Corentyne rice farmers appeal for urgent help to save crop

– as early rains result in damage to dams
– rehabilitation works to commence on Monday – Minister Mustapha 

Rice farmers from across the Corentyne Coast yesterday gathered on two separate occasions to engage Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha as they sought urgent intervention to save their crop.

Persistent rainfall over the last few weeks has resulted in many dams becoming impassible, leaving many farmers struggling to transport their paddy from the fields. In some cases, farmers have not been able to reap some of their crops because their fields have been flooded.

During the first meeting, at the #48 Primary School, Corentyne, rice farmers appealed to the subject Minister for immediate action so they would be able to salvage the remainder of their crop.

One farmer, Mahendranauth Doolchand, said certain sections of the dam he uses to transport his paddy are in a deplorable state, putting a halt on transporting his paddy from the field.

“Sir, we have over 200 acres of land, but the land is underwater, and we can’t get to take out the paddy. All we want is for you to fix the dam so that we can take out the paddy. We’re from Number 69 Village, planting rice in the scheme. We have to travel 14 miles to go there and bring out the paddy. At certain parts of the dam very bad. We urgently need your help because, in five days, four half tanks of paddy can’t reach out yet,” Doolchand said.

Another farmer, Anand Tulsi, said he lost millions of dollars in paddy and sought the Minister’s assistance to save the remainder of his crop.

“We cannot take out one bag. We small farmers cannot bring out one bag. The dam situation is terrible. Rice that was supposed to cut since the first week in March left there and all rotten out. We need help. Right now, we need some help. We need a machine to fix the dams so that we can bring out our paddy,” the farmer said.

Another farmer from Number 47 Village said there was need for a larger koker and a pump in the area to help drain farmlands, especially during the rainy season.

“Rice farmers in the area have a big issue. For a number of years, we have saltwater coming in from the riverside into the farmland every May/June season and every Christmas season. The kokar there has to drain Number 48, Number 47, and Number 46. It has to drain rice land water, reef water, and the housing area water. The next thing, we have a 4’x4’ kokar. That kokar cannot take off the amount of water when we get the high rainfall. We are asking for a new kokar that is bigger, and we need a pump within the area because if this rain continues, farmers in the area will lose millions of dollars in rice,” the farmer said.

Meanwhile, farmers at Maida raised similar issues at the second meeting.

One farmer said tractors could not traverse the dam to transport the paddy because of the state of the dam.

“Right now, we have rice to cut, and we don’t have dams to bring it out. I’m from Phillippe. The dam has some big big ponds, that if the tractors drive there, it would leave right there, so we need you to look at the dams and do some work on it so that we can bring out the paddy,” the farmer said.

Another farmer said works needed to be carried out on both the trench and the dam in her area. 

“The canal needs to be dug from the road all the way to Crown Dam, and both dams need to be fixed. Right now, the dams are bad, and the farmers cannot use the boats because the trench is clogged up,” the farmer said.

After listening to the farmers, Minister Mustapha committed to having works carried out on all the dams that need fixing.

“Before the rains came, we expended a lot of money to fix the dams, and we are going to fix them again. I have a request from the Water Users Chairman for funds to fix about 10 dams in the Number 52/Number 74 areas. I will approve this, and through the NDIA, we will have works commence to rehabilitate those dams from as soon as tomorrow. I’ll also ask the NDIA to do an urgent assessment of those other dams that need to be fixed, and we will assign machines to fix them.

For the farmer that raised the issue about saltwater intrusion twice a year, if the structure is too small and cannot take off the amount of water, I’ll ensure a proper assessment of the area is done. If we need to put a pump and a larger kokar there, we’ll do it. I will send our technical officers there in the new week to meet with you, and they will do an assessment and provide me with a report in the new week,” Minister Mustapha said.

Over at Maida, Minister Mustapha told farmers that a team from the Ministry would be visiting the area on Monday to meet residents and the NDC. A small committee will be formed to look at all the canals and dams that need to be rehabilitated. The subject Minister publicly committed to having the works done and ensuring farmers benefit from proper infrastructure.

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