Agri Minister addresses challenges of Little and Big Biaboo farmers

Farmers of Little and Big Biaboo, Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five) have been urged to prepare themselves for the Government’s transformative agricultural agenda, even as major investments continue to upgrade infrastructure and agricultural practices.

Today, Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha engaged farmers at the Little Biaboo Bridge to identify the challenges in the fields. Farmers hailed the interaction as “meaningful and successful,” since most of the issues highlighted were immediately addressed.

Farmers raised concerns about the impact of the chemicals being sprayed by the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB), the need for a reliable postal service in the area and jet skiing in the river where farmers have to traverse to access their lands.

Another farmer pleaded for improved internet service in the area, to ensure that children could access their education online. The ineffectiveness of the pumps servicing the community was another pressing concern.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha examines a resident’s farm

In response, Minister Mustapha said he has asked the management at the PTCCB to halt aerial spraying. A team from the Board is expected to visit the area soon to meet the farmers to collaborate on plans for them to receive assistance.

The Minister also instructed the Chief Extension Officer to ensure Region Four receives an Extension Office as requested by one of the farmers. That field officer will begin work next Monday and a regular report must be provided to the head office.

“The Number 10 to Biaboo Dam will be addressed. We are working to have it fixed. And also, we will put another four outlets so that the water can recede rapidly. The bridge is also in our budget and hopefully, it will be passed and we can provide the community with a new bridge.”

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha and Member of Parliament, Hon. Faizal Jafferally during the farmers meeting at Big Biaboo today

Minister Mustapha said the Ministry is also looking to provide transportation for its village officers. Only recently, the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) received seven Honda motorcycles and two all-terrain vehicles valued approximately $7 million. The Minister said those vehicles will be handed over next week.

The GLDA would also be providing the community with breeding animals. The Minister cautioned that this intervention must benefit every farmer and not a specific group. Regional Chairman, Mr. Vickchand Ramphal has been tasked with monitoring the distribution of the animals.

“Our job in the Ministry is to solve your problems. We are the Government and we have to be the facilitator. We will work with each and every one of you.

“So, when we come to these areas as Ministers, I am happy that you are raising these concerns, I will not be disgusted with you or be frustrated with you, I am here to listen to you and I will not make commitment and say we will do this and that and when I leave here everything gone. I want us to develop a relationship where we can work together,” Minister Mustapha added.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha during the farmers meeting at Big Biaboo today

Further, community members were asked to identify a qualified youth in the village to be trained as a Ranger. That person will be employed through the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary – Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA).

Another excavator will be dispatched to the community by mid-February to boost drainage and irrigation work. The machine will remain there until the works are completed.

Minister Mustapha said his Ministry plans to regularise farming lands at the MMA-ADA Scheme and focus would be placed on small-scale farmers.

Concerning an enhanced postal service, the Minister said he will officially write Prime Minister, Hon. Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips for his assistance to solve the issue. In the interim, residents were asked to identify a villager to be trained for employment to serve the community in this regard. The Minister also committed to conveying concerns about jet skiing during the weekend and other sea defence matters to Minister of Public Works, Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill.