Minister Mustapha commits to rehabilitating dams in Greenwich

grading officers to be trained and placed at mills after farmers complain of unfair grading system
– countrywide dam maintenance programme being developed

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha on Tuesday met with farmers from Greenwich, Region Three, to listen and address some of the concerns facing farming communities.

The meeting was part of a series of community engagements undertaken by the Minister since taking office to assess and remedy challenges in the agriculture sector.

As occurred in previous meetings, farmers highlighted the need for improved dams, better drainage and irrigation and fair grading systems for paddy at rice mills.

One farmer said that she was receiving very poor grades for her paddy. She also told the Minister that the community was in need of an all-weather road.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha (4)

“The grading of our paddy is being done very badly. We are getting very bad grades. Grades that we have never seen before. Sample A, Sample C and those kinds of things; very low grades. Also, the koker at Philadelphia; it is not being opened regularly. Because it is not being opened regularly, we are getting lots of flooding in the area.

“Right now, if you check, the dams are flooded. We are also requesting the construction of an all-weather road. We have 13 dams and we need some help with that because of the mud that keeps coming out with the tractors, it’s very dangerous for people on the roads,” the farmer said.

Another farmer, alleged that some farmers in the area were damaging the dam to benefit themselves.

A farmer while raising an issue

“We got a problem in Sarah. In 1989 they rehabilitate this place and due to the rehabilitation the water raise, which is very good. But the farmer dem gone up now bout two mile more with the rice. It na got dam fuh hold the water. They dig out a revetment and put a box. They put a bridge pon top de box and left d box at the bottom,” the farmer said.

 The Chairman of the Water Users Association for the area said that there should be a structured programme in place for works being done. He also appealed for works to be done on a number of heavily forested dams in the area.

Chairman of the Water Users Association

“We are tasked with cleaning a number if canals within the rice area and the other crops area. Comrade Minister, that’s one aspect, cleaning of the canals. Some of these dams, especially in the Naamryck area, these dams are heavily forested. If you have contractors cleaning the dams, there’s no way any ranger could have access to these dams to verify that these works are being done in these canals. They are very bad.

“What I would like to see is a work programme laid out. We’d like to see a structured programme so that dams and canals would be maintained on a regular basis. Not only the canals. Especially the dams so the access would be there to verify these works,” the Chairman said.

While responding to the issues raised by the farmers, Minister Mustapha committed to rehabilitating dams in the area. He also said that he will work with the farmers to implement a system to ensure they benefit from a proper grading system at the mills.

A section of the gathering (1)

“I’ll make a commitment here today. All the dams in the area, we’ll rehabilitate them. We’ll develop a work programme and we’ll do the dams so that you can bring out your produce. I’ve asked the Chairman of the Board and the CEO of NDIA to do a programme because I’m working on one for the entire country. We’ll have a dam maintenance programme that we’ll put into effect shortly. We want to ensure we do these works but there is only so much that we can do with the resources we have.

“But we will ensure we do the works where the works are needed. We’ll try to do as much drainage and irrigation work as possible. We are buying new excavators and we’ll send those excavators into the communities. The Water Users Association would like to see a programme; I’d like a request coming from the water users to see which areas are critical. So areas like the forested dams that the Chairman spoke about, we would be able to start work on them. We are currently working to ensure all the dams are in a state where farmers can have free access to their cultivation,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Minister relayed that he was at another community meeting where farmers raised similar issues. On that occasion he asked the Rice Producers’ Association and the farmers to identify a person who can be trained by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).

“I’m extending that to you now. If you can find a suitable person, we’ll train that person and they will be at the mill to monitor and ensure you get the correct grade for your paddy. In terms of the all-weather road, I know that the mud brought out by the tractors is dangerous so my Ministry will be working with other Ministries like the Ministry of Public Works to see how we can develop proper farm to market roads,” the Minister said.

Minister Mustapha also told farmers that there would soon be a central extension service division established at the Ministry to monitor all extension services in the country.