Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha M.P. on Tuesday afternoon met with farmers from several farming communities in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) following requests made to the Agriculture Ministry for a visit to be made to resolve several issues.
During the first meeting, Minister Mustapha met with farmers from Belle Vue who had longstanding issues with the management of farmlands which fall under the direct responsibility of the village’s Co-op Society.
After listening to both the farmers and the co-op’s chairman, Minister Mustapha advised the farmers to put aside their personal issues so that farming in the area can develop.
“There are a lot of personality issues and we need to put those feelings aside and work as a team. My ministry will work with you but you need to put your issues to the side. I will engage the Attorney General’s office on this matter because there are some legal issues that need to be addressed before any decision can be made. I will also ask my other colleague, Minister Hamilton who is responsible for co-ops to visit the area and meet with you. If there is an established Co-op you have to have AGM and there are certain rules that the co-op needs to abide by,” Minister Mustapha said.
Meanwhile, at Canal Number Two Polder, farmers sought the minister’s assistance with providing improved drainage to the farming community.
Minister Mustapha told farmers that, while there were issues prior to 2015, most of their drainage issues came as a result of the closure of the Wales Estate.
“You had drainage issues but it was compounded with the closure of the estate and those are the social contributions GuySuCo was making. When we, as a party, said GuySuCo is beyond sugar, many persons were saying that we were only concerned with sugar workers. Now we are seeing the ripple effect that the closure had on the many communities,”
The minister also told farmers who were leasing lands by NICIL under the previous administration following the closure of the estate for agricultural purposes that the government is embarking on a project that will benefit the entire region and not just a select few.
“When we got into government, we wanted to ensure everyone was given a chance. Not only 75 farmers. We will not take bread out of anyone’s mouth. This PPP/C government will not take bread out of anyone’s mouth. We have to have an entity to create employment for the people on the West Coast and the West Bank of Demerara so that they can have meaningful and gainful employment. An entity that will create thousands of jobs and bring investment to the region,” the minister said.
Farmers from Hubu were also assured that their drainage issues would be addressed. Minister Mustapha after listening to their concerns instructed engineers from the NDIA to return to the community to work with farmers to develop a prioritized drainage and irrigation programme for the area.
“Next week the chairman along with the engineers from NDIA will come back to look at the issues that you are raising. The bridge that you spoke about, the dam, the tubes, the culvert, and all these things will be included. They will then prepare a detailed report so that we can see how best we can assist you. I’ll also ask them to look at the farm-to-market road that you are requesting. We’ll also incorporate this area in the Water Users so that you can have representation and benefits in that society,” Minister Mustapha said.