Ministers Mustapha, Nandlall, teaming up to solve farmland issues countrywide
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall and Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha will be travelling across the regions to address land-related issues to help advance the agriculture sector.
The Ministers made this commitment on Wednesday at the New Market Primary School, Corentyne, Berbice, during an engagement with rice and cattle farmers of Number 52-74 Villages.
Minister Nandlall noted that land issues have been raised continually at Government outreaches and a decision was taken to deal with the matter frontally.
“Right across this country, you have land issues festering between and amongst the citizens, farmers, rice farmers, cattle farmers and cash farmers, right across Guyana. I have been partnering with the Minister of Agriculture, to travel the country and to address these problems as they arise.”
Further, he said, the meetings are in keeping with the Government’s manifesto promise of continuous engagement with the people.
“We practice governance in the fields. We promise to take Government to the people. We promise to visit the counties, visit the villages, go into the back dams, the rice fields, meet the people and address their problems, and what you are seeing here is a manifestation of that promise being delivered,” he said.
Agencies including the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) and the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) would also be participating in the meetings to address concerns on the ground.
“That will be an ongoing process. Over the next five years, I plan to go to Essequibo. I plan to go to even the interior areas, the East Bank of Demerara, in particular. Up the Linden-Soesdyke Highway, you have farmers with issues, you have people who want lands, who want their occupation of lands regularised and we plan to address all those issues,” Minister Nandlall said.
Minister Mustapha, during an outreach to farmers in Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five) in December, had said a Conflict Resolution Committee would be convened to address land-related issues affecting them. Former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Cecil Kennard will head the Committee.
Meanwhile, Minister Mustapha said the objective of the visit to Lotus Valley, on Thursday, was to address concerns about 1,000 acres of land in the area. Farmers have said they prefer to have the land divided up amongst them.
The Lotus Valley Co-op Society became defunct in 2013. Since then, 21 former members have applied for leases from the GL&SC, but this was put on hold by the previous administration.
At this point, the Commission has a list with 21 persons, but on Thursday it was revealed that more persons are occupying the lands.
“They agree with the 21 persons who are listed on that list but we have heard now that an additional seven persons have to add on to that list so we have asked the Region to work along and establish the number of persons that need to get the leases,” Minister Mustapha said.
He is hopeful that the farmers would get their leases in the next three to four months, with each being a minimum of 30 acres of farmlands.
The Minister also corrected a misconception surrounding pasture lands in the area.
“The cattle farmers came to us and say that Lands and Surveys would have distributed portions of the cattle pasture to individuals, which was not so. The Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission did a survey of the land, they establish there are 17,000 acres of land. Those lands are communal pasture and those lands will remain as communal pasture,” Minister Mustapha said.
The GLDA would determine the number of cattle in the area to develop pastures there.
Minister Mustapha also noted that while Cabinet has given its no objection for an all-weather road from Number 52 to the Canje creek, farmers have a different suggestion.
“The responsibility was given to the Region to do the consultation. They advised us that 52 was the area, but now we are hearing that the farmers are saying that 52 is not the most appropriate area that they want it to do at 58,” he said.
As such, Minister Mustapha said a decision was taken to again send technical support to work with the farmers to determine the most suitable location.