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Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha during a recent outreach to several villages along the Corentyne Coast, met with a group of fishermen who appealed for improved zoning in Guyana’s waters.

During the meeting at Hogs Town, in Fyrish, the fishermen, who usually fish in a dedicated area in the Atlantic Ocean, told Minister Mustapha that there has been a recent migration of the fish stock that requires them to venture beyond their dedicated zone.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while addressing those in attendance

Mr. Sankar Samaroo, one of the affected fishermen, told the Minister that climate change had adversely impacted the catch level and population within their current fishing zone.

“Due to the climate change, the fish not coming into the amount of water you guys give us to fish in. We gotta go over by the trawlers and we ah get cuss. They saying that that is not our zone. We are asking the Minister if there can be a review of this so that there can be a specific time for the trawlers to fish and the fishermen to fish. We’ve met with them and asked for us to be allowed to fish from 6 o’clock in the morning to 2 o’clock in the afternoon and they could fish during the rest of the day and the night because they are fishing primarily for shrimps. The fishes feed on the shrimp so where ever the shrimps go the fishes following,” Mr. Samaroo said.

Sankar Samaroo

In response, Minister Mustapha committed to raising these concerns with the recently installed bodies mandated to overlook the industry and give recommendations to Government.

“Last week I installed two bodies that are responsible for dealing with these matters; the Fisheries Advisory Committee and the Guyana Fisheries Limited Board (GFLB). Members of the trawlers association have also raised issues pertaining to the low level of catches and the Ministry, through the Fisheries Department, will launch an investigation into the matter soon. In relation to your matter, I will raise it with the heads of both bodies so that they can meet with all parties involved, launch an investigation and make recommendations for a way forward to the Fisheries Department,” Minister Mustapha said.

Other fishermen also appealed for assistance with the irrigation channel used when discharging their catch and for works to be carried out on the access dam used to transport their engines.

 “When the tide low, boat cannot come in. We have to wait for the tide to rise then boats can come in. We are coming in a line so by the time the first boat finish discharging the catch, the catch from the last boat spoil. The channel is very, very narrow. Another issue, whenever the channel where the Albion Estate blow water, the dam is breaking so the channel is being affected. We are asking if… they recently bring a long-boom hymac, but it cannot reach to the middle, so, we’re asking if they can get a pontoon with the hymac and get that thing resolved. The revetment on the eastern half of the channel from where the concrete irrigation is which is like about 500 feet, so that the dam cannot break away. It’s tough on us to take out our engines when the tide is low and the catch. We cannot work during low tide. We are asking for something to be done so that we could get better access,” Mr. Ramsarran said.

Veeram Ramsarran

Minister Mustapha committed to having works executed to bring some level of assistance to the fishermen.

“I’ve asked the CEO of the NDIA, and within two weeks we’ll send the pontoon with the excavator to clear the entire enlarged channel so that you can have some level of relief,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Minister also told the fishermen that soon there will be a National Aquaculture Conference, during which, His Excellency, President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali will launch the Government’s aquaculture master plan.

Recently, stakeholders in the fishing industry across the country have raised concerns over low level catches in both fish and seabob species in Guyana’s waters.

During a recent meeting with the newly installed Fisheries Advisory Committee, President of the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) Mr. Ruben Charles expressed concern over the current low level of catches with Minister Mustapha.

A section of the meeting

This, he said, may be linked to the current oil exploration activities offshore. He added that although no scientific research has been done in Guyana to officially link low levels of catches to oil exploration, there have been similar instances of low level catches in other nations with current oil and gas operations offshore.

Farmers also raised issues about drainage and dilapidated roads and dams. Minister Mustapha committed to having a machine deployed to the area to carry out the works. He told residents that the machine will remain in the area until the works were completed. He also committed to providing crusher run gravel to do revetment work on the dilapidated dams. 

– more block drain structures to be constructed
– flood-affected farmers to receive planting materials, fertiliser, other forms of assistance

Farmers from communities along the Pomeroon River in Region Two, will soon benefit from an improved drainage and irrigation system, with the passage of the national budget, which is expected to be presented in the National Assembly sometime next month.

