The Minister of Indigenous Affairs moaned this week that we have more politicians than farmers. He ignored completely the government he is part of has done everything possible to make the lives of farmers and their families more and more difficult with each passing day. Even as he asked more people to go into farming and be professional farmers, he shamelessly ignored the fact that Black Bush Polder, a premier farming community is still hurting from a flood that started more than two weeks ago. Not a single APNU+AFC Minister or senior member has visited the farmers in that agriculture community. In Region 1, another important agriculture community, farmers are experiencing major difficulties for months now and not a single APNU+AFC Minister has bothered.
It is crystal clear – APNU+AFC is anti-agriculture, anti-farmers. In the more than four years APNU+AFC has been in government, there is not a single policy or action that can be deemed agriculture-friendly or farmer-friendly. Every single agriculture policy has led to a downturn in agriculture and hardships for farmers and their families. The Minister of Agriculture has been the most aloof and the most disinterested Minister of Agriculture Independent Guyana has ever had.
This week, a number of cattle farmers from Region 5 resorted to the Courts to prevent APNU+AFC taking away 1,360 acres of State land they made a living from for more than 25 years. The farmers have reared cattle in a place called Rampoor behind Blairmont in Region 5, some of them for more than 20 years and others more than 30 years.
They have not only paid their MMA charges for all those years, but they have spent their own resources, many millions of dollars and untold hours of toil, developing those lands. Now the MMA, carrying out the policies and actions of APNU+AFC, have given marching orders to the farmers, for them to remove their cattle and vacate the land by last February 2019. I know these lands. I visited the cattle farmers in those fields when I was Minister of Agriculture. Those farmers were allowed occupancy of those lands. As the responsible Minister for the MMA, and on behalf of President Ramotar, I approved those farmers occupying the land, after recommendation from the MMA Board.
Adding salt to the injury, the MMA has also redistributed the land, mostly to activists and members of APNU+AFC. Among the persons who have received land from that area is a group led by the Chairman of the MMA. Of the persons being given these lands, most, if not all of them, do not own a single head of cattle. How can we encourage people to be farmers when those who have been farmers for decades and own hundreds of heads of cattle are denied agriculture land which they have occupied and developed for decades? What kind of government takes land from productive farmers and give those land to persons who have little farming credentials and who are being given cattle land when they own not a single head of cattle?
The confiscation of cattle land from legitimate cattle farmers to give to people who say they will become cattle farmers is brazen, barefaced, high-handed and screams corruption. It is not just another ugly example of the government-led rampant corruption plaguing Guyana today, but a damning example of APNU+AFC’s anti-agriculture policies and actions. Corrupt confiscation of agriculture land from farmers has been a major plank for the anti-agriculture assault. The President himself has illegally rescinded leases that farmers have owned legitimately for years. Many of these farmers have resorted to the judiciary to challenge the illegitimate rescinding of their agriculture leases and they have won in court, but this brazen government has ignored the court orders.
When the President visited Albion Sugar Factory this week to tell a select group of managers, he did not have any intention to bury sugar, he conveniently ignored he personally led the assault on agriculture. This is the same President on several occasions in the last four years signed rescinding orders for agriculture leases from hardworking farmers. This is the same President that supported and justified the closing of four sugar estates. This is the same President that before the 2015 General Elections vowed, he would ensure no sugar estate is closed, that every sugar worker received a 20% annual wage increase and who swore then that every farmer would have his or her lease secured and preserved. Today, he is leading the brazen, barefaced assault on agriculture and think he could still fool the people.
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy