– Min. Mustapha commits to sending additional machine to carry out works next Tuesday
– residents told works on access road has commenced
Residents and farmers from along the Mahaicony River, Berbice met with Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha hoping for some form of resolution to several issues faced in the farming community.
During a farmers’ meeting, which was held at Mora Point, Mahaicony, deplorable dams, dilapidated roads, drainage and irrigation and seemingly unfair grading of paddy at mills were some of the issues raised by residents.
Bhagwan Deo, a rice farmer from Yarrow Creek, pleaded with the Minister for assistance with clearing the main canal in the area.
“I have some rice presently that I have to reap soon and the canal block up. Also, this flooding that we get often, especially the farmers at the left bank, every time the May/June rainfall we getting flood and we gotta pump out the water. If we can’t pump out the water all the rice gone. Although the Hope Canal tries to ease the water still we getting flood,” Mr. Deo said.
Jeetendra Persaud, a rice farmer and secondary school teacher from Joanna Creek said that there needs to be better representation for the farmers at mills in the Region.
“GRDB has representatives that are supposed to be representing farmers at the mills and to my understanding, I don’t think these persons are doing the right job. They are not representing the farmers. Farmers are being bullied by the millers. The people there are not looking after the interest of the farmers. Also sir, in this Mahaicony area, we are asking if we can have somebody representing us from the Ministry of Agriculture like an extension officer,” Mr. Persaud said.
Krishendat Manickchand, a resident from Mahaicony spoke about the condition of the access road and the hardships farmers continue to face, especially during the rainy season.
“First I want to commend the Minister and the government for the works they are doing. I’ve seen a lot of improvements and I know a lot more will come but I have one concern. There’s this road on the other side of the Mahaicony River. I would like to know if repairs on it will go into the budget for next year because there are a lot of lands there that are being cultivated and farmers get a hard time taking their produce out especially with the inclement weather,” Mr. Manickchand said.
After listening to the complaints and issues from the farmers and residents in attendance, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha made a commitment that will see relief being brought to the area as early as next week.
“The last time I was here, there were 12 major issues raised and I would like to inform you that 99% of those issues have been resolved. The road seems to be the burning issue. I want you to know that the project has started. The consultants are working and I’ve asked the CEO of the NDIA to bring that individual here to explain the works to you. The road will be from Mora Point to First Savannah. In relation to the dams, the last time I was here I said that we will concentrate on community projects. I want to reiterate that we will continue to help farmers individually, but at the same time, we have to look at the community projects first so that the majority of persons can benefit. What I will do, there are several dams here. I know that we are close to crunch time for rice harvesting. I will boost your fleet of machinery with another machine from Tuesday. So you’ll now have two machines to do works in the area. We will also be installing another pump at Mora Point. As Minister, I recognize the importance of people getting proper drainage and irrigation. We are currently boosting the system with pumps because our drainage system wasn’t designed to take off the amount of water we often see during the rainy season or when there is persistent rainfall. We want the drainage system to be able to facilitate 24-hour drainage. That means when the tide is high the pumps will work and when the tide is low the sluice will work,” Minister Mustapha said
The subject Minister also addressed land issues that were raised by residents.
“We recognize that over the years, there have been many land disputes in the area. We are trying to regularize the land system in the MMA. There are a number of land matters in the courts and while those matters have been going on, people have been suffering. Since taking office, and with the appointment of the new MMA Board, I’ve asked that farmers who would’ve applied for small plots of land have their applications approved and that they are granted leases. So far 43 persons would’ve received their leases already,” Minister Mustapha said.
Minister Mustapha also told the residents who raised concerns about the grading system at the mills that a directive was given to the Rice Producers’ Association months ago to engage the farmers to select an individual that will be trained and paid by the GRDB to work at the mill to ensure farmers receive correct grades for their paddy. He urged the farmers to work along with the Region and have those individuals’ names submitted to the GRDB so that the training can commence.
Minister Mustapha was accompanied by the Ministry’s Director General, Madanlall Ramraj, and other officials from the Ministry and the Region.