October 23, 2016

The play in oil

In geology a “play” is a geological formation that contains particular rock types, but with the development of the petroleum industry from the turn of the twentieth century, “plays” that contained hydrocarbons (“petroleum plays”) became much sought after. Of recent, with speculators playing an increasingly important role in determining the price of commodities in general and oil in particular, the word “play” has assumed another connotation that must be given cognisance when analysing the viability of producing those commodities.
When oil prices shot up beyond US$100/barrel in the early part of this century, the majors like ExxonMobil continued with the rifle approach to exploit large basins with several plays. But some small operators in the US used long-existing technology in horizontal drilling and hydrofracking (introducing water with additives under pressure) to extract gas from shale rock formations. They reduced prices so steeply in the industry that the market crashed. By 2011 they moved into the extraction of the oil particles stuck to the shale – shale oil – and an industry was born. By 2015 they were producing four million barrels/day of “shale oil” and pushing prices below US$50/barrel as Saudi Arabia refused to slash its production to bring supply in line with demand.
The tremendous spurt in shale oil production was facilitated by two factors – the constant innovation in extraction techniques by shale oil operators, and the willingness of US based investors to back what they considered to be a less risky investment. The innovations in recovery of shale oil caused a huge shakeup in the industry but made it possible for the survivors to make money even when oil prices are in the $40s range. With the boom in investment banking during the “go-go” years in the US – precipitated by permitting banking institutions to speculate with their customers’ money – the word “play” acquired its double meaning as investors were ever willing to fund new rigs in shale oil.
All of this becomes relevant as ExxonMobil assures the Government and people of Guyana that the “world class” petroleum find uncovered by Lisa 1 and Lisa 2 will start reaching the market by 2020/2021. The point being that shale oil, which has cut costs by 40% since 2012, has now become the benchmark for the price of oil. A recent report by Wood Mackenzie, a reputable oil analysis firm, concluded that “U.S. shale is the lowest cost option for new oil production and is likely to be more competitive than conventional offshore drilling.”
With speculative funds ever ready to plunge in, prices will most likely continue to hover for the next few years around a mean in the US$50s, while costs of deep sea oil like ours will hover around US$60. Another analyst points out that supply and demand will always be factors helping to determine the price of commodities like oil. They are not determinative.
He explained: “The trend in oil price consists of three parts: a long-term steady inflationary rise; a short-term (days and months) supply and demand interaction; and occasional external (mostly derivative-driven) speculative force lasting a few years.” At present, from US$18/barrel in 2000, oil prices are where they would have been but for speculative interventions.
While the CEO of ExxonMobil earlier last week assured that the Stabroek find is “easily viable at today’s price” (US$51), since deepwater oil producers have only cut their costs by 12% in the timeframe where shale oil achieved 40%, the operators will be under continuous pressure to become more efficient by cutting their capital and operational expenses. The Government has informed the expectant Guyanese populace that they are “renegotiating” the contract the PPP Government signed in 1999 and it is hoped that they have brought aboard negotiators that are au fait with the global oil industry so that there is a win-win outcome for both parties.

