15 young men and women from rural communities across Guyana benefited from a one-week immersive Learning Route entitled “Rural Employment and Self-Employment Initiatives,” which was held in February, 2017.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) partnered with the global not-for-profit organisation PROCASUR to implement several activities related to the project including the development of youth profiles, systematization of good practices, and the preparation and implementation of Learning Route.
Speaking at the launch of Learning Route Guyana, Fransen Jean, Food Security Officer in the FAO Caribbean Sub Regional Office noted that the Learning Route signalled FAO’s commitment to promote youth employment opportunities in the food and agriculture sector, specifically in Guyana.
He noted that youth unemployment in the Caribbean is twice higher than the average of the world with Guyana among those with the highest rate of 40%.” These statistics were echoed in a statement from the former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, George Jervis who noted that the rate of youth unemployment across the Caribbean averages 25% while here in Guyana this rate has been hovering close to 40% since 2000.
Former Permanent Secretary Jervis lauded the Learning Route initiative noting that “Given our country and regional scenario, we must ensure that more and more of our rural youths are gainfully employed. Youths can bring the vigour, innovation, capability and skill needed to enhance the agricultural sector resources by promoting greater involvement of our youths in agriculture and other rural economic activities.”
Similar comments were expressed by the Presidential Advisor on Youth Empowerment, Mr. Aubrey Norton and National Focal Point for the project at Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Christopher Ross.
Feedback from participants of the Learning Route indicated that there were a number of constraints and opportunities to grapple with. Some of these constraints include:
1.The lack of employment opportunities in rural areas and the extent to which this had prompted youth migration to urban areas and outwards.
2.The lack of access to financial loans and credits because of little or no collateral.
3.Difficulty in accessing markets and obtaining adequate prices for their products.
4.The inability to produce commercial quantities of products to satisfy targeted markets.
5.The ICT divide and the limited use of or non-availability of communication technologies including social media for marketing purposes.
The participants concluded with a call for better farm access roads to facilitate transportation of their goods and to reduce the chances of spoilage. Many also expressed the need for new communication technologies and information on innovative farming methods.
Agriculture and youth employment opportunities
Ms. Alda Berardinelli, a representative of PROCASUR and lead facilitator of the Learning Route explained that for the participants, obtaining income that would allow them to support themselves and their growing family and generate employment for other young people in their community is critical to promoting youth empowerment and generational relief in rural areas.
She notes that this emerging approach on rural youths is the new focus of the Learning Route “Rural Employment and Self-Employment Initiatives.”
During the one week training program participants attended workshops, undertook case studies of local businesses and travelled across country to interact with business entities including the Surama Eco Lodge, Amazon Chemicals, Blue Flame Women’s Group, WADN and young entrepreneurs who benefited from the SKYE Program.
The interaction with local businesses and young entrepreneurs had a significant impact on the group with many reporting that the experience was “life changing.” During the closing ceremony emotions were raw as participants talked about the effectiveness of the learning route methodology, the opportunities for learning and the hopes of going back to their respective communities to make a difference.
Mr. Reuben Robertson, FAO Guyana Representative charged the participants to use the new knowledge to improve their lives and to also improve their communities.
Guyana is one of the nine participating countries of the FAO-FIDA Youth Caribe project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) under the a technical agreement entitled “Strengthening Decent Rural Employment Opportunities for young women and men in the Caribbean” and co-financed with FAO technical cooperation program under another agreement entitled “Youth participation in the food and feed systems improvement of the Caribbean.” The main objective is to promote youth employment opportunities in the agriculture and related industries in the Caribbean region.
The project is structured to contribute to the knowledge base for efficient and effective public private investments in favour of youth; enabling policy environment for youth employment opportunities in the agriculture and related industries; enhanced capacities of young people for rural opportunities; and scaling-up of innovation practices already developed nationally and/or within the sub-region.
According to the Caribbean Development Bank, Guyana and Suriname are the Caribbean countries with the highest persistent youth unemployment, where Guyana has an unemployment rate hovering around 40%5. The population between 15 to 19 years concentrates the highest unemployment levels, nearly 36.3%.
In terms of occupational categories, Guyana’s workforce is employed mainly by private companies and corresponds to 48.4% of the labour force; 24.9% are employed by government entities and 20.4% are independent. Less significantly is 2.9% that are employers, 2.2% that are unpaid family workers and 1% apprentices6. In terms of the Distribution of Employed Labour Force by Status of Employment within the Industries wholesale, retail trade, repair of vehicles, motors and household goods have the highest number of people, followed by agriculture, hunting and forestry (32.8%). Region 9 (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) is said to have the highest percentage, 70.3% of the population, engaged in agricultural activities.
What is Learning Route?
