“This flood take everything from us, everything” – Abary River farmer
…as water levels continue to rise
…blasts MMA for lack of support
By Andrew Carmichael
Abary is the river that separates Berbice from Demerara. The only economic activity which takes place is agriculture and the current floods have taken a toll on the lives of the residents of the left bank of the river, which is the Berbice side of the river.
When Guyana Times visited the area, water was seen flowing into the community.
Rice farming is a major activity there, so too is cattle rearing and cash crop farming.
But according to farmers, it looks like most of that will be history.
The river is situated about seven miles from the Mahaicony River, which is overflowing its banks and that water is also flowing to the Abary area.
The rising levels of the Abary River have resulted in vegetation that grows at the side of the river losing its hold on the riverbank and floating into the river. Some of that grass has blocked access to the river.
In fact, the water has also risen on coastal lands and was seen running over the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary-Agriculture Development Authority (MMA-ADA) road at Onverwagt.
Minawattie Chitanajoran is one of the farmers in that community. The 56-year-old woman is both a cattle and rice farmer, cultivating 100 acres of rice and about 100 heads of cattle along with sheep, goats and horses.
She told this publication that three of her young horses have already died and many of her cattle have escaped. According to the farmer, the high land that was initially being used to rescue the animals is now covered with water.
“Is wild cow, and this morning (Thursday) we went and try to chase them so they can go where they get land and plenty of them get away and run and gone.”
The woman told this publication that the animals were swimming when she and other family members tried to direct them to a location where the land was visible and as soon as they got there they ran away.
Meanwhile, she said she was able to reap all of the rice she cultivated and went back into the next crop, cultivating all 100 acres.
“All duck out. Is share water,” she said while noting that none of the paddy sown will survive the floodwaters.
Farmers invest an average of about $45,000 in paddy to plant each acre in addition to labour charges to sew the paddy. Apart from that, thousands are utilised to purchase and apply insecticides to the field for the germinating paddy.
Chitanajoran noted all of that money is gone to waste.
Flood control system
Ishmael Alladin is the Vice President of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) and also the Chairman of the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Cattle Farmers Association. He said the infrastructure system is dysfunctional while noting that MMA needs to change its flood control system.
The MMA, he noted, had been charging farmers for flood control.
“They supposed to help us and waive the charges because we are paying for a service which they cannot provide.”
Alladin, who cultivates 300 acres of rice, said he was only able to harvest 150 acres. He also has 200 heads of cattle apart from other livestock.
He explained that because of daily rainfall, he was unable to reap the entire crop.
If he did, the paddy would have been rejected by millers because of the poor quality.
“I have a lot of losses and I am unable to go back into the crop without assistance from the Government.”
He explained that he is indebted to millers who he would have credited fertiliser and other chemicals to cultivate the crop which he has lost half of.
The RPA Vice President said the water at Abary has been rising several inches on a daily basis.
He noted that there is no crop insurance to protect farmers from disaster.
“We have to face the world market with countries that are producing rice at a lower cost like China, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam and what price the miller gives us we have to take,” he noted.
“This flood take everything”
Meanwhile, Ramchand Ramnarine and his wife Gomattie Arjune are both cash crop farmers. Ramnarine took this publication into his farm and used a boat to sail through the farm since the entire farm was covered with water.
Ramnarine, who has a 15-acre cash crop farm, said about two thirds of it was under cultivation.
“Some parts we were reaping, some parts we had 2-week-old plants and some parts we still had the seedling to put down and now is all water. We can’t do anything anymore; everything done.”
Bearing eggplant and tomatoes were seen in more than two feet of water. The same was for the ochro and peppers.
The farming couple explained that they and one employee would take two and a half days to harvest the ripe tomatoes and one day later have to do it again.
The couple was expecting that the crop of tomatoes would have lasted for six weeks but two weeks into the crop the floods came.
The couple has estimated their losses from the tomatoes to be several hundred thousand dollars.
“The last price we were getting was $7000 per bucket,” Ramnarine said.
According to his wife, she has no idea how she is going to provide for her family.
“This flood take everything from us, everything.”
She explained that the water remained on the land from rainfall and continued to rise.
According to the couple, they used sandbags to help to keep the water out and backed up those efforts by using a fuel-operated pump to get the water off of the farm.
“But the water keep coming till it start to come over the sandbags and we still try pumping out the water but the whole place is water… It get too high and we can’t pump no more,” the female farmer said.
All of the farmers said that no one from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRBD) has visited them nor anyone from the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA). Representatives from those two agencies fall under the Agriculture Ministry.