Importation of chicken

The importation of chicken has always been a controversial issue in Guyana since local farmers feel that once they are given the opportunity they would be able to meet the demand, hence there is no need to import the product which is usually substandard in any case.
This newspaper recently broke the news that the Guyana Government had granted licences for the importation of over 800,000 pounds of chicken, allegedly because there would be a shortage of locally produced chicken during the Christmas season.
Based on some prior investigation, we understand that the responsible Governmental officials only met with the local producers after the licences had been issued. Some local producers have queried exactly how 19 companies were granted licenses by the Government without any consultation with the local industry.
Certainly, this is unacceptable when one considers the fact that it takes three months to produce meat birds and if the local producers were given timely notice, they would have been able to meet any shortfall. To date, the authorities have not explained to the Nation the reasons it took this approach to handling the matter.
This precipitate importation of foreign chicken is not in the interest either of the Guyanese consumer or of the national interest as a whole. In the past, chicken imports consisted on the lowest grade of chicken, some of which was designated as pet-food.
Other chicken imports were birds which had been kept in refrigeration from 10 to 12 years or even longer and were not meant for human consumption. The local importers go after the cheapest chicken they could find, little aware that it is sub-standard meat the exporters are dumping on them.
If chicken would be imported, then the Bureau of Standards and the Food and Drugs office must be involved in ascertaining the standard of the chicken from the foreign sources and also to inspect the chicken when it would have arrived here. By doing this, the Government would be protecting the health of the citizens and preventing them from being exploited, since sub-standard meat could result in a number of ailments and diseases.
In addition to the dangers to consumers mentioned above, we consider the importation of large quantities of foreign chicken not to be in the best interest of the national interest for the following reasons:
(i) The chicken industry has been a large and reliable customer of the rice industry. The rice industry has been going through a crisis and requires all the support it could get and to diminish such support is not in the national interest.
(ii) The chicken industry is one of the largest employers in the countryside. If the industry is damaged or minimised, people in the rural areas would suffer greatly since the industry provides employment for thousands of workers. One well-known producer, Bounty Farms for example, employs more than 500 workers.
(iii) The industry employs more women than men and leads the way towards gender equality and respect and is something of a pioneer in this regard.
The chicken industry has many other beneficial spinoffs to the country’s economy and among these are the following:
(a) It provides a high quality fertiliser.
(b) The chicken industry helps to provide Guyana with Food Security. Food Security is something which all countries are striving to achieve and Guyana is well within sight of it.
(c) Once the chicken industry is allowed to satisfy local needs without disturbance, it will eventually be in surplus and ready to join the league of exporters.
On one hand the Administration is talking about creating opportunities for small businesses to grow, but its policies are contrary to allow for this to happen. It is quite unfortunate that the Government has had to take this route in dealing with an alleged chicken ‘shortage’.
However, even at this late hour, we believe that if local producers were given the opportunity, they would be able to meet the shortfall, if it should occur. On the other hand, if Government has no wish to modify its licence policy, it should at least meet all the importers and ascertain their sources and quality of imports and do direct checks in the interest of the health of Guyanese consumers.

Road carnage and state of roads

Guyana’s roads have continued to be killing grounds! The country’s roadways seem to be competing for the highest death toll award!
The causes of accidents vary from narrow roads, careless driving and over speeding. And then there is the more popular reason, some drivers just refuse to follow the rules. They will overtake other vehicles in narrow and sharp corners, drive while intoxicated, exceed the speed limit and literally drive themselves and other innocent road-users into the grave.
There have been concerted efforts to enforce existing rules to help curb the carnage, including the implementation of Operation Safeway, which also aided in supporting the poorly equipped Police Force to tackle traffic issues. According to statistics released by the Guyana Police Force, there has been a decline in road accidents and they have directly attributed this to Operation Safeway.
Given the propensity of particular behaviours, road usage needs to be looked at holistically. While it may be important to revisit the process of training and licensing of drivers, in an effort to strengthen their understanding of signs and road usage, it is also important to reflect on existing programmes as well; officials also need to pay attention to the design and construction of the nation’s roadways.
Compounding the problem is the poor state of many roads. Many carriageways are still riddled with potholes and uneven surfaces, which has led to head-on collisions as motorists drive from left to right and back in a desperate bid to avoid them.
As ongoing projects, selected highways across Guyana have been undergoing rehabilitation works; these include the East Bank Demerara highway. It is commendable that in the new design, pedestrians and cyclists have been catered for, as the roadway now boasts a foot/cycle path. However, given the already limited space for the expansion, it may not have been the wisest design choice, to have the path constructed to take up such a large area.
The highway is now simply too narrow. Our planners should take note that a high incidents of accidents since the completion of the roadway and examine the causes. Road users now have to be mindful of the fact that the road shoulders along the EBD Highway are bordered by concrete separations, which separates the footpath from the main thoroughfare. This could prove to be problematic, and given the already carless attitude of many motorists, they might forget this structure has been added. The lack of adequate road lighting in many areas turns this into a recipe for disaster. The additions are not outfitted with reflectors. One wonders if there are plans to illuminate the concrete partitions.
In addition, whereas many accidents have been blamed on reckless driving and speeding, it is inevitable that motorists will collide with these partitions and this could have fatal consequences. A concrete median has been added along the Carifesta Avenue and this has drastically reduced the space available for vehicles to traverse; again this is a disaster waiting to happen.
In the meantime, while motorists and road users get acclimated with the additions and changes, additional traffic officers should be placed in these areas to ensure orderly movement of road users and vehicles. The police may find it useful to have more road signs erected to guide motorists. Any and all venues and opportunities that exist for the reduction of accidents should be examined and implemented. Everyone should become involved, engineers and contractors, the minibus and hire car associations, NGOs , and road users should offer their opinions and suggestions. This information can then be passed on to the Authorities to help them in crafting a wider strategy to address road usage.

