“We understand the importance of agriculture” – Mustapha

…as St Cuthbert’s residents replay hardships due to flooding

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha has reiterated to residents of St Cuthbert’s Mission, on the Mahaicony River, that the Government understands the importance of agriculture.
Mustapha was at the time leading a team of officials from the Agriculture Ministry on an outreach to the village on Tuesday, after Toshao Timothy Andrews requested a visit.

A villager examining the ‘bongo pump’, a tool used to control Acoushi Ants’ infestation

He told villagers that, since taking office, the Government has implemented several measures that have benefited thousands of families across the country.
“Over the last eleven months, we’ve implemented a number of measures that have benefited Guyanese from all parts of the country. We’ve removed VAT from a number of commodities, increased old-age pension, implemented subsidies for pensioners, and re-introduced and increased the ‘cash grant’ for school-aged children in the public school system that was stopped by the previous Government. We didn’t have to take loans, monies from other sectors, or funds from the oil and gas earnings. We were able to do this because this Government does not engage in squandermania, wastage of funds, or corruption. Those monies are now going to the people of this country,” Mustapha is quoted by DPI as saying.
Farmers who were present at the meeting told the Minister that, like many other persons across the country, they too were severely affected by the recent flooding, and sought assistance from the Government with returning to the land.
One farmer who cultivates coconut and cassava said he lost a large percentage of what he planted. He also said that, in order to save his remaining cultivation, he would need assistance in the form of chemicals.
“During the flood, ninety-five per cent of my farm was under water. Fast forward to now, today my coconut trees look like they had a flu. I would need some things like monocrotophos for the coconut trees, fertilisers, chemicals for pests, and so. Between the coconut trees, I planted cassava. All the bitter cassava was submerged. I planted roughly 2000 bitter and sweet together,” the farmer explained.
Another farmer present at the meeting said in order for farmers in the village to get into serious farming, they would need advice on what to plant, based on the different soil types in the farming areas.
“We want to take farming seriously. I heard the Minister talk about being the “breadbasket of the Caribbean”. As farmers, we need more advice on how to get farming done in terms of the kind of things that we need to plant. In places like this, traditionally we do cassava, coconuts, and things like that, but when we are talking about farming, we are talking about a variety of produce that can be exported. That’s what we need advice on.

A resident highlighting her issues during the meeting

First of all, the soil. What can we plant in this soil? We need people to do soil tests so that we can know what produce can be planted where, because I notice (that) in different locations in this village, there are different types of soil, and if people really want to get into farming, they need to know what they can plant,” the farmer said.
Other farmers also appealed to Minister Mustapha for improved drainage and irrigation, better farm-to-market access roads, markets for their produce, better utility services, and assistance with accessing firearms to protect their farms from wild animals that usually destroy their crops.
While responding to farmers, Minister Mustapha assured them that the Government would work to ensure they have the necessary assistance to return to the land.
“In communities like this, the main activity is usually agriculture, and many families depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Over the last two months, we’ve witnessed some amount of devastation to the sector, moreso with crops, with many farmers losing most if not all of their cultivation because of the unprecedented rainfall. You can rest assured that the Government will ensure farmers receive help to get back to the land. We’ve started an assessment, and based on those figures, you will receive some form of assistance. The President will pronounce shortly on that,” Mustapha said.
He also told residents that he would speak with his colleague Minister so that they can visit and address the other issues that were raised. Mustapha also told residents that through the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), the village will receive materials and technical support to construct a shadehouse that will serve as a model shadehouse for the village.
He also informed villagers that NAREI has shadehouse materials that are being sold at a subsidised cost in an effort to encourage farmers to plant more sustainably, given the negative impact climate change is having on the agriculture sector.
After the meeting, Mustapha handed over a number of farming tools and planting materials, after receiving requests from farmers for some assistance. The Toshao received the items on behalf of the village, and will distribute the items to those in need. The items included seeds, chemicals, fertilisers, a number of small farming tools, and ‘bongo’ pumps to assist villagers with treating Acoushi Ants’ infestation.