Earlier today, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha and a team of senior officers from the ministry, hosted two community meetings with farmers to discuss and bring some amount of relief to the issues they are facing.

During the first meeting, which was held at the Jacklow Primary School, Minister Mustapha disclosed that the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) is hoping to procure a pontoon, fitted with two excavators, to carry out works in the communities along the Pomeroon River.

Several of the farmers and residents who attended the meeting said there was an urgent need for works to be carried out on a number of the drainage canals in the Region. The farmers also said that more block drain structures needed to be installed along those riverine communities.

Shaik Yussuf, a farmer from Jacklow, said that farmers needed planting materials to be able to return to their farms after most of their crops were damaged due to the recent instances of prolonged flooding in the Region.

Shaik Yussuf

“As you know the flood water now is presently receding and now we’re seeing what the losses are. I have a concern about the planting material. If these prices for the planting materials can be reduced to a lower cost so that farmers can be able to purchase these planting materials. Secondly, I am appealing for some sort of assistance for farmers in the form of giving fertiliser so as to help the farms with the produce. My other concern is, we have a block drainage at the back and it is presently clogged up. It needs reconditioning so that we can be able to get back on our farm because, I think, that was one of the main causes of the flood that affected us. My next concern is about these plastic tube kokars that are being given to certain persons. I applied since 2015. The first time I spoke to the engineer, he told me that my name was on the list. The next time I spoke to him he said that my name was striked off. So, these are things that are really bothering some of us,” Mr. Yussuf said.

Minister Mustapha told the farmers that his ministry had submitted a proposal for the purchase of a pontoon and two excavators to carry out continuous works in the Pomeroon region. He also said that, after the 2021 budget is passed, the NDIA would be able to recommence its block tube registration and distribution exercise.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while addressing farmers during the meeting

“You know now we are preparing for budget. We have already submitted to the Ministry of Finance our proposal. I want to tell you that we’ve included sums to purchase a pontoon with two excavators for the Pomeroon River. As long as we get that, it will remain in the Pomeroon. I am optimistic that we will have those funds approved. When we are crafting our budget estimates, we’ll look at various vulnerable areas but we decided that we should include those critical pieces of equipment in our budget proposal. In relation to the drainage system, I know for a fact that, when we were in government prior to 2015, we did a number of those block drainage structures. We also distributed block tubes to help farmers. I’ve instructed NDIA to recommence that programme. That programme, however, cannot start until after the budget has passed. From Monday, officers from the NDIA will come into the area to do an assessment. I want to assure you that we will try, as much as possible, to facilitate as many requests for these structures,” Minister Mustapha said.

Dexter Cameron, a farmer from Marlborough, said that the small farmers in the community were experiencing issues with intermediate drainage and could not afford to do much on their own.

Dexter Cameron

“My concern is about drainage in the Pomeroon. Agriculture is a big business and everyone may not be able to excel in certain areas. We know that big farmers can do certain things but the smaller farmers would like to exist also. My concern is that we all can’t reach at top, but there’s a level where we can all exist. The smaller farmers, and they are many, are having a problem with intermediate drainage. The government has been doing a very good job. We’ve had our canals dug and they are being maintained and work is going on. The river defense programme is going on. The sea dam and the river dams are being built but there’s a struggle within the farms themselves. That’s where we need some assistance. Pomeroon is a low land and we cannot blame the government when the rain falls but we can ask for help to deal with this problem,” Mr. Cameron said.

Brian Ali, a well-known farmer from Marlborough, spoke about the condition of the mouth of the Pomeroon River. He also asked for assistance with chemicals in cultivating coconut.