Compromise and consensus

Addressing Parliament immediately after the Opposition PPP had walked out in protest over what they labelled a constitutional violation by him, President David Granger ended a rather partisan speech by extending what some interpreted as an “olive branch”. He said, “Let us hope that despite the absence of the Opposition today, we will continue to search for and find avenues for compromise and consensus.” While Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo dismissed the sentiment as “rhetoric”, because the President had made the same call on several prior occasions without concrete follow-up action, it is still widely accepted by a wide swathe of the country that there is the need for “compromise and consensus” between the two major parties in Guyana if there is to be progress on any of the several metrics by which that term is measured.

One model to facilitate those goals, labelled “executive power sharing”, had been proposed even before we achieved independence, but, for one reason or another, has never been consummated. Cynics suggest that fundamentally neither party has become convinced that it cannot “win it all” on its own, even though that route has not delivered the broad legitimacy to the two post-independence governments that ensured national cooperation to take the country on the path of sustainable development. Before 1992, the PPP talked of a “national unity government”, but baulked after winning the elections, and after 2015, the PNC-led APNU/AFC coalition reciprocated by reneging on its identical promise.

When it was in Government, the PPP had proposed that there needed to be more “trust” between the parties when a decade ago, the PNC raised the issue of “power sharing”. The PNC since then has entered into two series of coalitions that presented the opportunity to convince the PPP that it might be willing to share power if the two of them were to form a “grand coalition”. The PNC first invited several minuscule parties, most of them paper organisations, to form the “A Partnership for National Unity”, which most Guyanese accepted simply put “lipstick” on the PNC.

In the second coalition, it engaged in formal negotiations with the Alliance For Change (AFC), which while comparatively small was larger than the PNC’s other partners in APNU. More significantly, it claimed to have a constituency that was outside APNU’s and which fell along the major line of cleavage that presented the original challenge – ethnicity. In a sense, their union could be seen as a dress rehearsal for a coalition with the PPP.

The Cummingsburg Accord summarised their agreement and laid out the forms along which governmental power was to be shared and this is where the PPP could claim its worst fears were realised on the question as to whether it could “trust” the PNC. Moses Nagamootoo had been promised the substantive portfolios of chairing the Cabinet and “governance”, but both of these were hived off and he was left in charge of the Government media, with which he was expected to deal with a “light touch”.

But proponents of power sharing would counter that the PPP is not the small AFC, and the disequilibrium of size between the latter and the PNC/APNU would be more balanced, leading to a more equitable distribution and real power. Without seeking to take away anything from the present coalition Government, it would appear that the lack of institutional memory in Government after 23 years in the Opposition has left it foundering for a response to the widespread economic crisis that has widened to include a crime wave, which its statistics have failed to convince the populace is being brought under control. Talks on “consensus and compromise” with the PPP might offer some answers and, as such, we commend Mr Granger to follow up his bold asseveration in Parliament with action on the ground.

