Minister Mustapha meets with Belladrum farmers to discuss land matters, other issues

Last Wednesday, farmers from Belladrum and other surrounding communities in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) met with Agriculture Minister, Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha to discuss issues faced in the communities.

The visit came one day after H.E. President Dr. Irfaan Ali met with a small group of farmers while attending an event in the region during which the Head of State told farmers that the minister would visit the area to address their concerns.

Ministers of Agriculture, Local Gov’t & Regional Development, and Public Service during a meeting with farmers from several villages in Region Five

During the meeting, farmers raised concerns about drainage, community infrastructure, and other community-related and personal issues.

One farmer told the minister that there was a canal in the community that was in urgent need of maintenance. The farmer also said that infrastructural works on one of the access roads in the communities had resulted in a koker becoming defunct.

“Pertaining to drainage and irrigation, we have a canal midway of Plantation Foulis from the railway embankment to the Atlantic Ocean. That canal has been clogged up for a while now. Secondly, the koker that connects the southern part of the road to the northern part of the road that takes the water out to the Atlantic Ocean, when the road project was going on, it was dissolved,” he noted.

While responding to the farmer’s issues, Minister Mustapha said that engineers from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) will visit the area to see what work is needed to bring relief to farmers.

“We did a number of projects within the MMA Scheme and within this community. The canal that you spoke about, our engineers will visit the area and we will get those works done. Regarding the koker, we’ll engage the Ministry of Public Works to see how we can resolve that matter because they were responsible for that road project,” the minister said.

Minister Mustapha also told farmers who raised additional drainage issues that a team comprising officers and engineers from the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Agriculture Development Authority (MMA-ADA) and the NDIA will visit the areas to conduct an assessment, after which, recommendations will be made on how to move forward with the works needed.

A section of those who attended the meeting

In addition to drainage issues, Minister Mustapha gave farmers an update on where the government stands as it relates to requests made for assistance with land clearing for agricultural purposes in backlands of Paradise and Eldorado. 

Prior to the meeting, several farmers had engaged both the Head of State and the Agriculture Minister seeking assistance with land clearing to do agriculture. While the government expressed willingness to move forward with the project, most of the farmers did not have the relevant documentation to prove ownership of the said lands.

Surveyors from the MMA, after engaging agencies like the Deeds Registry were only able to source supporting documents for a few farmers.

Minister Mustapha while explaining where the government stands on the matter said that although the government was willing to assist, farmers needed to have the relevant documentation.

“We came, the President made a commitment and we said we’ll execute based on his instruction. I asked MMA to work with you to determine ownership of the land because there was a big issue with the ownership of these lands. Some canals were dug and when we went in to complete the work, we were told by some that we’ll be taken to court. This is why the President asked that we establish ownership of the land. We received a list about two months ago and we are in the process of verifying the names. We have about sixty names but we were only able to verify nine. So, we’ll start the process while we are in the process of clearing the land while we are verifying the others,” the minister explained.

Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha

Minister Mustapha said farmers whose information was verified can expect land-clearing operations to commence in the coming week. Ministers of Local Government and Regional Development, and Public Service Honourable Nigel Dharamlall and Honourable Sonia Parag were also present at the meeting to discuss issues affecting residents in the various communities represented.