The PPP/C Government’s thriving Black Belly Sheep Project has already begun to massively impact the lives of many Guyanese.
The administration has invested approximately $600 million (US$3 million) to kickstart the programme, with an initial flock of 1,000 sheep expected to arrive here.
Subsequently, some $177.7 million was allocated in the National Budget earlier this year to provide additional resources to support the promising project.
Scientifically known as Barriga Nigra, the black belly sheep is a breed of domestic animal from the tropical island of Barbados.
The breed is mainly reared for meat and by-products that are in high demand.
In past years, the import value of sheep meat and mutton skyrocketed, with Trinidad and Tobago alone importing almost US$18 million in mutton, lamb, and chevon meat combined.
However, as Guyana strategically moves ahead with its mission to reduce CARICOM’s food import bill by 25 per cent come 2025, His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, launched the Black Belly Sheep Project in the Mahaica – Berbice region, in March this year.
“We want 20 per cent of those farms to be led by women and 35 per cent of the farms must have youth involvement, that is young people below the age of Thirty-five. This is part of building the future… empowerment, these are the real target and a realistic approach to the involvement of people. so not only must agriculture be on food production, it must be built on erasing biases,” President Ali asserted.
At the time, just about 80 farmers committed their time and resources to the new undertaking, to expand the nation’s livestock industry, making food security a reality.
Subsequently, on August 4, 2022, a total of 132 black belly sheep arrived on Guyana’s shores.
The flock of sheep included 112 ewes and 20 rams which are presently under the direct care and supervision of the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA).
Since then, several farmers and budding agriculturists welcomed the flagship initiative, as they believe it will tremendously improve the economic livelihood of citizens.
Secretary for the West Berbice Sheep and Goat Farmers Association, Debra Gopaul commended the government for importing the ruminants.
“I think it’s an excellent initiative because it would increase the population of sheep production. What I know…it is a milky kind of animal…and so if you have a black belly and you mix it with any other breed, you will have a good offspring.”
Farmer, Terrence Moore believes that the initiative will make more jobs available, specifically for young Guyanese.
“The breadbasket will be much bigger for farmers and non-farmers, because a non-farmer will get a job from the farmer, like cutting grass, supplementary feeding and what have you,” Moore posited.
Cattle Farmer, Clive McAlmont told DPI that the move is one of the best, “because those sheep in Barbados drop up to five, so if we can get that kind of breed here… we’d able to get the amount we looking for in terms of breed, genetics and so forth. So, I’m saying it’s a wonderful initiative to enhance this and make ourselves better farmers.”
Moreover, McAlmont opined that the project will paint a brighter picture for the agriculture sector.
“I think we have a lot of young people now trying to step away from agriculture. So, trying to bring them back into the system is a priority,” added the seasoned agriculturist.
Meanwhile, the remaining black belly sheep will soon arrive in Guyana to further develop the industry.
“I am hoping that by the end of this month… early next month, I am hoping that we have the other set come in to make up the 1000 black belly,” Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha revealed.
The project forms part of a variety of initiatives being spearheaded by the administration to bolster production and diversify the economy, even in the face of the lucrative oil and gas sector.