Govt to support Coomacka farmers with tools, other technical assistance

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha recently met with representatives of several farming groups and residents of Coomacka, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) and surrounding communities, and pledged them his Government’s support in the form of tools and technical assistance.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha addressing farmers and residents of Coomacka

The meeting was held at the Coomacka playground, and saw residents venting their concerns on a number of issues affecting them. One such concern was the need for technical support, and to an extent equipment.
“I really appreciate these interventions. We all know that these things are long overdue. Nothing has been done here in terms of agriculture for a long time. I can see there’s a lot of potential for agriculture in these parts. While we may not have enough arable land to do crops – we still do some amount of crops – we can also do a lot of livestock. We can do aquaculture. We live alongside the river,” Paul McFarlane, a representative of one of the farmers’ groups, noted.
He noted that about 90 percent of the residents reside alongside the river, and thinks there is great potential for aquaculture.
“We need the technical support. We don’t see, or we hardly see, the crops extension officers. We do see GLDA officers, but we really need the technical support,” he said.

A resident of Coomacka,Paul McFarlane

“We also need the relevant tools and equipment. I don’t know when last the farmers’ group from the Mines received any tools. We also need a boat and an engine, because most of the lands available are across the river, and we need access to those lands,” McFarlane noted.
In response, Minister Mustapha said the Ministry would be rolling out a programme soon to work with small farmers. He told the residents that acquisition of tools such as tillers and other equipment needed to invest in the livestock and poultry industry will be discussed.

Ronald Narine, another resident, making his point during the meeting

“I’ve also asked the Permanent Secretary to trace back, from our Ministry, to see how much equipment we’ve given to Linden over the years. If individuals have the equipment, we’ll take it back and give it to the groups. We will commence an audit of all the equipment that came to Region 10, so that we can ensure the farmers’ groups benefit from them,” the Minister stated.
The Minister also assured residents that the extension officers would be more responsive to farmers’ needs.
Additionally, he said he had instructed the relevant agency heads to ensure officers visit the farms in the community at least once per month, and submit a report of their findings.
Another resident, Ronald Narine, related that he is displeased about some of the works conducted in the area.
“I’ve been living in Nottinghamshire for over 25 years. The area that I’m living in is in a pond. I have a bill of quantities here that says Nottinghamshire: clean and excavate in depth eight feet, 6,250 feet, $625,000 to clean because this is the road trench in front people house wuh got title fuh they land. It has been neglected for the past couple years, the drainage structure,” he said.
Minister Mustapha said groups contracted to execute developmental works in the communities would now be held accountable when works are not executed according to the project specification.
“I’ve instructed the NDIA to work along with the CDC groups. The issue raised, that some of these groups are collecting money and not doing anything, will be investigated. We must ensure that people do the work, because when we budget these monies and the works are not done properly, the beneficiaries suffer.
“Although we are encouraging groups to work, and (are) giving them contracts, we will ensure that the works are done to the specification before the groups receive their payment. The works have to be completed according to the required specification. From now, and as long as I am Minister of Agriculture, I will ensure this happens,” Minister Mustapha said.
Residents also raised concerns about the need for improvements to the community’s drainage system. Minister Mustapha informed them that the NDIA is currently working to develop a work programme detailing all the requested drainage and irrigation needs in the Region.