Canal Polder farmers assured of better drainage

– Min. Mustapha commits to drainage works, maintenance of canals 

Farmers from Canal No. 1 and 2 on the West Bank of Demerara (Region Three) were Wednesday afternoon given assurance that they will soon benefit from improved drainage systems in the farming community.

Agriculture Minister, Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha met with farmers from the area to discuss some of the issues faced with the hope of resolving them.

While the farmers acknowledged the government’s efforts to develop the sector, they noted that constant rainfall coupled with the lack of effective drainage continue to pose major challenges to their livelihood. One of the major issues faced was the lack of maintenance to major canals and drains in the area.

Kevon John, a farmer from Canal No. 1, explained that while works are executed to dig canals and trenches, the lack of maintenance has resulted in them becoming deplorable.

“As much as you are creating new drainage for us, I’d like to see the maintenance of the said trench that is being dug. I have trenches right now by me that were dug but they are getting back bad because they need maintenance. Farmers also need assistance with internal drainage. If we have to assist with fuel we can once the machine is made available,” the farmer noted.

Another farmer noted that while the Neighborhood Democratic Council (NDC) is responsible for some of the maintenance work, it has not been able to execute those works effectively.

Farmers also noted that as a result of flooding, their infrastructure was also affected. One farmer explained that, like many other farmers in the area, sections of his farm were sinking.  

While responding to issues raised, Minister Mustapha said a holistic approach is needed to deal with the issues faced in the area and committed to making the resources available to commence the needed work.

“Here in Canal Polder, we have one objective, which is to have maximum production. In order to address these matters, we have to look at them from a holistic view. The middle trench that you spoke about, we will do it. The NDIA will do it but there are people who don’t want that trench to be done. They are saying that they don’t want the machine to go there. If we have permission tomorrow, we’ll make a machine available before the end of the week to start those works,” the minister noted.

He further stated that funds have been made available for the construction of a multi-million-dollar pump station at Belle Vue that will offer major relief to farmers in the area.  

“This year, we’ll start construction of a new pump station at Belle Vue that will cost over $500 million to help boost the drainage system here. We are also looking to develop a new drainage structure through the ‘C’ line so that farmers there can get proper drainage. We’ll do the Hope-like canal at the ‘B’ line that the Vice President spoke about. Those structures will help you because we went to make these areas as productive as they once were. These areas were developed to produce for the country but over the years, the infrastructure has deteriorated. We have to rebuild and rehabilitate these structures. This is why we’ve increased budgetary allocations,” he added.

While responding to requests with raising the level of farmlands, Minister Mustapha said engineers from the NDIA will develop a programme to assist in this regard.

“I am willing to do those works to help the farmers. The NDIA will do a programme to see how many farmers need this form of assistance. I have to say that we cannot do all the work at one time or give endless hours because we know many people have very large acreages but we will do those works to avoid flooding,” he explained.

Officers from NAREI will also meet with farmers to address crop issues after several farmers noted that their production levels were low following flooding in 2022.