“If we are thinking long term, because farming, especially coconut farming is about to take off to go a very high place…the major concern, where drainage is concern, is the dredging of the Pomeroon River. In 2005 I did raise this issue and some persons objected to it. If we are in a basin and the mouth of the river is shallow, only a certain amount of water could pass out there. People are suggesting that we dig more canals to the river but it would be the same thing if the rain falls because the mouth of the river is shallow. It needs dredging. My other concern is, at one point we were receiving chemicals for the coconut industry. I would ask today if that process could continue. Today we have cases of infestation of the red palm mite and recently, I’ve seen the coconut cockle. The chemicals that we use would also help to alleviate that very cockle infestation,” Mr. Ali said.

Brian Ally

In responding to the farmers’ comments, Minister Mustapha said the Ministry did discuss carrying out works at the mouth of the Pomeroon River.

“When I visited flood affected areas in Charity a few weeks ago with the Prime Minister, that issue was raised. I asked NDIA to do an estimate of the cost to execute that project. It would cost the government billions of dollars. We have to work over time between the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Agriculture. I will let my colleague Minister know that there is serious concern from residents in the Pomeroon about the clearing of the river mouth,” Minister Mustapha said.

Over the past few weeks, several communities along the Pomeroon River had experienced severe flooding as a result of constant rainfall and the overtopping of the Pomeroon River, leaving almost 150 households severely affected.

Since then, the Ministry of Agriculture has put measures in place to bring some amount of relief to farmers who suffered losses as a result of the flooding. The National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) and the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) have commenced a series of assessments to see how many farmers were affected and the extent of the damage.

Minister Mustapha said that, based on the findings of those assessments, farmers will be given assistance in the form of planting materials, fertilisers and other chemicals so that they can return to their cultivation. These assessments, he said, will commence within the coming days. He assured farmers that, they too, would benefit from the same level of assistance farmers along the Coast and other parts of the country, who were affected by flooding, had received.

The Government of Guyana, since taking office, has started laying the groundwork to promote an enabling environment for investment in several productive sectors.

Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha with AmCham President, Zulfikar Ally

Over the last few months, local and international investors have begun to engage Government after signalling their interest to invest. They are optimistic about a smooth process now that the ‘red tape’ experienced under the previous administration have been eliminated.

In keeping with this, Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha met President of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Guyana Incorporated, Mr. Zulfikar Ally, during which a number of areas were discussed. This includes the Chamber playing a more distinct role in linking Government to investors from the United States of America.

Mr. Ally indicated that the Chamber had received a significant amount of investment proposals and is currently working to ensure that the proposals presented to the Government are from reputable individuals and entities who are ready and serious about investing.

“We have some big US companies interested in the agriculture sector, but I’ve not brought them to you yet because I met with the US Embassy and informed the officials there that all the interest that we’re having, they’re going to the Ministers of Government and they are overwhelmed with all of these things. We have to find a mechanism whereby we can properly screen them before we send them to meet with Government. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people want to invest, but there are cases where persons or companies just want to find out what is there. This is where it becomes difficult because in the mix, there are people who have the means to invest but are not getting the audience with the relevant persons. This is why we are working to sift this out so that when Government officials do meet with people who would’ve been recommended by AmCham, they know that all due diligence was performed and that these people have all the relevant information on the investment opportunities in the various sectors,” Mr. Ally said.

He added that AmCham, GoInvest and the GMSA will be meeting with the US embassy shortly to establish a system whereby every US investor that signals an interest in Guyana, undergoes a screening process so as to gather the necessary background information before their interests are forwarded to the various Government officials.  This, he added, will ensure that when investment proposals reach to a ministerial level of review and consideration, all the necessary groundwork would’ve already been conducted.

Minister Mustapha welcomed the idea, saying that the government remains committed to engaging all the relevant bodies when examining investment opportunities.