According to PROCASUR, “Learning Route is a planned journey that seeks to expand and diversify the rural knowledge market, including and valuing good experiences and knowledge from institutions, organizations, communities and individuals. Each Route is organized thematically around experiences, case studies and good practices at the local rural development level, where the host actors involved become the trainers. The host actors are local stakeholders that have been carefully selected through a specific methodology and set criteria based on local needs. These local stakeholders have tackled similar challenges using innovative ways, obtaining successful results and accumulating practical knowledge that can be useful to others. Through workshops, interviews, discussions and other activities carried out during field visits, the Learning Route allows for a platform for the experiential encounter between participants and hosts, sharing experiences and knowledge.”
Guyana is extremely susceptible to a number of hydro meteorological, biological and technological hazards. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction ranks Guyana 13 out of 162 countries for flood risk and reported that 0.69 percent and 0.42 percent of its population and GDP respectively are exposed to the effects of flooding. The high concentration of human and economic assets within the low lying Coastal Plain, high intensity seasonal rainfall, the complex network of drainage and irrigation canals of varying structural integrity, and the low priority ascribed to risk reduction are principal socio-political and biophysical factors responsible for these vulnerabilities.
Eradication of Hunger and Improving Food and Nutrition Security
"All people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."
This definition of food and nutrition security, from the 1996 World Food Summit, embodies four major pillars food availability, food accessibility, food consumption and stability of the first three pillars.
Following the sharp rise in global hunger, which resulted from the food price crisis of 2007-08 and the economic downturn of 2009 and more recently the 2011 problem of high and volatile food prices that have driven an estimated 44 million people into abject poverty , it has become more urgently necessary to re-examine food security interventions world-wide. Commitments were taken in this direction in 2009 with the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, the reform of the Committee on World Food Security and the World Summit on Food Security. Actions are yet to follow at the pace and depth required.
The year 2010 saw a decline in the number of undernourished people in the world—the first in 15 years. This decline can be attributed largely to the more favourable economic environment, particularly in developing countries, and the fall, since 2008, in both international and domestic food prices. This was quickly eroded by the first quarter of 2011. Nevertheless, the current number of undernourished people in the world remains unacceptably high, at close to one billion; and the recent increase in food prices, should it persist, will present additional obstacles to the effort to further reduce hunger. Global food prices remain high, partly due to increasing fuel prices, and the World Bank’s Food Price Index is around its 2008 peak. Since June 2010, an additional 44 million people fell below the $1.25 poverty line as a result of higher food prices. Simulations show that a further 10% increase in the Food Price Index could lead to 10 million people falling into poverty, and a 30% increase could increase poverty by 34 million people.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that the total number of undernourished people dropped to 925 million in 2010 from 1.023 billion in 2009. The World Bank estimates there are about 1.2 billion people living below the poverty line of US$1.25 a day. That total is still higher than before the food and economic crises of 2008-2009. It is also higher than the level that existed when world leaders agreed at the World Food Summit in 1996 to adopt the target of reducing the global number of hungry by one half. And so, while the 2010 figure certainly marks an improvement over that of 2009, it still fails to meet the target set by the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 of halving the proportion of undernourished people in developing countries from 20 percent in 1990-92 to 10 percent in 2015.
Who we are
As a specialized agency of the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was established in 1945 and leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO’s efforts. FAO seeks to ensure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active and healthy lives. But we cannot do it alone. Ridding the world of food insecurity and malnutrition requires action at all levels of society, from farming communities to international organizations.
What we do
Our activities are driven by five Strategic Objectives representing the main areas of work on which FAO concentrate its efforts in striving to achieve its vision and global goals. FAO works through organization-wide Action Plans to address the issues and problems identified for each strategic objective, where we apply our Core Functions to achieve concrete results.
Our technical knowledge and expertise underpins everything we do while fully integrating gender and governance in the way we work. The five Strategic Objectives are:
- Help Eliminate Hunger, Food Insecurity and Malnutrition - We contribute to the eradication of hunger by facilitating policies and political commitments to support food security and by making sure that up-to-date information about hunger and nutrition challenges and solutions is available and accessible.
- Make Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries More Productive and Sustainable - We promote evidence-based policies and practices to support highly productive agricultural sectors (crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries), while ensuring that the natural resource base does not suffer in the process.
- Reduce Rural Poverty - We help the rural poor gain access to the resources and services they need – including rural employment and social protection – to forge a path out of poverty.
- Enable Inclusive and Efficient Agricultural and Food Systems - We help to build safe and efficient food systems that support smallholder agriculture and reduce poverty and hunger in rural areas.
- Increase the Resilience of Livelihoods from Disasters - We help countries to prepare for natural and human-caused disasters by reducing their risk and enhancing the resilience of their food and agricultural system
More information on FAO Guyana can be found here.