Food security

The pledge to eradicate hunger and poverty must go hand in hand with rapid transformations of farming and food systems to cope with a warmer world, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a new report, which was recently released.
Agriculture, including forestry, fisheries and livestock production, generate around a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture must both contribute more to combating climate change while bracing to overcome its impacts, according to The State of Food and Agriculture 2016.
FAO warns that a “business as usual” approach could put millions more people at risk of hunger compared to a future without climate change. Most affected would be populations in poor areas in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, especially those who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Future food security in many countries will worsen if no action is taken today.
Further, the FAO, in the report, conceded that overhauling farming and food systems will be a complex task due to the vast number of stakeholders involved, the multiplicity of farming and food processing systems, and differences in ecosystems.
The report emphasises that despite the challenges, efforts must begin in earnest now as the adverse impacts of climate change will only worsen with time.
The FAO report also describes alternative, economically viable ways of helping smallholders to adapt and making the livelihoods of rural populations — often the most exposed to the downside risks of climate change – more resilient.
It provides evidence that adoption of ‘climate-smart’ practices, such as the use of nitrogen-efficient and heat-tolerant crop varieties, zero-tillage and integrated soil fertility management would boost productivity and farmers’ incomes. Widespread adoption of nitrogen-efficient practices alone would reduce the number of people at risk of undernourishment by more than 100 million, the report estimates.
It also identifies avenues to lower emission intensity from agriculture. Water-conserving alternatives to the flooding of rice paddies, for example, can slash methane emissions by 45 per cent, while emissions from the livestock sector can be reduced by up to 41 per cent through the adoption of more efficient practices.
FAO’s road map also identifies policies and financing opportunities for the sustainable intensification of agriculture.
Helping smallholders adapt to climate change risks is critical for global poverty reduction and food security. Close attention should be paid to removing obstacles they may face and fostering an enabling environment for individual, joint and collective action, according to the report.
FAO urges policymakers to identify and remove such barriers. These obstacles can include input subsidies that promote unsustainable farming practices, poorly-aligned incentives and inadequate access to markets, credit, extension services and social protection programmes, and often disadvantaged women, who make up, up to 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force.
In commemoration of World Food Day 2016, which was celebrated on October 16 , under the theme “Climate is changing: Food and Agriculture must too”, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, while delivering remarks, spoke of the importance of chartering a new agricultural trajectory in keeping with ever-changing climatic conditions. He too acknowledged the importance of addressing the impacts of climate change on food security and echoed the call for immediate action in tackling the issues.
It is comforting to know that the current subject minister continues to advocate for climate-smart agriculture in Guyana, and has pledged to ensure that society implements measures to withstand the effects of climate change.
Agriculture Month 2016, which is currently being observed, also reflects on building a resilient agriculture system as a means to adapt to climate change. Even as Guyana maintains its status of food secure, there are pockets of food insecurity.
The Government of Guyana has committed to ensuring Guyana moves towards a more modernised agricultural sector with an effective and more sustainable system for ensuring food security, access to safe food and maintaining a healthy and productive population.
As the administration moves to provide a good life to all citizens, the fact that they recognise that agriculture has a major role to play in this regard is encouraging. It is now for them to take action so that Guyana remains food secure.

The struggle to eradicate poverty


The United Nations (UN) International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed on October 17 each year since 1993. It promotes people’s awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution worldwide, particularly in developing countries.

This year’s theme is: “Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms”.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” explicitly recognises that poverty results not from the lack of just one thing but from many different interrelated factors that affect the lives of people living in poverty.

This means we must go beyond seeing poverty merely as the lack of income or what is necessary for material well-being — such as food, housing, land, and other assets – in order to fully understand poverty in its multiple dimensions.

The theme this year – selected in consultation with activists, civil society and Non-Governmental Organisations – highlights how important it is to recognise and address the humiliation and exclusion endured by many people living in poverty.

According to the last official poverty measurement survey in 2006, 36.1 per cent of Guyana’s population lives in poverty, including 18.6 per cent that were living in extreme poverty.

The 2006 measurements confirmed that poverty and extreme poverty were stronger in the interior areas of the country, and were uneven if regions were taken into consideration.

Further, the UNICEF Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Guyana 2016 found that 47.5 per cent of children 16 years old and younger are living in poverty in Guyana. These are indeed startling statistics. The report says that “poverty in Guyana has a child’s face”.

The report emphasised that out of all poor people in the country, most of them were living in areas categorised as rural coastal, followed by urban areas and rural interior. It noted that due to the population distribution in the country, most of the poor people would be living in Region Four; nonetheless, in percentage terms, poverty is massive in Regions Eight, One and Nine, where more than 70 per cent of the population living in those areas were considered poor.

One of the challenges in calculating poverty in Guyana, the report indicated, is to find a measurement that can encompass different cultures and lifestyles that are present in the country. Guyana has signed onto the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which advance on the Millennium Development Goals call to end poverty. “This time the SDGs on its target 1.2 openly indicate that poverty must be reduced among women and children,” the report said.

