Corentyne rice farmers cry for water in heart of rainy season
…says blocked canal causing water woes
Rice farmers who cultivate in the Number 52-74 villages on the Corentyne, Berbice, are in dire need of water to begin the next crop. At present, the Seaforth Canal is covered with vegetation blocking the smooth flow of irrigation water making it almost impossible for them to start preparation and cultivation.
According to some of the farmers, the canal has not been cleaned since February and now it cannot be cleared manually. Of the 14,500 acres of land cultivated last crop, only 4000 acres has some amount of preparation for the next crop.
Guyana Times visited the canal situated several miles inland from the residential area. A lush green mat of grass is covering to entire canal. According to Ramish Ramdat, who has a 200-acre plot at Number 70 Village, he has been able to plow and chip one hundred acres but needs water to flood the field.
“I need water right now. The field is being left exposed and it will cost me having to do additional work. This problem is because of the blockage of the Seaforth Canal and we cannot access water.”
Ramdat said he and other farmers met with the regional authorities and were promised that an excavator would have been sent to assist them on Monday. When this publication visited on Tuesday, no excavator was in the area and the farmers were hoping for more than the few hours of rainfall.
Another farmer, Chandredat Narinedat, who has 50 acres at Number 71 Village, said he has started to prepare for the next crop but is left at a standstill because of the lack of water to flood the fields. Like many other farmers who are being affected, Narinedat is contemplating whether to continue with the crop.
“We say abee gon wait lil mo but if abee wait lil bit mo, abee nah go get fuh cut rice in dry weather,” he explained.
The farmers argue that if they cannot commence the crop now then they will be forced in the rainy season and that will be counterproductive.
According to Narinedat, he stands to lose about $3 million if he is forced to harvest during the next rainy season.
He told Guyana Times that they are about to make a decision collectively as rice farmers. “Abee ah think about call off crop because abe na get no saying from no body.”
Meanwhile, President of the 52/74 Water Users Association, Ahmad Rajab says farmers have been pouring into the Association’s office on a daily basis seeking his help.
He said the contract to clean the Seaforth canal is normally awarded in February, however, so far this year it had not been cleaned.
“I made a request about three times for them to clean the canal. We are ready to start the pump but if we start the pump the water is going to overflow and go into the savannah. We have a lot of water available but it can’t pass.”
He further explained that with the amount of vegetation in the canal, it cannot be cleaned the way it is normally cleaned; manually. “We need a machine now to clean this and this is holding back the farmers a lot.”
The Water Users Association head said two thirds of the land is still to be repaired for the next crop as a result of the lack of water.
The crop should have commenced in mid-May and almost one month later the farmers are still uncertain whether they will be able to plant.
Rajab said as far as he is aware, a contract to clean the canal was awarded to someone, but that person has done nothing.
Those contracts are nor normally for maintenance and are one-year contracts. Hence, it should have been cleaned in February and maintained since.
Rajab says if the Regional Administration know that they will not be able to assist then the administration should advise farmers not to go into the crop.
“Going into the crop will cost millions of dollars and farmers are going to suffer,” Rajab told Guyana Times. (Andrew Carmichael)