A farmer’s paradise
THIS week the Pepperpot Magazine visited West Watooka, Wismar, Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice). IT is a very large community with people of mixed ethnicities and it is an agriculture-based community which runs deep way down to the backlands.
It is home to farmers, most of whom came from a long line of farmers, utilising leased lands that were handed down from generation to generation. West Watooka is divided into sections and it is a scenic place to reside with the Demerara River running right along the village, which stretches from the main access road running one and a half miles into the village.
The people of West Watooka are very friendly and they would spare a few minutes to chat, since they work mostly on their farms and have a whole lot to do. It is the home of eschallot, peppers, cabbage, pak choi, calaloo, fine thyme, celery, boulanger, tomatoes, bora, ochro, turmeric, ginger, ground provisions, sugar cane, coconuts, lemons, limes, oranges and many fruits.
This village is divided into several sections considering how large it is and they are Hill Top, West Watooka, Central Watooka and Block ‘G’. More than 1,500 persons reside in this quiet, farming community where the people are neighbourly and get about their daily routine in an orderly manner.
West Watooka Village has a nursery school, a health centre, a community centre ground and a ball field. The village has many small shops where much-needed items can be purchased and there are many up-and-coming roadside small businesses.
The people of this village are multi-talented and skilled and apart from being farmers, they are also highly qualified professionals with office jobs. Most services can be accessed in central Linden where there are many large businesses and government agencies.
West Watooka is a place where the air is fresh and the atmosphere is unpolluted and most people do not leave the village unless they have to.
West Watooka Village (Carl Croker photos)
The Pepperpot Magazine met Sherry James, a councillor with the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) which is based in central McKenzie, Linden. She is a resident of West Watooka and came from a family of farmers; she is also a cash-crop farmer.
James is also chairperson for the Local Authority and is considered the village leader; she is well-known and loved in the community. She told the Pepperpot Magazine that the soil in West Watooka is very fertile and is deemed the second-best after the Rupununi and it brings out the best organic crops, a farmer’s paradise.
James stated that it was said that the bauxite dust did not pollute that area; as such, the soil composition is noted for producing a good harvest every time. The councillor added that since her husband was a small boy, the community existed and he is now age 60 years old, but people never used to reside there and it was used only for farming.
“This village has developed from swamps, canals and a mud dam to what it is today, a developing village of farmers and other hard-working people,” she said. James reported that the Indigenous were the first settlers in West Watooka Village, but it was always used as farmland.
She stated that back in the days they used to access the farmlands by swimming canals, trekking through swamps to get to their farms and today they have a farm-to-market road which needs upgrading. James recalled during the Cheddi Jagan administration, the lands were surveyed and they bought it for half the price, a promise fulfilled then.
And under the Bharrat Jagdeo regime a farm-to-market road was constructed, but over the years that road has deteriorated and needs to be upgraded.
James has been residing in West Watooka for the past 30 years and has converted her backyard into a farm, a family business. She pointed out that if one is in for a quiet farming life, then West Watooka is the place to live.
James revealed that for the very first time a $174 million conservancy will be built in West Watooka to ensure that farmers benefit from better drainage and irrigation. A contract was inked on February 2, 2021 and it was an intervention by government following an outreach to the community last month.
Recently, Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha returned to the community for the official signing of contracts for the consultancy, construction of the dams and construction of the irrigation structures.
With the construction of the conservancy, farmers would soon be able to increase their production and presently, the canals are being dug by excavators and trenches are being upgraded to boost the drainage and irrigation network within the village.