.8% of GDP over the period 2016-2020.
However, the conditions associated with a changing climate will have adverse effects on these sectors and by extension Guyana’s economy. According to the draft LCDS, sea-level rise could increase water salinity in rice fields; temperature increase could reduce rice yields; changes in growing conditions can result in increased weed and pest infestation; the intensity and frequency of droughts are projected to increase, resulting in reduced yields.
For sugar, the report notes that the increase in temperature at night-time affects the ripening of the crop and, coupled with the drought period, can affect yields. Furthermore, increased rainfall reduces the days available for planting and reaping while floods from more frequent and intense rainfall, due to over-topping and sea-level rise, reduce the discharge window available for coastal drainage and impact output negatively.
The government also noted in its draft document that the 2005 floods are an apt example of the impact climate change has on the industry. In this regard, it was noted that damage to the agricultural sector resulted in US$52.6 million in losses.
The sub-sectors hardest hit were sugar, US$11.2 million; and rice, US$8.1 million. Non-traditional Agricultural Commodities sustained damages of US$28.8 million and livestock, US$2.9 million.
In the 2021 May-June floods, over 74,000 acres (43,473 acres cash crops and 30,684 acres of rice) of farmlands and over 20,000 farmers were affected.