Minister Mustapha assures farmers that all aspects of the agri. sector will be developed

engages Bushlot, Mahaica farmers to resolve issues

On Saturday, Agriculture Minister, Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha held meetings with farmers and residents from Bushlot, West Berbice, and Helena #2, Mahaica with the aim of resolving issues raised relating to the agriculture sector.

While at Bushlot, both rice and cash crop farmers along with persons who rear cattle told the minister that the issue of cattle entering rice fields continues to be one  in many areas within the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Agriculture Development Authority (MMA-ADA) scheme. Additionally, farmers related that there are persons who have leases for lands in the Scheme but are continuing to rent to persons which posed an issue for some when the government was rolling out the flood relief programme for persons who were affected during the 2021 flood.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha while speaking to farmers from Bushlot, WCB

Minister Mustapha told farmers that officials from the MMA are working to address subletting as this is prohibited in the lease agreement. He also informed farmers that the ministry, through the MMA-ADA and the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA), is working to bring more lands under cultivation and also to develop pastures for cattle away from cultivation areas within the scheme.  

“There are persons who have leases for rice land and are renting these lands to farmers. We are working to deal with this. These issues are also contributing to delays in the issuance of new leases because we have to investigate these matters. Nevertheless, we were able to distribute over 300 leases last year so you can see we are working assiduously to bring more lands under cultivation in the MMA Scheme.

Minister ZUlfikar Mustapha while engaging farmers from Helena #2 Village, Mahaica

“We have to work together to develop this place. Yes, the government has a responsibility, but as farmers, you have to support the government so that the systems we put in place work. We already started to do a lot of farm-to-market roads in the MMA Scheme and we are working to make the scheme one of the most productive schemes in this country. Our capacity now is about 100,000 acres of land available for rice cultivation. The plan is to develop another 50,000 acres for cattle rearing. Pastures are being developed so that we can work towards a better solution between cattle and rice farmers.”

Minister Mustapha told farmers that the pastures being developed are expected to be completed within the next three months and that fencing materials have been made available to cattle farmers to secure their animals.

A farmer from Helena #2 Village while raising an issue during the meeting

One resident also raised an issue about the deplorable state of one of the access dams while other farmers requested access to breeding rams to develop their flock. While responding to those concerns, Minister Mustapha said the rehabilitation works on the dam are expected to commence shortly and that flock rams will be made available through the GLDA. 

“Regarding the dam issue that was raised, those works have already been awarded and will commence soon. $70 million was allocated. These are all things that are in progress. The farmer who spoke about access to a flock ram, the GLDA will assist with four flock rams to service farmers in West Berbice.”

While meeting with farmers from Helena #2 Village, the minister was told that contractors responsible for executing maintenance on several canals within the village were not doing a good job.

Farmers also made requests for upgrades to access dams and further consultation as it relates to the location of a drying floor that is expected to be built in the community.

A section of the farmers who attended the meeting at Bushlot, WCB

One contractor present said he was unable to complete works because he had not been paid for months. After seeking an answer from the engineer, Minister Mustapha was told that after consulting with farmers and inspecting the work it was discovered that the works were not completed according to the contractual specifications, as such, the contractor was asked to rectify the job.

Minister Mustapha told the residents that contractors will not be paid if the works are not done according to the contractual specifications. After consulting with the NDIA and the NDC, Minister Mustapha said those maintenance contracts will be re-advertised and that beneficiaries will be given the opportunity to bid for them.

He informed them that teams from the ministry will be meeting with all groups of farmers so that a programme can be developed to guide the process of resolving their issues. Farmers were also encouraged to identify a ranger to assist with monitoring activities and reporting them to the NDC.