By Kellon Rover
THE Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary – Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA) is accelerating efforts to realise the government’s plans to double rice production over the next five years.
General Manager, Mr. Curbette Victorine, says the Authority plans to improve agriculture in Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five) as it is the largest rice producing area in the country.
“MMA-ADA is geared at agricultural development. The government continues to view Guyana’s economic prosperity through its agricultural performance, so the emphasis on agriculture in Region Five epitomises agriculture nationally,” Mr. Victorine said.
The General Manager said some $112 million was secured for capital expenditure from the Emergency Budget last year. That sum was utilised in key areas aimed to boost production and secure and expand agriculture in the region.
“We chose to utilise those funds to prepare ourselves to regain the capacity where drainage and irrigation is concerned, and so we were able to procure two long-reach excavators. Some of these drains have become sluggish and the maintenance was not there. Our intention is to make sure that we bring those systems back to the designed capacity so that their function can be assured.”
The first phase of the MMA-ADA Scheme was completed since the mid-1980s with a conservancy situated at the headwaters of the Abary River. This phase services approximately 40,000 acres of paddy production from state lands and about another 20,000 acres of private lands within the Abary-Berbice District. The irrigation system also services some 14,000 acres of cultivation of the Blairmont Sugar Estate.
While this is already in place, the MMA-ADA plans to expand its services. A technical team has begun studies to finalise two other phases of work in the Scheme to effectively service the upper reaches of the Mahaicony and Mahaica Rivers.
“We have already put in some, but minimal, infrastructure in the Mahaicony -Abary Phase and we are also operating in the Mahaica-Mahaicony Phase. Together, the Mahaicony and the Mahaica divisions amount to an additional 50,000 acres of paddy production,” Mr. Victorine said.
One challenge that farmers have encountered getting the best out of their inputs is access to their farmlands. They have also complained bitterly about the neglected drainage and irrigation system over the past years. Once these issues were highlighted to Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, he took steps to secure some $98 million in emergency funds to facilitate major infrastructural works within the Scheme.
“We have drained and cleaned canals, bringing them back into a proper functioning state. We also did substantial works to ensure bridges and access and so forth are put back in good shape,” Mr. Victorine added. Farmers have commended the intervention by the government as they are now enjoying the benefits.
Mahaica-Berbice contributes between 35 to 50 per cent of the gross national rice production. Currently, Guyana produces more than one million tonnes of paddy.
Minister Mustapha is also confident that Guyana will attract new markets for rice exports as production yields climb. Already, an additional quota of 24,000 tons of rice will be exported to Brazil. President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali has said the government is committed to helping farmers produce better rice yields, noting that added resources will be put into research and development. The MMA-ADA is an Authority set up specifically to administer agricultural development in Region Five and is responsible for over 800 miles of drainage and irrigation canals. Its responsibility spans from the east bank of the Mahaica River to the west bank of the Berbice River and from the Atlantic seaboard to about 30 miles inland.