UNICEF recommends following SDG targets 1.1 and 1.242, to develop and implement a methodology to yearly measure poverty and vulnerabilities, capturing the different cultural peculiarities in the country. “The method should allow for monitoring poverty at national level, and, at the same time disaggregate poverty for different ages, regions, geographical areas and ethnicities. The method for monitoring poverty should clearly define child poverty, and should adopt a multidimensional measure that complements the monetary method,” the report stressed.

It added that the country should take into consideration strengthening support to families in situations of vulnerability, in particular single-parent families through systematic, long-term policies and programmes to ensure access to social services and sustainable income opportunities.

Given this reality in Guyana, it is vital that everyone, more importantly the policymakers and officials, take note of how we can surmount this problem within a specified timeframe, following the recommended guidelines.

Eradicating poverty in Guyana is a long-term goal that will require more than talk and promises and needs to go beyond one day a year for raising awareness of this issue. All Guyanese deserve equal opportunities to prosper and more importantly, they deserve to have a government that works diligently and one that recognises the urgency in fighting to end poverty.

In her message on the occasion, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said: “Delivering the poverty eradication goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development demands renewed policy approaches and more comprehensive and sophisticated knowledge. Beyond traditional mechanisms of poverty reduction, poverty can be only solved by tackling inequalities. So long as injustice and exploitation are embedded in economic, social and cultural systems, poverty will continue to devastate the lives of millions of women and men.”


Dim rice prospects


The “second”, or “big crop” in the rice industry is at its harvesting peak, as users of our highways know to their cost as their vehicles are forced to a crawl behind “tractor trailers” filled with paddy on their way to rice mills. Last year, production reached an all-time high of 687,784 tonnes of rice as opposed to 635,238 tonnes in 2014, 535,555 tonnes in 2013 and, 422,000 tonnes in 2012. Guyana became one of the countries mentioned in world rice export tables after we crossed the historic 500,000 tonne line in 2014.

The sustained increase in rice production started with the Venezuelan PetroCaribe “oil-for-rice” deal struck by President Jagdeo and his Venezuelan counterpart President Hugo Chavez in late 2009. Starting from zero, exports to that country zoomed to over 230,000 tonnes of milled rice and paddy (rough rice) by the time the agreement ended last year.

Losing almost 40 per cent of its market was an extreme shock to the industry since the Venezuelans had been paying a premium price for our rice – US$760/tonne compared to the average world market price of US$540/tonne.

In 2015, then even though we exported some 537,334 tonnes of rice compared to 501,208 tonnes for 2014, the revenues generated were US$29M less even though more than 36,000 tonnes of rice were shipped. Millers and other exporters ended up having to accept prices as low as US$340/tonne of rice as they scrambled for new markets.

The prices paid to farmers dropped precipitously from the $3000-$3500/bag of paddy which is their breakeven level towards the end of 2015 and remained there during the “first” crop earlier this year. It was clear to everyone, excepting the government that the rice industry was now in a crisis of almost the same proportions as sugar. In the normal course of the demand/supply market paradigm, it would be “rational” for farmers to move out of rice if it is not profitable. But in Guyana, with rice being basically a peasant industry providing a subsistence living for over 70,000 rural persons, there are no alternative marketable cash crops that the farmers can quickly move into to sustain their families.

As such, this year, the total production will certainly match last years’ but the prices will keep falling through the floor since overall world production continues to outpace demand and this serves to keep prices depressed. Domestically paddy prices in Region 2 and the Essequibo Islands have already plunged below $2000/bag so that farmers will not even be able to recoup their cost of production.

Over in Berbice, while the prices are somewhat higher, it is still at best breakeven. This will have a ripple effect in the economy as the farmers will have little or no discretionary income to spend and will even have to defer loan payments to banks.

Since the ending of the Venezuelan barter arrangement, there have been several suggestions to deal with the crisis in rice: Firstly farmers have to lower their costs of production and government can remove taxes on their farming inputs. Secondly, Guyana still owes at least $20B to Venezuela for petroleum shipped. Negotiations can be opened up by our government to restart the rice-for-oil arrangement. Venezuela continues to suffer from severe food shortages and it will be in their government’s interest to consider our offer favourably.

Opening other markets is obviously necessary but the government has to be clear that it has a responsibility to seek those markets in conjunction with the GRDB which receives US$6/tonne for rice exported.

