THE decision to compensate those who suffered losses during the recent floods can be seen as a strong statement of support by President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali to farmers in particular and the Guyanese people in general. It is also an indication that farmers are not only valuable contributors to our economy, but more fundamentally, that there is dignity and security in tilling the soil and in the rearing of cattle, livestock and poultry.
In what is regarded as the biggest allocation ever to compensate Guyanese who suffered losses as a result of floods, a substantial sum of money was set aside by President Ali. Over 52,000 households who were affected by the recent floods will benefit from this financial package.
The package, worth billions, is the fulfilment of a promise made by the President that once the floodwaters recede, government would conduct a full and comprehensive assessment of losses, which would be the basis on which the interventions of the government would be undertaken for those who lost their livelihoods.
The assistance covers various categories including homestead farmers, those with kitchen gardens and other affected households. A total of $3.6B has been earmarked for those who qualify under these categories. In addition, another $3.2B has been set aside to provide financial assistance to rice farmers who suffered losses in varying degrees from land preparation to the pre-harvesting stage. Roughly 50,000 acres of rice were affected, involving some 2,000 rice farmers. Poultry farmers will also benefit from the relief package which is projected to cost over $600M. As pointed out by the President, this assistance, even though it may not be a full compensation for losses suffered, will go a long way in mitigating such losses.
The financial package offered by the PPP/C administration has to be seen in conjunction with a much bigger intervention mechanism to bring immediate relief to affected communities and to help prevent a recurrence. Among these interventions were massive drainage and irrigation works, upgrading of river-defence systems, and other forms of technical support to farmers by way of genetic improvements and other forms of technical support.
The financial relief package announced by President Ali on the eve of his first year as the country’s Head of State is most re-assuring and, as noted by the President, even though it may not fully compensate for the emotional and social losses which he experienced first-hand during his interactions with those affected by the floods, it certainly has lifted the spirit and hopes of thousands regarding the future and security of their lives and their livelihoods.
It is a known fact that the majority of farmers do not enjoy insurance coverage for their crops or livestock and any unexpected disaster as in the case of the recent floods could spell ruin or have a crippling effect on their ability to get back on their feet. Many are barely able to eke out an existence due to the relatively small size of their operations, aided sometimes with the support of family members. In such cases, the losses suffered can be particularly distressing and any form of relief will be welcomed with open arms.
There was a time under the previous APNU+AFC administration when agriculture was downplayed and when farmers were treated with scant regard by those in officialdom. One consequence of such attitude was a marked decline in agricultural production and productivity and a consequential loss of export earnings. All of that has now changed and agriculture is one again, as it were, on the front burner. This is exactly how it should be and the PPP/C administration must be commended for the several policy interventions to create a more diversified and balanced economy so necessary for sustainable development.