— as early rains cause damage to dams
RICE farmers from across the Corentyne Coast on Sunday met with Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on two occasions to seek an urgent intervention to save their crop.
Persistent rainfall over the last few weeks has resulted in many dams becoming impassable and farmers are now struggling to transport their paddy from the fields. In some cases, they have not been able to reap part of their crop because their fields are flooded.
During the first meeting which was held at the #48 Primary School, rice farmers appealed to the subject minister for immediate action, so that they could salvage the remainder of their crop.
One farmer, Mahendranauth Doolchand, said that certain sections of the dam which he uses to transport his paddy is in a deplorable state. This has put a halt to the transporting of his paddy from the field, he said. “Sir, we have over 200 acres of land, but the land is under water and we can’t get to take out the paddy. All we want is for you to fix the dam so that we can take out the paddy. We’re from #69 Village planting rice in the scheme. We have to travel 14 miles to go there and bring out the paddy. At certain parts of the dam [it is] very bad. We urgently need your help because in five days, four half tanks of paddy can’t reach out yet,” Doolchand said.
LOST MILLIONS OF DOLLARS
Another farmer, Anand Tulsi, said that he has lost millions of dollars in paddy and sought the minister’s assistance to save the rest of his crop.
“We cannot take out one bag. We small farmers cannot bring out one bag. The dam situation is terrible. Rice that was supposed to cut since the first week in March, left there and all rotten out. We need help. Right now we need some help. We need a machine to fix the dams so that we can bring out our paddy,” the farmer said.
Another farmer from #47 Village said that there was need for a larger koker and a pump in the area to assist with draining farmlands, especially during the rainy season.
“I’m a rice farmer from #47 Village. Rice farmers in the area have a big issue. For a number of years, we have saltwater coming in from the riverside into the farmland every May/June season and every Christmas season. The koker there has to drain #48, #47, and #46. It has to drain rice land water, reef water, and the housing area water. The next thing, we have a 4’x4′ koker. That koker cannot take off the amount of water when we get the high rainfall. We are asking for a new koker that is bigger and we need a pump within the area because if this rain continues, farmers in the area will lose millions of dollars in rice,” the farmer said.
Meanwhile, during the second meeting which was held in Maida, farmers raised similar issues to those that were raised during the first meeting.
One farmer said that because of the state of the dam, tractors cannot traverse it to transport the paddy.
“Right now we have rice to cut and we don’t have dams to bring it out. I’m from Phillippe. The dam has some big, big pounds that if the tractors drive there, it would leave right there, so we need you to look at the dams and do some work on it so that we can bring out the paddy,” the farmer said.
Another farmer said that works needed to be carried out on both the trench and the dam in her area.
“The canal needs to be dug from the road all the way to Crown Dam and both dams need to be fixed. Right now the dams are bad and the farmers cannot use the boats because the trench is clogged up,” she said. After listening to the farmers, Minister Mustapha committed to having works carried out on all the dams that require fixing.
“Before the rains came we expended a lot of money to fix the dams and we are going to fix them again. I have a request from the Water Users’ Chairman for funds to fix about 10 dams in the #52/#74 areas. I will approve this and through the NDIA, we will have works commence to rehabilitate those dams from as soon as tomorrow. I’ll also ask the NDIA to do an urgent assessment of those other dams that need to be fixed and we will assign machines to fix them. For the farmer that raised the issue about saltwater intrusion twice a year, if the structure is too small and cannot take off the amount of water, I’ll ensure a proper assessment of the area is done. If we need to put a pump and a larger koker there, we’ll do it. I will send our technical officers there in the new week to meet with you and they will do an assessment and provide me with a report in the new week,” Minister Mustapha said.
Over at Maida, Minister Mustapha told farmers that a team from the ministry will be visiting the area on Monday to meet with residents and the NDC, and that a small committee will be formed to look at all the canals and dams that need to be rehabilitated. The minister made a public commitment to have the works done and to ensure that the farmers benefit from proper infrastructure.