–Minister Mustapha assures farmers
DEPLORABLE dams and canals at Helena, Mahaica, will be cleaned and fixed, Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha has assured farmers of the community, who have complained of the impediments created by the conditions of the agriculture infrastructure.
The minister made this commitment during a visit with other officials of the ministry, to the community on Tuesday.
The visit was as a result of a request made by a group of farmers for the minister to visit the area to get a first-hand look at some of the challenges they face in the area.
Basil Jagasar, also known as Bassan, a farmer, said many of the dams need to be fixed. He also said that the canals needed to be cleared.
“We need help. We are happy that you are here today. The trench is blocked up and water going into our farms. Minister look at this dam. Can farmers bring out produce on dams like this? It is worse at the back,” the farmer said.
Other farmers expressed similar sentiments about the need for urgent rehabilitative works to be done on other dams in the community.
Farmers present at the meeting, also expressed dissatisfaction with the way a recently constructed bridge was done.
They said that the machines used to transport their produce from their farms were not able to cross the bridge because the rails were too narrow.
After listening to the farmers, Minister Mustapha said that a comprehensive assessment of the area will be conducted over the next few days, in order to determine the amount of work needed.
The minister also visited the location where the bridge in question was constructed. After examining the works, he said that some amount of revetment works would have to be carried out on the structure to accommodate the farmers in the area.
“Farmers here reached out to me last week and I decided to come and see what can be done to assist them because they expressed that they are facing several challenges in terms of infrastructure. I’ve since instructed our regional engineer to come back to the area tomorrow and work with the farmers.
“I’ve also asked that a comprehensive report on works needed in the area be done. I should have that report by Friday so that we can prioritise the works and commence as soon as possible. Also, there’s a bridge that was constructed last year as part of NDIA’s capital programme and I think that we’ll have to carry out some remedial works on it,” Minister Mustapha said.
Further, he added: “I’ve asked NDIA to make the bill of quantities available so that we can closely examine the scope of the works. When we are undertaking works of this nature, we have to ensure the stakeholders are involved in these projects at some level because they are the ultimate beneficiaries.”
Minister Mustapha also said that it was disappointing that farmers had to bring the issue of substandard projects to his attention when engineers are tasked with monitoring these projects.
“I am in the process of revamping the engineering department of the NDIA to ensure the agency is more responsive and proactive. We cannot continue to do things in a haphazard way. We have to ensure that when these projects are done, they are done in a way that we can have value for the monies spent.
“These projects cost a lot of money and they have to be done according to the contractual specifications. We’ll also be focusing on the way these contractors are working. Works have to be verified by our engineers before payments are made,” Minister Mustapha said.