Rice farmers in the MMA praise Agri. Minister for timely intervention
– over 300 channels cleared with initial $90M emergency allocation
Two weeks after taking office, Government approved the sum of $90 million to carry out much needed infrastructural works in the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary Agricultural-Development Authority (MMA-ADA) Scheme.
Following the approval, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and the MMA-ADA were able to execute works to over 300 channels, ultimately saving hundreds of acres of rice fields that are currently being harvested.
Chairman of the Mahaica/Abary Rice Development Scheme (MARDS) Board of Directors, Mr. Mohamed Zaid Rafeeoodeen, while thanking Minister Mustapha for the timely intervention, said rice farmers were able to save their crop with the initial works carried out.
“I must thank Minister Mustapha for intervening at a very early stage when this Government started in August by helping farmers in the MMA. You would’ve made available, through the Government, a large sum of money to put into the MMA. With this intervention, we were able to clear and maintain well over 300 channels in the scheme. If we were not able to have this done at that stage then rice farming in this Region not only would’ve been difficult, but would’ve been near impossible,” Mr. Rafeeoodeen said.
The allocation came as a result of a proposal made to Cabinet by Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha after receiving reports of the deplorable state of the drainage and irrigation structures in the scheme.
Minister Mustapha noted that given the harsh measures implemented by the previous administration coupled with the cutbacks to funding for critical works in the scheme, several issues arose that ultimately threatened the livelihoods of farmers in the Region.
“Over the past five years, there were notable cuts to financing for critical projects in the MMA. Works done to clear and maintain drainage and irrigation structures and canals were limited, which ultimately resulted in most of the main canals being left in a terrible state. After becoming Minister of Agriculture, I had several outreaches to communities and villages in Region Five. During those engagements, farmers would’ve raised concerns about the state of the canals in the MMA scheme and how it would impact their ability to harvest paddy at the end of the crop. With the works we were able to complete so far, farmers were able to harvest their paddy and avert millions of dollars in losses. This is the way I intend to work. The Ministry will be responsive to the needs of the farmers. If we want to encourage farmers and improve our agriculture sector, we have to ensure we meet the needs of the farmers,” Minister Mustapha said.
On August 15, Minister Mustapha, along with a team from several Agriculture agencies, visited the Mahaica-Berbice district where he engaged a number of farmers who raised several concerns about inadequate drainage and irrigation. The Minister was also able to get a first-hand look at the dilapidated main D&I structures in the scheme.
Farmers also used the opportunity to highlight that despite the previous Government instituting steep increases in land rentals, no proper infrastructural work was done to alleviate their plight.