Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences

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Benefits of Agroecological Zoning to Rice Farmers in the Mahaicony Area Research Topic: Socio-cultural & economic benefits of agroecological zoning to rice farmers in the Mahaicony area Introduction The food and agriculture organization (FAO) defines agro-ecological zoning as a land use planning instrument that separates and groups areas of land-based on their prospective and limitations in regards to development. These lands are grouped based on their similarity between landforms, soil attributes and climatic conditions. Outputs of the zoning include a map of agro-ecological zones, land suitability maps, and quantitative studies. These results can also be used for land-use optimization, livestock productivity and degradation assessment application. This research aims to create a suitability map which will be utilized for future land-use optimization in the Mahaicony area. Rice cultivation in Guyana started in the 18th century when the Dutch governor introduced rice as a complement to the diet of slaves who worked on the sugar estates. The consumption of rice further increased with the arrival of the East Indians as indentured labourers whom after their indentureship remained and began the cultivation of rice in Guyana after acquiring lands.

After World War 2, Guyana had acquired fundamental ownership of rice cultivation in the West Indies (GRDB, 2016). Fast-forwarding, the rice industry contributes to 12% of the country’s export earnings and 10% of the country’s agricultural Gross Domestic Product. Presently, more than 190,000 acres of land is being double-cropped. Furthermore, rice cultivation influences the livelihood of a significant proportion of Guyana’s working population since it is a major source of employment and income for the country. Possible effects may impact approximately 12,000 private farmers and about 20% of the population (ECLAC, 2011). More specifically, Mahaicony is home to approximately 705 rice farmers who are responsible for the cultivation of 21,781.19 hectares of rice as of the first crop in 2020. (B. Persaud, personal communication, June 10, 2020) Background of Mahaicony The village of Mahaicony is located in the Mahaica- Berbice (region 5) district and stretches from the east of the Mahaica River to the west of the Berbice River (Reece, 2012). This area extends from De Hoop village on the skirts of Mahaica and extends to Abary, a little village on the fringe of the Abary River; (Seoraj, 2014) encompassing more than 20 villages. The main source of economic activities within Mahaicony is farming and fishing. However, several persons are involved in plying their trade by selling small snacks, fruits or vegetables daily in their snackette, shops, or in the market place. Meanwhile, persons residing in the southern part of Mahaicony also engage in hunting. The Mahaicony area currently houses two secondary schools, the Novar secondary school and the Mahaicony secondary school.

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There are also a few primary and nursery schools (Seoraj, 2014) along with one technical and vocational institute (Seoraj, 2015). Regarding health care in the area, there is one hospital, which is the Mahaicony cottage hospital, but several health centres. A popular tourist destination within the area is the Guinness Bar at central Mahaicony (Seoraj, 2014). The motivation of the research Mahaicony produces approximately 15,000 metric tons of rice annually. Also, several persons are gainfully employed in farming and rice related jobs (Seoraj, 2014). The researcher resides in the Mahaicony area and has observed how rice farming has become more difficult over the years. Despite, the integration of different rice species being cultivated, farmers still experience difficulties posed by climate change and natural disasters. Recently, farmers at Drill Mahaicony lost about 4,000 acres of rice to a drought period resulting in millions of dollars being lost (Ramroop, 2016). In addition, more than 100 farmers at Fairfield and nearby villages lost hundreds of acres of rice, and their lands were destroyed by saltwater intrusion from the sea (Inews, 2019). Farmers continuously face various challenges in the cultivation of rice. Despite the continuous challenges present in the industry, the country is yet to invest in the development of Agro-ecological zones especially for this type of crop since it one of Guyana’s main produce.

As such, the researcher sought to invest in conducting such a study which may provide information on suitable and unsuitable areas for rice cultivation in the Mahaicony area in regards to the structure of the land, climate and the characteristics of the soil. Problem Statement In 2016, Guyana’s agricultural sector contributed to 19.4% of Guyana’s GDP (GO-Invest, 2019). Agriculture, particularly rice production is the main source of earnings for families residing in the Mahaicony area. A lack of Agro-ecological Zoning (AEZ) principles being applied to this type of farming has resulted in farmers forfeiting potential economic and socio-cultural gains. As a result, the following research questions will be considered for this study. These are: 1. What are the socio-cultural and economic benefits provided by AEZ principles? 2. What are the benefits forfeited as a result of the lack of AEZ principles? 3. Who is affected by the forfeiting of potential benefits provided by AEZ? 4. Why farmers choose not to implement AEZ principles? 5. Where are the suitable and unsuitable areas for rice cultivation in the Mahaicony area? Objectives General objective To identify suitable and unsuitable areas for rice cultivation in Mahaicony using AEZ principles. Specific objectives 1. To identify suitable areas for rice farming by collecting and analyzing soil samples from 10 rice farms in Mahaicony using standard soil sampling techniques. 2. To create a concise map depicting suitable and unsuitable areas for rice cultivation using GIS tools. Significance of the Study Majority of Guyana’s rice cultivation exist along Guyana’s coastline, with more than 72,000 acres utilized annually.

This is very vital since there has been an upward trend recorded in temperatures and precipitation with temperatures being greater than precipitation (ECLAC, 2011). In addition, the vulnerable low-lying coast of Guyana poses a significant threat to crops, particularly rice when coupled with the effects of climate change. This is so because it increases the likelihood of frequent droughts and floods which may consequently cause a total loss of rice yield, and destruction to cultivated lands in the case of saltwater intrusion (Burke, 2017). Extreme temperatures also negatively impact on the fertility of rice flowers thus resulting in a decline in yields (ECLAC, 2011). Land degradation and desertification also continue to pose adverse impacts on soil and soil nutrient capacity by reducing productivity. Besides, climate change needs continuous efforts to ensure food security. Crops must, therefore, be constantly managed in accordance to the environment to ensure a sustained and sustainable production (Komba& Muchapondwa, 2015). The application of this study is also significant since it can be useful in directing future land use projects (Iraldoet al, 2017) in Region 5. It can also be used to create appropriate land-use policies for the region and also develop AEZ for crops cultivated in Guyana (Samper, 2012). Furthermore, a growing population requires a viable means to provide for them since natural resources such as water and soil that is required to produce crops for food are finite. In addition, the need for future generation concerning food for both human and animals along with fuel requirements is anticipated to be significant as the global population continues to increase exponentially (Sivakumar, Valentin, Wood, Bullock, & Henzell, 1997). Therefore, intentional efforts must be implemented to ensure the conservation of the environment. This research seeks to create a more environmentally friendly approach towards the cultivation of rice in the Mahaicony area by first understanding the suitability of the area for the cultivation of such a crop. Also, the approach will consciously address the negative impacts of climate change on rice cultivation. This is so because this method seeks to integrate the socioeconomic, physical, chemical and biological characteristics consisting in this type of cultivation, thereby meeting the ‘food first’ approach which many farmers possess while ensuring the sustainability of the present resources.

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