“Government, since taking office, has committed to working with bodies like AmCham to ensure there is a close working relationship between the Government and the private sector. If we are to really move forward with investments to benefit the citizens of this country and promote development, there needs to be some level of involvement and inclusion when making these decisions. We have received a lot of investment proposals and we are working to determine which projects fit into our developmental agenda. From an agriculture standpoint, we are looking for investors in a number of areas such as poultry, sugar, rice, dairy, soya bean and corn just to name a few. We have the lands available for large scale for production corn and soya bean in the Intermediate Savannah in the Canje basin. In last year’s emergency budget, we would’ve included a number of incentives to promote the cultivation of these two commodities. We are also looking to develop the poultry industry. There is room for persons looking to invest in poultry production on a large scale so that Guyana would be able to tap into Regional and International markets. The number of persons we have in the industry now; we cannot afford to export so much,” Minister Mustapha said.

Facilitating investments

The Guyana Office for Investment (GoInvest) is also working with the Ministry to develop a number of investment packages that will be used as a guide for persons desirous of investing in different areas in the agriculture sector.  

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and GoInvest CEO, Dr. Peter Ramseroop.

Chief Executive Officer of GoInvest, Dr. Peter Ramsaroop said the agency is working to ensure a proactive approach is taken to ensure the right investments are pursued and investors are fitted with the relevant information on the sector.  

“What we are working to do in executing our mandate, is to be proactive by assisting your Ministry with taking the necessary steps to facilitate the processes that comes along with an intent to invest. We are working assiduously to properly market agriculture. We’ll go through the processes with the investors from the business side, the source of funding and so on; the things that are mandatory. We’ll then send it back to the Ministry, with our recommendation on whether it’s a viable project or not, the criteria for investment and concession necessary so that the Ministry can act,” Dr. Ramsaroop said.

Minister Mustapha said such initiatives will further promote investments in Guyana over the next five years.

“I think that with agencies like GoInvest taking these steps to promote investment opportunities in Guyana both locally and overseas, in another five years from now, we will see a complete transformation in the economy with the magnitude of investments coming in. The potential is there, we just have to ensure it is done in a sustainable and organised manner,” Minister Mustapha said.

– to ensure effective management of conservancies

Minister of Agriculture, Hon.  Zulfikar Mustapha, today, installed the Boards of Directors for the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) and the Boerasirie Water Conservancy (BWC) in the boardroom of the Ministry.

Mr. Lionel Wordsworth has been appointed Chairman of the EDWC Board, while Mr. Yudhisthira Mana will serve as Chairman of the BWC Board.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha (center) with MoA Director General, Madanlall Ramraj and Chairman of the EDWC Board, Lionel Wordsworth

Minister Mustapha, while addressing the members of the Boards, outlined the importance of having a reliable and effective irrigation system in the agriculture sector. He also charged the Boards with ensuring both conservancies were properly managed.

“We know for a fact that these conservancies are important and we know the importance of irrigation for the agriculture sector in our country. As members of these Boards, you are tasked with the responsibility of managing these important infrastructures as water supply remains critical to ensuring the success of the agriculture sector. You know Government is working aggressively to develop and move the sector forward, and farmers are depending on us to ensure we have proper irrigation so that they can ensure their plants have a constant supply of water. We therefore have to manage these conservancies effectively and ensure that we cater to these farmers,” Minister Mustapha said.

The subject Minister added that the EDWC also serves as a source of potable water supply for the city.

“These conservancies serve to irrigate thousands of hectares of land, for example, in Region Three, the entire GuySuCo operation depend on conservancy in West Demerara. The EDWC acts as a dual purpose too, because it also provides potable water for the city. The Ministry of Agriculture is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring we manage it effectively; we preserve it and we regulate these conservancies in a sustainable way. With the composition of both Boards, I know we have persons with experience, the necessary skill and competency to manage these infrastructures effectively. Government is depending on you to advise [on] proposals and give guidance for the operation of these critical infrastructures. We are on the verge of opening new lands because we want to double production by 2025 so that means we have to provide effective irrigation to the thousands of hectares of farmlands that are available and will become available,” Minister Mustapha said.

The EDWC is one of Guyana’s major water storage and flood control facilities. It serves to irrigate thousands of hectares of rice and other crops within this area by storing rain water for dry periods and also provides about 60 per cent of the drinking water for Georgetown.

