Your Excellency President David A. Granger; Colleague Ministers of the Government; Mr. Reuben Robertson, Country Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (Guyana Office); Representatives of other sector agencies; Members of the media; other invited guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today, I am pleased to make Brief Remarks on the occasion of the signing of the Sustainable Land Development and Management Project which will be implemented by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO).
Allow me to begin by saying that I endorse this project, which has been designed to ensure that the productivity and economic potential of our land is maintained, even as we utilise our natural resources to streamline and develop our green economy. Indeed, the overarching goal of sustainable land management should be to contribute to government projects and programmes that are aimed at achieving poverty reduction, economic growth while promoting the full utilization of land resources in a sustainable manner. As such, issues to do with improving land tenure security; enhancing the efficiency, transparency, and improving service delivery of land titling and registration; and enhancing local government capacity to undertake land management functions, must be brought into contention.
I am happy that this project has been designed to tackle many of these areas. We have high expectations that this land management project will provide the required data to inform our planning processes, and help us to position, strategically, our physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, drains, culverts and other structures, in order to avoid disrupting the ecosystem. It will also allow us to protect and rehabilitate those areas that have been degraded through irregular and unsustainable mining and logging practices that cause erosion and contaminate our waterways, among other negative effects. Further, it is envisaged that sound land management will provide information that helps to reduce the level of production risks and protect the natural resources potential by preventing degradation of air, soil and water quality. More importantly, it will help to ensure that economic ventures are socially acceptable and sustainable.
Lest we think otherwise, land management is absolutely essential, since it combines technologies, policies and activities with socio-economic principles and environmental concerns, in order to maintain and enhance the production of goods and services. The report from a global study that was conducted in 2013, proved that sustainable land management has the potential to feed more people; provide opportunities for growth and livelihood diversification, restoration of natural ecosystems; address climate change impacts and build justice and security for the rural poor.
In my maiden 2015 Budget Speech, and in recognition of the agricultural sector’s contribution to the economy, I pledged our Government’s commitment to: (i) restore and enhance soil fertility; (ii) crop rotation; (iii) efficiency in water use; (iv) reducing the use of chemicals and pesticides, among other measures. I wish to let you know that Government remains committed to this thrust through its yearly budgetary allocations to the sector.
I note that a key objective of this sustainable land development and management project is to create an enabling environment which will help to shape our economic landscape in the areas of renewable energy initiatives (solar, hydro and wind power), the preservation and protection of our eco-system, promotion of eco-tourism, and the creation of green jobs and green spaces for recreational purposes. It has been determined that these efforts would require a cross-sectional approach consisting of Government, the private sector and civil society in order to flourish.
Recognising the need to protect Guyana’s natural capital, the concept of sustainable communities was materialised through the establishment of the Ministry of Communities – the vision of His Excellency President Granger. This vision allows for the building of cohesive, empowered and sustainable communities that would protect the natural capital, boost socio-economic growth and increase job opportunities through Government’s support to micro, small and medium enterprises (Budget Speech, 2015 p.51). This is being done, currently, through initiatives such as the Micro and Small Enterprise Development Project and the Amerindian Development Fund.
I should highlight that the SLM addresses, to varying degrees, a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, SDG 15 – “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managed forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”. More importantly, it will develop data gathering and monitoring, reporting and verification (MRVs) mechanisms that would assist in supporting the implementation of our Green State Development Strategy and help us to monitor our progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
In closing, the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana looks forward to the timely and seamless implementation of this transformative project. We need to take stock of lessons learnt and ensure that slippages identified in the implementation of GRIF projects – those associated with time and costs overruns – are not repeated in this project. I want to impress upon the implementing partners of this SLM project to ensure that all deliverables are achieved within the specified timeframe and budget. This, of course, would require the cooperation of all relevant stakeholders to support the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission in carrying out its mandate to realise the goals of the Sustainable Land Management project