Coomacka farmers groups to benefit from tools, other technical assistance

– Agri. Ministry to conduct audit of farming tools sent to Region after groups express dissatisfaction with inaccessibility

During an outreach to Region 10, Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Minister Zulfikar Mustapha met representatives of several farming groups and residents from Coomacka and other neighbouring communities who appealed for assistance with their current farming operations.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while addressing farmers and residents from Coomacka

The meeting, which was held at the Coomacka playground, residents also voiced concerns about several issues.

Mr. Paul McFarlane, representative of one of the farmers’ groups, said the area had great agricultural potential, but more technical support and equipment were needed.

“I really appreciate these interventions. We all know that these things are long overdue. Nothing has been done here, in terms of agriculture, for a long time. I can see there’s a lot of potential for agriculture in these parts. While we may not have enough arable land to do crops, we still do some amount of crops, but we can also do a lot of livestock. We can do aquaculture. We live alongside the river.

Paul McFarlane

“Eighty to ninety per cent of us live alongside the river. I think there’s great potential for aquaculture in these parts but somethings are lacking. We need the technical support. We don’t see or we hardly see the crops extension officers. We do see GLDA officers, but we really need the technical support. We also need the relevant tools and equipment. I don’t know when last the farmers’ group from the mines received any tools. We also need a boat and an engine because most of the lands available are across the river and we need access to those lands,” Mr. McFarlane said.  He also said that farmers’ groups were not benefiting from tools sent to develop small scale agriculture in the Region.

In response, Minister Mustapha, said the Ministry would be rolling out a programme soon.

“I was just having a discussion with our officers. We’ll soon have a programme to work with small farmers. Tools like tillers and other things that you need for your land, investment in the livestock industry and poultry industry; we’ll work along with the farmers.

“I’ve also asked the Permanent Secretary to trace back, from our Ministry, to see how much equipment we’ve given to Linden over the years. If individuals have those equipment, we’ll take it back and give it to the groups. We will commence an audit of all the equipment that came to Region 10 so that we can ensure the farmers’ groups benefit from them,” he said.

The Minister also gave assurances that extension officers would be more responsive to farmers’ needs.  Additionally, he said that he had instructed the relevant agency heads to ensure officers visit the farms in the community at least once per month and submit a report of their findings.

Mr. Ronald Narine, a farmer from Nottinghamshire, said he was displeased about some of the works conducted in the area.

Ronald Narine

“I’ve been living in Nottinghamshire for over 25 years. The area that I’m living in is in a pond. I have a bill of quantities here that says Nottinghamshire: clean and excavate in depth eight feet, 6,250 feet, $625,000 to clean because this is the road trench in front people house wuh got title fuh they land. It has been neglected for the past couple years; the drainage structure.

“We have another drain; manual cleaning and excavate that drain, 1800 feet; $100 a foot; $180,000. I have seen this money paying for the past six or seven years and the works are nothing compared to this paper that I have in my hand. The people who doing the work don’t know nothing and it become a pay day for the CDC (Community Development Council) people. Minister, I don’t know if you have anybody that knows the account of this contract but today, this thing bruk up,” Mr. Narine said.

Minister Mustapha said groups contracted to execute developmental works in the communities would now be held accountable when works are not executed according to the project specification.

“I’ve instructed the NDIA to work along with the CDC groups. The issue raised that some of these groups are collecting money and not doing anything, will be investigated. We must ensure that people do the work because when we budget these monies and the works are not done properly, the beneficiaries suffer.

“Although we are encouraging groups to work and giving them contracts, we will ensure that the works are done to the specification. Before the groups receive their payment, the works have to be completed according to the required specification. From now, and as long as I am Minister of Agriculture, I will ensure this happens,” Minister Mustapha said.

Residents also raised concerns about the need for improvements to the community’s drainage system. Minister Mustapha informed them that the NDIA is currently working to develop a work programme detailing all the requested drainage and irrigation needs in the Region.