The Boerasirie conservancy collects the flow from the Boerasirie River, Warimia Creek, Jumbi Creek and finally the South Durabana creek. It has a total capacity of 166 million m3 and was designed to provide irrigation to about 36 000 ha.

Agri. Ministry to work with Region to repair all-weather road

– dams to be repaired in time for paddy harvesting in March

Farmers from Windsor Forest on the West Coast of Demerara will benefit from an almost immediate intervention which will see a series of drainage works being undertaken from tomorrow.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha visited the community today and met with scores of farmers and residents to listen to their concerns and deliver some level of relief. The meeting came after a group of farmers from the area met with the subject Minister at one of his Farmer’s Open days and expressed dissatisfaction with the condition of a number of canals, roads and dams in the area.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha

During the meeting, Mohanlall Ranjit, a rice farmer, said that the current state of the dams is unsatisfactory. He further stated that the if something isn’t done farmers wouldn’t be able to bring their paddy out after it is harvested in March, 2021.

Nandram Pooran, another resident from the area, said that there was need for work to be done on one of the middle-walks. He also said that farmers would tamper with the structure to benefit themselves.

 “I’m from Harlem. My main concern is the middle-walk in Harlem. It is very shallow and we’re not getting the supply of the water. The next issue is the panel. The farmers are tampering with all them panels that gotta bring in the water to Harlem and Crane. Every time the water gotta come we way, the panel is blocked. So we need the middle walk. That is the most important thing,” Mr. Pooran said.

Further, another farmer by the name of Azeed Jaikaran, also aired his frustration with the condition of one of the dams.

A resident while raising several issues during the meeting

“There’s a dam, Ruimzigt sideline dam which build to a part, I think about 100 meters and they lift up the dam. It na got construction and from there the dam very bad. When I say bad, bad! You can’t walk barefoot deh. You go down deep deep til to your knee so the dam really need to look after and this coming crop here will be even worse if you don’t do something,” Mr. Jaikaran said.

Anil Seecharan, a cattle farmer, said that there was need for some amount of work to be done on the pasture.

“We have a cow pasture at the back here. I think we need to see somehow to get this cleaned because the cattle won’t stay in the pasture anymore. They will always be out and damage farms. If the cow pasture clean and you build back some dam inside then the cattle would stay inside the pasture rainy time,” Mr. Seecharan said.

Residents also voiced their concern about the all-weather road and the garbage situation. It was mentioned that persons residing in neighboring communities would visit the area during the evening hours and dump garbage alone side the road and in the backdam.

A section of the gathering

In responding to the garbage issue, Regional officials present at the meeting stated that control of the issue was somewhat beyond the resources of the NDC office. The official added that persons, not necessarily from the area, would carry out these activities in the nights and that a holistic solution such as the development of a dumpsite in the area or in the vicinity is needed to address the issue.

Dave Rampersaud used the opportunity to express his dissatisfaction with a number of works done in the area.

“Me have a very serious problem. The soiling from the kokar break away since the 3rd of January. They bring a man fuh do some temporary work but the temporary work is a shabby work. If you gonna d temporary work you gotta seal all sections so when rain fall or when there is overflow of the water, it cannot wash away. The concrete wall fall and leave inside the trench. If you gonna drive pile and drive plank, you had to take out that concrete structure. The kokar door; they give a man a contract. I don’t know who give the man contract. Every crease you gotta put cotton and put tar so it can keep in place. The man can’t get that problem solved up to now. Another thing Mr. Minister, they build a cross street mussy about eight or ten feet. Actually half mash up already because the man wuh do de work na build shoulder. He only build the head, he na build shoulder,” Mr. Rampersaud said.

In responding to the issues raised, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha said that government was committed to addressing all the issues raised and that from tomorrow, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) will be deploying a machine to commence the works needed to bring some level relief to the farmers and residents.

“A machine will come here from tomorrow to dig all the canals that are clogged and build up the dams. I’ve asked the NDIA CEO to send in the machine to do all the canals and until those works are finished, the machines will not leave the area. I want the community to form a committee to look at these things so that they can give us updates on how these works are progressing. Every time you have to reap the crop we will ensure that we repair the dams. I understand that by the first week in March people will start to reap their paddy so between now and March, we’ll repair the dams so that you will be able to bring out your paddy. Also, we will work with the Region on the road. The Region has a grader and we will provide the crusher-run and we’ll repair the all-weather road for you. The issue with the pasture, I’ve instructed officials from GLDA to come back and meet with you to so that we can work on a plan to develop the pastures,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha also informed the gathering that an all-weather road will be constructed in the Region once the budget is passed within the coming weeks. He also advised officials from the NDC to put community policing mechanisms in place to apprehend persons caught dumping garbage in the area.

progress made with Suriname to license Corentyne fishermen 

Guyana’s Fisheries industry will, over the next five years, realize its full potential as government continues to direct its efforts towards crafting policies geared at ensuring sustainability of the sector.

Fisheries in Guyana has, over the years, evolved into one of the largest income earners for the economy, raking in some $16B in 2020.

As part of government’s efforts to further develop the industry, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha today met with members of the newly installed Fisheries Advisory Committee and the Guyana Fisheries Limited Board (GFLB).

During the meeting, Minister Mustapha charged the new bodies with examining issues faced in the sector and providing recommendations to move the sector forward.

“With these times we are encountering several challenges in the fishing industry, not only with the crisis we have with Guyana and Venezuela, but as a country sharing borders with a number of other countries. Especially with Suriname and Venezuela, we have to ensure we look at issues faced by persons in the industry and provide recommendations to move the sector forward. We all know the importance of the fishing industry in supporting the economy of our country and government has been putting a lot of effort and resources into the sector. It contributes almost 12% to the agriculture GDP, provides employment with over 15,000 persons directly employed in the industry, and is a large income generator, especially in the rural areas across our country,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha also stated that it was important to ensure all management measures were employed to ensure the sustainability of the industry. He also outlined some of the expectations government has for the newly installed Fisheries Advisory Committee.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and MoA Director General, Madanlall Ramraj during the meeting

“As the body mandated to help us craft policies, you have to ensure that you craft policies that would be able to help our fisherfolk to sustain their income while ensuring the industry continues to make a valuable contribution to Guyana’s GDP. The Fisheries Advisory Committee must also ensure that it carries out its mandate to advise on the management and development of the fisheries sector. We are looking to you to devise plans and programmes to guide government’s vision for the expansion of the fishing industry, aligning it with government’s priorities. We were elected based on the measures outlined in the manifesto and we have to ensure those measures become policies. One of those measures is to enhance support for fishermen and corp societies, and you know we are now looking to resuscitate the National Fisherfolk Organization. We also have to look at the promotion of commercial fisheries, which should include partnerships with investors who already have established markets. It is also important for you to look closely at ensuring that fishermen displaced by activities in the oil and gas sector are compensated, if any,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha also took the opportunity to inform the members on the progress made with regards to fishermen from Corentyne and Suriname.

“We’ve had some very positive feedback from the Surinamese government. We are on the verge of securing licenses for Guyanese fishermen. Two days ago I received a correspondence from the Surinamese Government and I’m optimistic that this will be the first time in the history of our country that our fishermen might be licensed directly by the Surinamese authorities. So the problems that we’ve been faced with, where the middle men normally charge large fees for small fishermen to have licenses could be abolished,” Minister Mustapha said.

 Newly appointed Chairman of the Fisheries Advisory Committee Seepaul Narine while addressing the members said that the members of the bodies should work to ensure they utilize their efforts to advance the sector.

Seepaul Narine

“The magnitude of this industry cannot be underestimated if we are talking about 15,000 persons, and, because of the closure of two plants, we are still talking a large number of the population when you take into account those who are employed and their families who depend on them. I would wish that, during our tenure, we work hard, we put our efforts together and we utilize the expertise around this table,” Mr. Narine said. 