The Mexican market for paddy supposedly “secured” by PM Nagamootoo last year is unlikely to materialise since the US has a large surplus and with its NAFTA tariff advantage, prices will hit rock bottom.

The most likely scenario is that less land will be planted next crop and more farmers will sink into poverty.


Blood on the carpet

Carvil Duncan is Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and by virtue of that office is also an ex officio member of the Police Service Commission and of the Judicial Service Commission. In his substantive position on the PSC, Mr Duncan is in charge of making appointments to public offices; removing and exercising disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such Offices. This is a key office in the running of the Guyanese state and as such is a constitutional office that received the robust constitutional protection.
Last year, in a case that is still ongoing Mr Duncan was charged with criminal fraud allegedly committed when he was a member of the Board of GPL and which he is contesting. In April of this year, reports surfaced in the press that the government wanted Mr Duncan to resign from his chairmanship of the PSC. Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo claimed, as constitutionally required, he wrote Mr Duncan to show cause why the the president should not appoint a Tribunal to consider his fitness for continuing to hold his constitutional offices. Mr Duncan claims he never received any such letter and no proof has been proffered that he did.
The President went ahead and appointed a Tribunal, which included one sitting judge over whom Mr Duncan technically would have supervisory authority. Mr Duncan then made a startling revelation that back in February, before the PM claimed to have written him, President Granger, in the presence of Minister of State Joseph Harmon, made him an offer that included a financial inducement for him to resign from his Constitutional positions. According to Mr. Duncan, the president insisted three times he did not want to “have blood on his carpet”. Mr Duncan asked to be given time to consider the offer which he later refused.
The British expression “blood on the carpet” means that in an employment context, one could be fired precipitately. And directly after Duncan’s revelation, which Minister Harmon denied, President Granger suspended Mr Duncan from his constitutional offices. In the meantime, Mr Duncan had appeared before the Tribunal and informed them, of the reasons why they had no jurisdiction over him. He would be proceeding to the High Court to make the definitive determination.
In light of the foregoing, it would appear that the administration was determined to remove Mr Duncan from the aforementioned commissions and was prepared to go to any lengths to do so. The first contentious issue is what exactly what grounds would the Tribunal be using as the determinants of “fitness”. Mr Duncan had exhibited no “physical or mental” challenges to make him arguably unfit and the only other ground was his probity in reference of the criminal charge against him. But as his lawyer pointed out, the presumption of innocence still exists in Guyana – including its constitutional protection. The question arises as to why then would President Granger have suspended him.
The PPP has claimed the PNC dominated government is making a condign example of Mr Duncan because he is from their “constituency”, yet he has chosen to align himself with the party of “the other”. While this may or may not be so, the more troubling issue is the administration is clearly prepared to circumvent the rule of law to to have its own way. At a minimum, they should have waited for the High Court to pronounce on the bona fides of the Tribunal and then for the Magistrate Court to issue its judgement on the fraud changes against Mr Duncan.
The inclination to subvert the rule of law by the Executive is also seen in the directive of the Cabinet to the Board of the GHPC – an autonomous entity – to send home and not renew the contract of its CEO. State Boards should be allowed to make their own determination on matters within their mandate without Executive directives.
Guyana is clearly on a slippery slope; where are the guardians of democracy?

