Minister Mustapha assures Corentyne rice farmers that all access dams will be fixed

─ says inclement weather affecting maintenance works

Rice farmers from the #52 to #74 area on the Corentyne Coast, Region Six (East Berbice – Corentyne) were assured that all the dams in the cultivation areas will be rehabilitated as soon as possible.

This was disclosed by Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha during a meeting with the farmers at the New Market Primary School on Wednesday.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha

During the meeting, many farmers told the minister that the dams were in a deplorable state and that they were having issues accessing their rice fields. In addition to the terrible state of the dams, farmers said that several canals in the cultivation areas needed to be cleared.

One farmer present said that farmers had rice that would be ready for harvesting in a few days but given the state of the dams, it would be difficult.

A farmer while raising an issue during the meeting

“We have in there about 70 acres of rice bearing there now. We need the dam to track out. The dam needs to track out now because of the continuous rain that falling. There are areas where we need the machine to work. This is urgent,” the farmer said.

 While responding to the farmers’ concerns, Minister Mustapha said that the ministry has a continuous dam maintenance programme and called on farmers to be more responsible when using the dams, especially during the rainy periods. 

A section of the gathering

“Issues with dams don’t exist only in Black Bush Polder or in the #52 to #74 area. These are common issues across the country. We have to work together to develop better strategies and be a bit more responsible. When farmers cut their rice and use the dams irresponsibly, these dams are once again destroyed. Some farmers have no consideration for other farmers who have to use the dams. We have to begin taking into consideration that other farmers have to use it. When you use these heavy-duty machines like the tractors and combines, the dams will continue to be destroyed once this type of weather continues. This will continue until we can build permanent all-weather roads across the country. Hopefully, we can start some of those works next year,” the minister explained.

He also told farmers that while the ministry has been working across the country to ensure all of the dams in the cultivation area were repaired, persistent rainfall due to climate change has been adding to the issues with maintaining the infrastructure.

“We are repairing these dams so that you, the farmers, can harvest your crop. For the last two years, we’ve seen changes in the weather and the harsh effects of climate change. We are now in August. July and August are supposed to be the driest months of the year and we are still experiencing constant rainfall across the country. That is why the ministry is working to boost the drainage system. By the end of this year, we’ll have an additional 11 pumps in the system. We are working with a financial institution to be able to procure another 40 pumps so that we can have pumps installed at every sluice across the country. I’ve also asked the NDIA to inspect those areas that have canals that need to be cleared so that we can develop a programme to clear those channels,” Minister Mustapha said.

Farmers present also sought a commencement date for the government’s fertilizer distribution exercise. While giving an update on this initiative, Minister Mustapha said that the ministry will soon commence the distribution. He informed farmers that the exercise cannot commence until the list of farmers is confirmed.

“We would’ve already started but we keep having problems with the list. When the lists are posted, farmers are contacting us saying that there were persons on the lists who were not farmers. We do not want a repeat of what happened with the flood relief. That is why we developed committees comprising farmers and other stakeholders to do the registration and verification. As the minister, I cannot say who are all the farmers in these areas. That is why we are depending on your help and we expect you to be honest. We had officers colluding with persons during the flood relief and we do not want that to happen again,” Minister Mustapha explained.

Minister Mustapha also said that the ministry will make a grader available for farmers in region. He said that a committee should be formed so that farmers can also have some input into how the machines are utilized in the region.