Additionally, newly elected Chairman of the Guyana Fisheries Limited Mohammed Khan said that he hopes the committees can work together to once again stabilize the sector.

“As the Minister said, we are indeed making a tremendous contribution to this country. The latest figure I have is between 15,000 to 17,000 people working in fisheries. It’s a little bit down now because of two plants that closed down recently. I do hope that with the new committees, we work together to bring back the fisheries industry to a stable position,” Mr. Khan said.

Mohammed Khan

Issues in the sector

President of the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) Ruben Charles said that he hopes the Board and the Committee can work making representation to have a study conducted the effects of oil exploration is having on the low level of catches.

“Lots of things have happened and I’m glad that I’m in a position to say something about the future of the industry. Our organization, the Trawlers Association is experiencing some difficulty now in terms of catch levels and members of that association are, without any scientific guidance, are attributing that to the drilling of oil out there. One of the things we would be seeking is to see how we can mount some investigation to prove whether that is so,” Mr. Charles said.

Ruben Charles

Minister Mustapha said that issues such as factors contributing to low catches will be addressed. He added that the Board and the committee have the Ministry’s full support to make representation for studies to be conducted to determine whether oil exploration activities are indeed affecting the sector and a determining a sustainable way forward for the sector.

Residents of Lowland on the East Coast of Demerara are singing praises for the swift action of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) in carrying out works on a number of drains and canals in the village in an effort to alleviate flooding in the area.

After meeting with residents in the village last Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha immediately instructed officials from the NDIA to have a machine sent to the area to commence the works.

An excavator was subsequently deployed to the area on Saturday last and works are currently ongoing. Once completed, hundreds of villagers stand to benefit from the approximately 2770 rods of drainage channels that will be cleared. The ongoing works are being executed at an estimated cost of over GY$2.2M and should be completed within the next three weeks.

NDIA engineers examining the works done so far

Residents of Lowland expressed their satisfaction with the swift action of the Ministry to bring some level of relief to the community.

Lorence Chester, 88, said that she was pleased with the with the fact that works are being done to bring some amount of relief to the residents of Lowland.

“I paid nearly $1M to build up here. This was a trench. The other day when rain fall, look the things pack up in my house. Three feet water, if you go behind my fence you will see the mark. All behind that tank water coming up till there. I praise God. When I look out and see the machine working I felt so happy. The Minister was here and I heard somebody from the area was speaking about the condition of the drains. I told my neighbor that we will get help because the Minister promised to do something. When I saw the machine I called my neighbor again and said look, you see, we’re getting the help,” Ms. Chester said.

Lorence Chester

Chumandat Persaud, a mason who has been residing in the area for 12 years, said that the water in the drains are already receding.

“Me and my wife went to the meeting with the Minister last weeks when he promised that the machine would come and start the work this week but it came since Saturday. He promised and he fulfill his promise. The whole place does get flooding because the place na get drainage but now that the machine here working, we will get the drainage. With the work they do already you can see the water going down already,” Mr. Persaud.

Chumandat Persaud

During the meeting, residents raised a number of issues with the Minister and his team, which included the need for works to be done on a number drains and canals, rehabilitations works to the main roads and land allocations, as many persons are currently squatting. The subject Minister immediately committed to having a machine deployed to the area to commence works as part of a complete upgrade to the community’s drainage system.

The machine is expected to remain in the area until all the works have been completed. The NDIA was also tasked with compiling a report detailing the extent of the works to be done in the area on a regular basis.

A section of one of the drains in Lowland that has been cleared

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha said that government is looking at developing a plan to upgrade the country’s entire drainage system.

He noted that, with climate change, rising sea levels and somewhat unpredictable weather patterns, government has begun the ground work to ensure a comprehensive drainage and irrigation system is developed and introduced within the next five years.

