Bonasika farmers to benefit from Gov’t support to develop root crops industry, improve drainage – Min. Mustapha tells farmers

Wakenaam, Leguan to also benefit from drainage works
Gov’t looking to commence fertilizer distribution soon, urges farmers to finalize lists

Farmers from the island of Bonasika, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara (Region Three) were today told of the government’s plans to develop the root crops industry.

During a meeting with farmers on the island, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha disclosed that the government was looking to develop the industry to satisfy demands in the region.

Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while engaging a farmer from Leguan

Minister Mustapha was at the time spearheading an outreach to the islands of Bonasika, Wakenaam, and Leguan in the Essequibo River.

He informed farmers that, following the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo which was held at the Arthur Chung Conference Center last May, bilateral discussions between local government officials and officials from other CARICOM countries pointed to a ready market for a variety of root crops that can be grown in Guyana.

“We, the farmers and the government, have to work together so that we can consolidate and expand what we already have. NAREI will work with you to develop your root crops cultivation because we have a ready market for those crops. We have so much demand, but we cannot satisfy that demand yet. If every farmer here is willing to get on board, we will work with you. We will help you to develop the land and supply all the planting materials required so that at the end of the cycle, we can have tons of root crops coming out of Bonasika,” he explained.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while addressing the meeting at Leguan

The minister told farmers that commodities such as turmeric, ginger, cassava, sweet potatoes, and eddoes, etc., were some of the root crops that were in demand and that the ministry was ready to work with the farmers so that they can tap into the ready market. This, he explained, was also in keeping with CARICOM’s efforts to reduce the regional food import bill by 25% by the year 2025.

There are approximately 150 farmers on the island who cultivate a variety of fruits and cash crops.

Additionally, farmers present were also told that the ministry, through the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), would soon commence a series of drainage works on the island. The minister told farmers that a team from the ministry had visited the island sometime last month and based on their assessment, the proposed scope of works could not be completed this year.

“I have a report here. The most important things you need, based on what is here in the report, are proper drainage for your farms and to have the bushes cleared. The entire programme will cost about $120 million. We did not budget for those works this year but because of the importance of agriculture and the fact that we want to ensure you have the necessary infrastructure to ramp up your production we will put systems in place to start those works. It will have to be done with a pontoon so that works can be done on both sides. Those works will not be completed this year. It will take some time; I want to be honest with you,” the minister explained.

A farmer while raising an issue during the meeting at Wakenaam

Minister Mustapha further noted that the NDIA will advertise for the works and once the process is completed, those works will commence.  

Similarly, while meeting with farmers from Wakenaam and Leguan, Minister Mustapha committed to having all the main canals and dams cleared and rehabilitated.

During the meeting with farmers from Wakenaam, Minister Mustapha said that another excavator would be made available to assist farmers on the island. The minister made this disclosure after farmers indicated that the machine currently used to perform works on the island was unable to execute the magnitude of works to be done. He said that the ministry would work with the region to have another excavator on the island soon.

Fertilizer assistance

Meanwhile, during his meeting with farmers from Leguan, Minister Mustapha said that farmers could start receiving their fertilizer assistance from as early as next week. This, he added, could only be done if the lists provided are verified.

A section of the gathering at one of the meetings

During the meeting, farmers raised concerns about persons whose names were on the list. While some farmers had questions about some of the names that appeared on the current list for the island, other farmers said that many persons whose names were being queried were indeed farmers but cultivated very small plots of land.

Minister Mustapha explained that committees comprising farmers and extension officers from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) were tasked with developing the list and that until the lists was finalized, the distribution process would not commence. Farmers were then given until the end of the week to finalize the list. Officials from the GRDB are also expected to return to the island tomorrow to assist with the process.

Minister Mustapha also handed over seeds to farmers from Bonasika during the outreach
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