As Guyana continues to work stringently to strengthen food security efforts, an introductory workshop on the draft Food Security and Nutrition Bill was held on Thursday.
Representatives from the private sector and public sectors in agriculture, health, education, law gathered at the Grand Coastal Hotel, East Coast Demerara for the talks.
Once passed by the National Assembly, Guyana will become the first English-speaking country in the Caribbean to have food security legislation.
The legislation is being drafted with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
According to FAO’s Guyana Representative, Dr Gillian Smith, food security is more than reducing hunger and eating healthy.
“Food security is when all persons at all times have access to the kinds of food they need that is going to make them fit and productive and healthy to lead the productive lives that they should be leading and to be able to contribute to building a nation,” Dr Smith said.
While the government’s commitment to food security is evident, current laws do not adequately protect the right to food as it should.
The food security and nutrition bill aims to establish the necessary institutions that will monitor the food system and implement procedural mechanisms for persons to petition the court if their rights are violated.
The legislation will further contribute to the creation of sustainable economic opportunities in food production and reduce hunger and poverty.
“A food security bill is a progressive step and ongoing step in ensuring the coordination between all of the various actors who make food security happen,” Dr Smith explained and noted that it is no one organisation or one set of people task.
Guyana produces enough food to meet all nutritional needs but according to Dr Smith, the issue is the affordability healthy and balanced foods.
But at the same time, Guyana is leading the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region in food security.
“The concepts and the priorities and the direction that is being expressed is extremely important and very much at the cutting-edge of global food systems to meet nutritional needs, are not reducing natural resources and they are resilient to shocks seen over the last two years,” Dr Smith related.
Meanwhile, the Director of Planning for the Ministry of Agriculture, Natasha Beerjit-Deonarine said it is important for the country’s national development to advance policies in the medium and long term for food security. The Director further stressed the importance of having a multisectoral response to meet the food needs and address food security here.
“We envisage the creation of legislation where everyone, in particularly vulnerable groups, has access to food.
“Importantly, the ministry deems it necessary to have public, private, community, regional, national and international institutions involved in the development process and to act jointly to coordinate efforts and channel resources,” Beerjit-Deonarine revealed.
In the past two years, the agriculture ministry has undertaken several initiatives such as increased food production, implementing a food traceability system, adopting climate-smart technology, and improving farm-to-market roads and other infrastructure as part of food security efforts.
Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel within the Minister of Legal Affairs, Joann Bond added that the right to be free from hunger and the right to food will be protected when the legislation is passed.