“Guyana is below sea level so it is government’s responsibility to put systems in place to safeguard the citizens of this country from the effects of flooding. This is why we have commenced working on a comprehensive plan to improve the country’s drainage system. I cannot disclose too much now, what I can say is that we will be installing more drainage pumps in these vulnerable areas, as well as scheduling maintenance works on these canals and drains. We know for a fact that, prior to this government taking office, things were done in a reactive manner. Only when there was flooding or during the rainy season then you would see works being done. As Minister of Agriculture, I will ensure agencies such as the NDIA are proactive. They will be guided by a clear work programme developed using both technical knowledge and stakeholder consultation. This is to ensure the needs of the persons set to benefit are considered,” Minister Mustapha said.

The subject Minister also said that Budget 2021 will set the foundation for the government’s developmental agenda which will see a complete transformation to Guyana’s economy through investments in the country’s productive sectors. 

– residents also appeal for better roads, housing

Residents from Lowland Village on the East Coast of Demerara will soon benefit from a complete upgrade to their community’s drainage system following an immediate intervention by Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha during a community meeting late Wednesday afternoon.

During the meeting, residents raised a number of issues with the Minister and his team, which included the need for works to be done on a number drains and canals, rehabilitations works to the main roads and land allocations, as many persons are currently squatting.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha while engaging a resident of Lowland during the meeting

Pandit Dahdoo, Vice Chairman of the Lowland Community Development Council (CDC), pleaded with the Minister for some amount of work to be done on the community’s drainage system, which he said currently poses serious health risks to members of the community.

“Our drainage system is very very bad. When you walk around our village, especially on the southern side, the drain is so clogged up with bushes. The culverts are so blocked up that when the rain falls the water is stuck especially in the southern side. Because it is stuck there; the water raises and cannot get out. It affects not only the crops and livestock, but the people that live around the areas. It is very dangerous for our children because right now if you go and look around that area, we have the burial ground and then this water there, the colour of the water has changed and its smelly. I’m asking on behalf of the CDC and the people of this village, for the Ministry to help us with the cleaning of these drains and we will continue to encourage our people to continuously tidy their areas,” Mr. Dahdoo said.

Ms. Danmattie Bisram, another resident also complained about the state of the drains in Lowland.

A section of the gathering

“I’m living here over five years and way down at the back, going to the line, we have really bad drainage. I made a report to the NDC about the third street, that street doesn’t have any culvert. I don’t know if because of the COVID they didn’t come. I think the housing people were around here one time and I complain to them and they said they would look into the matter. Couple days ago, the villagers, because of not getting the drainage, the villagers ask around of a little donation to buy a 10” pipe and buss the dam and put it at the bottom through the dam and now we get a little relief with the drainage. We are asking for something to be done so that we can get better drainage,” Ms. Bisram said.

Another resident pleaded with Minister Mustapha for some intervention to be made to address the state of the roads in the area.

Responding to issues raised during the meeting, Minister Mustapha informed the residents that he had instructed the NDIA to send an excavator to the community to complete all the drainage works in the area.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha

“I want to assure you that from next week, a machine will be coming to the area to do works on all the internal drains so that you will have proper drainage here. The machine will work until the entire system has been done. We’ll redo the entire drainage system for this community. I’ll also ask the head of the NDIA to do a report for me to ensure we know the extent of the works to be done in the entire area. We have to get corporation from the residents because there are residents who have bottle necks when they make their bridges or culverts. If we have to put in tubes to help with the drainage, we’ll do so,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha also informed the residents that he will inform his colleague Ministers about the road and housing issue raised so that they can visit the community and work along with the residents to bring some amount of relief.

“I’ve seen some of the roads while we were driving in. They are indeed in a deplorable state. I’ll ask the Minister of Public Works to come into the community with his engineers to look at it. That main road has to have a proper engineering study because the canals on both ends are very deep and it’s causing the road to sink,” Minister Mustapha said.

The subject Minister also informed those in attendance that a team from the NDIA will be meeting with them shortly to do an assessment of the works to be executed in the area so that representation can be made for those projects to be included in the Ministry’s 2021 work programme.

The Minister was accompanied by the Ministry’s Director General, Madanlall Ramraj and other senior officials of the Ministry.

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