Countrywide dam maintenance programme to be launched
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Tuesday met with farmers from Greenwich in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), to listen to some of the concerns faced within the farming communities.
The meeting was part of a series of community engagements undertaken by the Minister since taking office to assess the state of affairs in Guyana’s agriculture sector.
As was the case at previous meetings, farmers highlighted the need for improved dams, better drainage and irrigation, and fair grading systems for paddy at rice mills. One farmer said that she was receiving very poor grades for her paddy. She also told the Minister that the community was in need of an all-weather road.
“The grading of our paddy is being done very badly, we are getting very bad grades. Grades that we have never seen before. Sample A, sample C and those kinds of things – very low grades. Also, the koker at Philadelphia, it is not being opened regularly. Because it is not being opened regularly, we are getting lots of flooding in the area. Right now, if you check, the dams are flooded. We are also requesting the construction of an all-weather road. We have 13 dams and we need some help with that, because of the mud that keeps coming out with the tractors, it’s very dangerous for people on the roads,” the farmer said.
Another farmer said that farmers in the area were damaging the dam to benefit themselves. The Chairman of the Water Users Association for the area, said that there should be a structured programme in place for works being done. He also appealed for works to be done on a number of heavily forested dams in the area.
“We are tasked with cleaning a number of canals within the rice area and the other crops area. Comrade Minister, that’s one aspect, cleaning of the canals. Some of these dams, especially in the Namrick area, these dams are heavily forested. If you have contractors cleaning the dams, there’s no way any ranger could have access to these dams to verify that these works are being done in these canals. They are very bad. What I would like to see is a work programme laid out. We’d like to see a structured programme so that dams and canals would be maintained on a regular basis. Not only the canals, especially the dams so the access would be there to verify these works,” the Chairman said.
While responding to the issues raised by the farmers, Minister Mustapha committed to doing rehabilitative work on the dams in the area. He also said that he would work with the farmers to implement a system to ensure farmers benefit from a proper grading system at the mills.
“I’ll make a commitment here today. All the dams in the area we’ll rehabilitate them. We’ll develop a work programme and we’ll do the dams so that you can bring out your produce. I’ve asked the Chairman of the Board and the CEO of NDIA [National Drainage and Irrigation Authority] to do a programme, because I’m working on one for the entire country. We’ll have a dam maintenance programme that we’ll put into effect shortly… we are buying new excavators and we’ll send those excavators into the communities. The Water Users Association would like to see a programme; I’d like a request coming from the water users to see which areas are critical. So, areas like the forested dams that the Chairman spoke about, we would be able to start work on them. We are currently working to ensure all the dams are in a state where farmers can have free access to their cultivation,” Minister Mustapha said.
“I was at another community meeting with farmers with similar issues as it relates to grading. I asked the Rice Producers’ Association and the farmers to identify a person that will be trained by the GRDB [Guyana Rice Development Board]. I’m extending that to you now. If you can find a suitable person, we’ll train that person and they will be at the mill to monitor and ensure you get the correct grade for your paddy. In terms of the all-weather road, I know that the mud brought out by the tractors is dangerous, so my Ministry will be working with other Ministries like the Ministry of Public Works to see how we can develop proper farm-to-market roads,” he added.
Mustapha also told farmers that there would soon be a central extension service division established at the Ministry to monitor all extension services in the country.