Farmers from communities along the Pomeroon River in Region Two, will soon benefit from an improved drainage and irrigation system, with the passage of the national budget, which is expected to be introduced at the National Assembly sometime next month.
On Friday, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and a team of senior officials from the ministry held two community meetings with farmers to discuss and bring some relief to the issues they face.
At the first meeting, held at Jacklow Primary School, Minister Mustapha revealed that the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) was hoping to procure a pontoon, with two excavators, to carry out work in the communities along the Pomeroon River. .
Many of the farmers and residents who attended the meeting said that there was an urgent need to carry out work on many of the drainage canals in the Region. Farmers also said more block drain structures needed to be installed along those riverine communities.
Shaik Yussuf, a Jacklow farmer, said farmers need planting materials to be able to return to their farms after most of their crops have been damaged due to the recent prolonged flooding in the Region.
“As you know the flood water is now retreating and we are now seeing what the losses are. I am concerned about the planting material. If these prices for the planting materials can be reduced to a lower cost so that farmers can buy these planting materials.
“Secondly, I am appealing for some form of fertilizer support for farmers to help the farms with the produce. My other concern is, we have block drainage at the back and at the moment it is frustrating. It needs to be refurbished so that we can get back on our farm because, in my opinion, that was one of the major causes of the flooding that affected us.
“My next concern is about these plastic tube cocks being given to some people. I applied since 2015. The first time I spoke to the engineer, he told me my name was on the list. The next time I spoke to him he said my name had been deleted. So these are things that really bother some of us, ”said Mr Yussuf.
Minister Mustapha told the farmers that his ministry had put forward a proposal to buy a pontoon and two diggers to carry out ongoing work in the Pomeroon region. He also said that after the 2021 budget was passed, the NDIA would be able to restart its block tube registration and distribution exercise.
“You know now that we’re preparing for the budget. We have already submitted our proposal to the Ministry of Finance. I want to tell you that we have included sums to buy a pontoon with two diggers for the Pomeroon River.
“As long as we get that, he’ll stay in the Pomeroon. I am hopeful that those funds will be approved. When we produce our budget estimates, we look at various vulnerabilities but decided that we should include those essential pieces of equipment in our budget proposal. In relation to the drainage system, I know for a fact that we made many of those block drainage structures when we were in government before 2015.
“We also distributed block tubes to help farmers. I have instructed NDIA to restart that program. However, that program cannot start until after the budget has passed. From Monday, NDIA officials will be coming to the area to do an assessment. I want to assure you that we will try, as far as possible, to facilitate as many applications for these structures, ”said Minister Mustapha.
Dexter Cameron, a farmer from Marlborough, said the small farmers in the community were experiencing problems with intermediate drainage and could not afford to do much on their own.
“My concern is about drainage in the Pomeroon. Agriculture is big business and some may not be able to excel in some areas. We know that big farmers can do some things but the smaller farmers would like to exist too. My concern is that we may not all reach the top, but there is a level where we can all exist.
“The smaller farmers, and they are many, have a problem with intermediate drainage. The government has been doing a very good job. We’ve had our canals dug up and they’re being maintained and work is going on. The river protection program is ongoing. The sea and river dams are under construction but there is a struggle at the farms themselves.
“That’s where we need some help. Pomeroon is lowland and we can’t blame the government when the rain falls but we can ask for help to deal with this problem, ”said Mr Cameron.
Brian Ali, a well known Marlborough farmer, spoke about the state of the mouth of the Pomeroon River. He also asked for help with chemicals to treat coconuts.
“If we think in the long term, because farming, especially coconut farming is about to start getting into a very high place… the main concern, where drainage is a concern, is dredging the Pomeroon River. In 2005 I raised this issue and some people opposed it. If we are in a shallow river basin and mouth, only some water could pass out there.
“People suggest we dig more canals into the river but it would be the same if the rain fell because the river mouth is shallow. Dredging is required. My other concern is that at one time we were receiving chemicals for the coconut industry. We will ask today whether that process could continue.
“Today we have outbreaks of the red palm mite and I have recently seen the coconut cockles. The chemicals we use would also help alleviate the right cockle infestation, ”said Mr Ali.
Responding to the farmers’ comments, Minister Mustapha said the ministry was discussing carrying out work at the mouth of the Pomeroon River.
“When I visited areas of a Charity affected by a flood a few weeks ago with the First Minister, that issue was raised. I asked NDIA to estimate the cost of carrying out that project. It would cost the government billions of dollars. We have to work over time between the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Agriculture. I will inform my Minister colleague that the residents of the Pomeroon have serious concerns about clearing the river mouth, ”said Minister Mustapha.
Over the past few weeks, several communities along the Pomeroon River had experienced severe flooding as a result of frequent rainfall and flooding of the Pomeroon River, leaving nearly 150 households severely affected.
Since then, the Ministry of Agriculture has put measures in place to bring some relief to farmers who suffered losses as a result of the flood.
The National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) and the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) have initiated a series of assessments to determine how many farmers were affected and the extent of the damage.
Minister Mustapha said that based on the findings of those assessments, farmers will receive support in the form of planting materials, fertilizers and other chemicals so that they can return to growing. These assessments, he said, will begin within the next few days.
He assured farmers that they, too, would benefit from the same level of assistance as farmers along the Coast and other parts of the country, who were affected by flooding. (Ministry of Agriculture press release)