Celebrating Rural Women

The United Nations (UN) International Day of Rural Women celebrates and honours the role of rural women on October 15 each year. It recognises rural women’s importance in enhancing agricultural and rural development worldwide.
The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on October 15, 2008. This Day recognises the role of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.
The idea of honouring rural women with a special Day was put forward at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995. It was suggested that October 15 be celebrated as “World Rural Women’s Day,” which is the eve of World Food Day, to highlight rural women’s role in food production and food security. “World Rural Women’s Day” was previously celebrated across the world for more than a decade before it was officially a UN observance.
The UN recognises rural women as key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. However, limited access to credit, healthcare and education are among the many challenges they face, which are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and climate change.
Ensuring their empowerment is key not only to the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also to overall economic productivity, given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide.
Rural women, the majority who depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods, make up over a quarter of the total world population, the UN reports.
In developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force, and produce, process and prepare much of the food available, thereby giving them primary responsibility for food security.
Bearing in mind that 76 per cent of the extreme poor live in rural areas; ensuring rural women’s access to productive agricultural resources contribute to decreasing world hunger and poverty, and make rural women critical for the success of the new Sustainable Development agenda for 2030.
Many people, government agencies, community groups and non-governmental associations around the world celebrate the Day reviewing and analysing rural women’s role in society, particularly in areas such as economic improvement and agricultural development.
Often working longer hours than men, rural women are also the caregivers who look after children, the elderly, and the sick. In addition, many rural women are small business entrepreneurs and investors who dedicate most of their earnings to the wellbeing of their families and societies.
But despite some progress, most rural women and girls are still struggling. They typically face more obstacles than men in gaining access to public services, social protection, decent employment opportunities, and markets and other institutions.
The UN proposes that if women had the same access to resources as men, they could increase farm yields. When women are empowered – economically and socially – they become leaders and agents of change for economic growth, social progress, and sustainable development.
Much remains to be done for women in Guyana, particularly for the poor and those with limited education who are unaware of their rights. Rural women’s social and economic advancement must be promoted within the framework of national plans for social and economic development.
The renewed goal, moving forward, should be empowering rural women in Guyana to improve their standards of living through training, cultural exchange, access to credit and networking.
As the nation marks the Day of Rural Women, there should be a renewed commitment to pursue the many things that still need to be done to promote the welfare of all Guyanese women. “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises to leave no one behind. To deliver on that, we must help rural women to thrive, and to access the support and information they need, so that they can fulfil their potential without leaving their communities.” – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Neighbourhood Watch

At some point in the last few months, the unthinkable must have entered our minds: we are no longer safe in this society. The question as to if we ever were safe is a matter of opinion. What matters at this juncture is the current situation.
Too often these days, we read and hear about tragic occurrences in communities and in the business community where life and property are lost. All of society is at the mercy of the thieves. No one is immune as the bandits pillage and, in the worst cases, kill at will.
Business owners and property owners must take the necessary precautions of protecting their homes and workplaces. It is their duty as stewards to guard against intrusion and events that put life and limb at risk.
More and more our spaces are becoming very dangerous to live in and work, almost akin to a battle zone where security is traditionally provided so the unsecured could gather and work in a relatively secured environment. Is that the kind of world we want for our children and for our children’s children?
The political, social and economic leaders in this country must come together and help frame a dialogue as to what kind of society we want to become. It is time to take collective responsibility for what is to be done going forward.
In the meantime, while all of society await this ‘coming together’ and the formation of a functional, national security plan, there are those who are planning their next attack, eyeing some unsuspecting business place and casing another residence.
In a society where there is clear stratification of wealth, how can each citizen afford to adequately secure and protect their property? Many are still struggling to provide food and shelter for their families and now have the added burden of investing in security systems and measures.
Most assuredly, this makes the poor more vulnerable; as has been seen time and time again, criminals do not discriminate. Here is where Government is called to act – it should invest the resources to expand strategies to support communities, including individuals at high risk. Everyone has a view on what a safe society entails, but it is the role of the Government to make that vision a reality.
Everyone wants to live and work in a safe space, and it has become evident that for now, this can only happen by working in partnership with local authorities and the Police. Schemes such as Neighbourhood Watch, Street Watch, and various environmental enhancement schemes can deter crime and help people to feel safe. Communities themselves can play a vital role in addressing these problems and helping their local neighbourhoods to feel safer.
Neighbourhood Watch is a partnership where people come together to make their communities safer. It involves the Police, community safety departments of local authorities, voluntary organisations, and above all, individuals and families who want to make their neighbourhoods better places to live. It aims to help people protect themselves and their properties, and to reduce the fear of crime by means of improved home security, greater vigilance, accurate reporting of suspicious incidents to the Police and by fostering a community spirit.
The bottom line is everyone wants to live in a place where they feel safe. Crime and the fear of crime are big concerns. There are areas where residents look on and think “we are lucky”, as they may have lower levels of crime than in many other parts of the country. But no one is immune.
Unless and until the Government can effectively implement strategies to tackle crime-related issues, we all must shoulder the responsibility of protecting our families and our possessions. We cannot let the thieves win.