6000 acres rice lost in Region 6 owing to lack of water
Six thousand acres of rice has been lost in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) as a result of a lack of water. That is according to Regional Vice Chairman Dennis Deoroop.
The loss occurred on the Corentyne between Number 52 and 74 Villages.
Rice farmers in the region have for weeks been calling on the regional administration to utilise the full capacity of the five pumps at Black Bush Polder and the two at Manarbisi. However, the regional administration said that there was insufficient fuel at the pump stations in Black Bush Polder for all five pumps to be operational.
According to the Vice Chairman, more rice might be lost if the necessary arrangements are not put in place immediately.
Only last week rice farmers in the region went to the office of the Regional Democratic Council in New Amsterdam to demonstrate the plight they are going through to have irrigation water for the rice.
Over 60,000 acres are under rice cultivation in the region.
Over 20,000 acres are under threat in the front lands and according to the President of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) Leaka Rambrich, there will be more in a few days if the situation is not rectified immediately.
Rambrich said the relevant authorities must take the necessary steps urgently to ensure that water is available to farmers.
“Presently at Black Bush Polder there are only two pumps working and the two pumps are insufficient to serve 42,000 acres of land; Black Bush Polder and the front lands adjacent to Black Bush Polder catchment area. We have five pumps there. I don’t know why they are not starting the remainder pumps. We can’t say if fuel is the problem, this is what the authorities need to let us know,” Rambrich said.
In the 52/74 area where in excess of 14,000 acres are under rice cultivation, about 40 per cent is under threat, Rambrich claimed.
According to the RPA President, the entire cultivation is getting red because of the lease water entering rice fields. He noted that the canals need to be flushed but there is no water coming into the system to do so.
It has been reported that only one pump has been in operation at 52/74.
One farmer, Uric Matterson, who cultivates land at Cromarty on the Corentyne, said that the pumps at Black Bush Polder do not operate at nights.
The pumps are expected to operate on a 24-hour basis.
With only a percentage of the pumps being put into operation and for only a part of the day, the rice farmers situated further away from the pumps will not be able to get needed water.
The pumps should have started on November 1, 2019, but because of a delay in carrying out the necessary repairs and the lack of adequate fuel, this was not done.
The regional administration claimed that it had been experiencing difficulty in taking fuel to the pumps. However, when the pumps were put into operation, the full capacity was not utilised.
After there was no fuel for the pumps and there was no money available to purchase, the Government gave $20 million to purchase fuel in December. It was only last week that the first shipment of fuel went to the pump at Black Bush Polder.
According to Rice Producers Association Extension Officer Ramlakan Singh, who is himself a rice farmer, the “dilly-dallying” resulted in many of the canals they depend on for irrigation water drying up.
“We don’t know if we will be able to save the crop, but at present, over 14,000 acres are cultivated and the farmers badly need water. The water only come up to Number 56 Village from Manarbisi and from Number 55 Village to Number 52, no water in all the canals. From Number 70 Village there is no water in the 71, 72, 73 and 74 Village canals because the pump is only working in the day.
Dennis Deoroop in an invited comment explained that the crop started late because of irrigation water and the fact that the Superintendent of Works has not been following instructions.
Deoroop explained that a contract was awarded more than six weeks ago to transport fuel to the pumps and the fuel is yet to get to the two locations where the pump stations are.
He said that they are also being frustrated by the actions of the Superintendent of Works, who is at Whim, who he said does not understand the system and has not been taking instructions.
That, he said, is creating difficulty for them to manage the system.
According to Deoroop, the Superintendent of Works told him that he was not going to have five pumps operating because the available fuel was only sufficient for two pumps.
“There is a need to get the fuel into the pumps and to get all of the pumps operating,” Deoroop noted.
“I see what is happening as a deliberate act. I have seen that two or three weeks this is being intensified with the Superintendent [of] Works refusing on many occasions to carry out instructions.”
Deoroop related that he spoke with the person who has been contracted to transport the fuel to the pump stations who claims that officials have been refusing to accompany him to take the fuel in.
Under the arrangement with the contractor, officials from the regional administration must accompany the trucks taking fuel to the pump stations.
“I am seeing it now as a deliberate attempt to frustrate the farmers and to create a crisis situation on the ground. We have had the excavators moving into certain areas in order to ease the existing situation in order to assist the farmers operating in the front lands. We worked out an arrangement with the excavator operators where they start working very early in the morning and go up to 22:00h which would give them about 12 or 13-hours machine operation.”
This arrangement, Deoroop said, was in an effort the maximise time in an attempt to save the rice crop
“The Superintendent of Works told me that he will only give one drum of fuel to each machine every two days and he will not give any more fuel.”
The Vice Chairman explained that in order to get the extra hours, each machine would need about two drums of fuel over a three-day period.
Deoroop related that recently at Port Mourant, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority sent one of its excavators into that community to assist. The farmers had agreed to pay for the transportation of the excavator to the location and after one and a half week it had done no work because fuel was not supplied.
“The Superintendent of Works refused [to] supply fuel for the machine.”
The farmers then made an offer to supply the fuel for the machine themselves but that offer was rejected.
Meanwhile, a delegation of farmers met with the Regional Executive Officer William-Stevens on Tuesday last to address the issue. (Andrew Carmichael)