The Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary-Agricultural Development Authority (MMA- ADA) has issued notices to farmers occupying land at Gold Digging, Blairmont, West Bank Berbice, for them to remove with nowhere to put their life stock.
While the cattle farmers are being forced off the land, huge portions are being gifted out to Government officials for cattle rearing, this newspaper was told.
In a letter dated January 18, 2018, the MMA stated that the farmers were ordered to vacate the land by February 1, 2019, and according to the notice as from that date, those animal farmers are being deemed illegal.
The notice also nullifies previous permission given by the Agriculture Ministry for the said lands to be used for cattle grazing purposes.
The letter quotes the Section 7 of the lands Act and Section of the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary-Agricultural Development Authority Act and Section 20 of the State Lands Act which states that trespass on State lands is an offence punishable by law. “You are hereby instructed to dismantle all erections made thereon and to vacate the aforementioned lot within the timeline stipulated in this notice,” the letter read.
However, a previous document issued by the Agriculture Ministry under the MMA Act (27 of 1977/Cap 69:1 which refers to all State land under the MMA-ADA control: “The area is zoned for the specific purpose of cattle grazing; and rice cultivation shall not be permitted. It is herein reiterated that the lands are State lands and that no person has been given any exclusive rights to the area or part thereof. Persons/groups or Co-operative Societies that are in occupation or have made representation for access to the lands must check with the MMA in order to be given formal permission to do so,” the strongly worldly letter says in part.
The MMA has ordered the farmers to dismantle all erected structures and to remove their cattle. The farmers have been occupying the land since permission was given for it to be used for cattle back in 2005. The MMA had already started to share out the land to persons who are not known as cattle farmers.
One person closely associated with a political party within the coalition Government was 200 acres while another who works with the Government has been given 300 acres for cattle rearing. Another Government supporter is also the recipient of 200 acres of land for the purpose of cattle rearing.
Pooran Balmulkund, who has been rearing cattle for over 35 years, says he is totally dependent of the animals to earn a living. He has 45 heads of cattle which give him enough milk to sell to the community.
“It is unfair that we are here so long on the land and that they bringing people from out of the area and give them land and we are here from since 2007 until to now,” Balmulkund said, while adding that on offer was made to the old existing farmers for occupancy. The MMA-ADA has stopped the farmers from erecting fences on the pasture. When this publication visited the savannah on Tuesday, Balmulkund pointed out piles of wood which he cut in an effort to erect fences. The fence to the western end of the pasture had been removed which now allows the animals to go into the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s cultivation area to graze. Krisonchand David has just fewer than one hundred heads of cattle in the pasture and is feeling the squeeze.
He said they had erected posts and barb-wire fences but these have been pulled down.
“This was done unknowing to us. Now MMA come and give us a piece of paper saying that we have to move and they bring a set of people and told us that they give them paper for the land and that we ate squatters.”
David said he was one of the first farmers to utilise the savannah for the purpose of rearing cattle. He recalled that when he was there, there was thick overgrowth and he worked on clearing it to what it is today.
“Now people come and see that it is clear and they come claiming the place,” he added.
Meanwhile, another farmer Rajin Samaroo who has more than one hundred heads of cattle along with other animals, told Guyana Times that he feels what is being done is unfair. “We don’t have anywhere to carry the cows.”
He said as a group, the farmers approached the MMA in an attempt to acquire a portion of the land for themselves for the purpose of grazing cattle. “All they do is take we names and say that they gone call and they never call…” He said they have also been threatened that if the animals are not removed they will be impounded. “This is what we as cattle farmers depend on. We have children to send to school. We have bills to pay. When MMA move us from here, where will we go? They want us to sell out the animals and after that what? Money is the easiest thing to finish.”
The MMA met with the farmers last week and they were informed that enough time had been given for them to remove. Pigs, sheep and goats are also being reared in the savannah.
Efforts by this publication for a comment from the MMA management on the issue proved futile.