Paradigm shift needed in hinterland agriculture
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Dear Editor,

FOR hinterland farming communities to become effective; supportive of a national food security programme, there has to be a paradigm shift in the way agriculture is done.

Historically speaking, Indigenous people knew very little about plantation agriculture and they still do. Later in the mid-nineteen hundreds, Guyana saw a shift in policy towards boosting of commercial cultivation of coffee, coconuts (for copra), and peanuts in hinterland communities, like in the Moruka and elsewhere. Residents briefly benefited from a United Nations’ funded programme. Careful soil analysis along with other scientific research could have aided such a laudable experiment. While some people indeed benefitted, it could only be described as a good experiment.

Agriculture in Guyana may currently be in need of reports on such experiments to aid farmers go a step further. The analyses of agricultural experiments, not only farmsteads, but others like a cassava processing factory, should not to be thrown into the dustbins of history.

Someone, perhaps with the right knowledge, may use these findings to determine why such experiments failed; what went wrong so all could learn from the errors of the past. Was the soil rejuvenated in time; was the soil PH range at the optimum level? On business ventures, were persons only concerned about the running of the business, thus losing sight of the objectives?

Could it be that in the haste of earning quick money certain culture like the crop rotation system, management practices, were ignored? Was government policy supportive? Why could it not be sustained, etc..? Some questions need to be answered from whence can come vital information on the way forward.

Making use of soil analyses is of critical importance when acting on basic information on the use of hinterland soils. This component of soil analysis which, if ignored, often leads to loss of time and labour, thus making farmers disenchanted, whenever crops fail. This could be the reality in many cases.

Generally, soils in the hinterland are highly alkaline, unsupportive at fruiting stages, with 9.0–11.5 on the PH scale and a farmer without certain practical information would be like a man shooting in the dark.

Then there is the human component. Interest groups embracing human development should change focus and embrace the paradigm shift in agriculture in hinterland communities. As long as new measures do not conflict with control mechanisms, e.g., storage and optimum usage of chemicals, there can be an aggressive growth and expanded hinterland agriculture programme.

Supportive behavioural patterns among representative groups, notwithstanding their reluctance in their support base of possible use of modern techniques, including the use of inorganic chemicals, seems to be high on the agenda.

Peter Drucker, an economics icon, once wrote, “Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. We cross a ‘divide’. Within a few short decades, society re-arranges itself — it’s worldview, its basic values, it’s social and political structures, its arts, it’s key institutions.  Fifty years later, there’s a new world. And the people born cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their parents were born.”

Drucker was talking change-big change-language here, sudden bursts in history of incredible change that overwhelm every person and institution, not unlike a huge waterfall, like our Kaieteur, gushing down with devastating power. Business (farms), schools, governments, all institutions, families, even churches; you name It — everyone feels the effect in one way or another.
Here’s the important thing, which is inevitable: once that burst of change begins, nothing can stop it.

We may want to resist it for a while or simply hope it’s going to go away. But finally you capitulate to it.  As Drucker said: “A new world is born.”

Sounds familiar? Editor, growth in hinterland agriculture needs a systematic approach. Not being made aware of the role of agriculture in human development is perhaps the greatest deficiency in hinterland communities.

It should embody a range of new initiatives resulting from historical analyses, detailed resource mapping vis-a-vis community needs.
In this way result can no doubt be a new focus, a new shift to support a national agricultural drive.  A new world-outlook will indeed be.

Yours truly,
Joseph C. Atkinson

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