–additional planting material, seeds, seedlings to be distributed as part of flood-relief efforts
AS the government continues with its flood- relief rollout to those farmers across the country who lost their crops during the recent flooding, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Saturday spearheaded distributions in villages along the Upper Pomeroon River in Region Two.
Approximately $110 million was distributed to 1,460 farmers and households from villages along the Pomeroon River. Hundreds of farmers who were affected by the floods, and are eager to return to farming as they know it, turned up at the St. Monica Community Centre, and the Kabakaburi and Siriki Primary Schools to receive their cash grants.
While receiving their grants, farmers recounted their experiences during the flood, and thanked the government for stepping in to offer much-needed assistance.
James Smith, a farmer from Siriki Village, said he was grateful for the assistance after losing most of what he had planted prior to the floods.
“When the rainfall come, my dam was below the water. I had 600 pear trees planted. After the flood, I only had 21 left. I am thankful for this relief that I am getting today; I want to thank the President and the entire government for this, and for what they are doing in the country,” Mr. Smith said.
Thomas Charles, a farmer who resides in Kabakaburi, said that in addition to the money, farmers would also need planting material and other inputs to quickly return to the land.
“I am happy about this grant; it will help me out a lot. But in addition to this, I would like to know if the Ministry, through NAREI, can assist us with some seeds, fertiliser, and things like that,” Mr. Charles said.
While responding to farmers, Minister Mustapha said the government made a commitment, and his being there in the region was to fulfill that commitment. He also said that every farmer who was affected will receive assistance from the government.
“We are here today to deliver; we made a lot of promises when we campaigned for the 2020 General Elections, and when you look back at those commitments, most of those promises or commitments have already been fulfilled,” Minister Mustapha said, adding:
“We are not hiding from the promises that we made; today, we are here to distribute the flood-relief grants to affected farmers and households. I want to assure you, every farming household that was affected will be given assistance to return to the land. Not so long ago, when areas were underwater, I accompanied His Excellency, President Dr. Irfaan Ali to those areas, and he said when the flood water receded, we’d try as much as possible to help the farmers to get back to the land as quickly as possible. That is our objective with this grant.”
Minister Mustapha also assured farmers that a team from the ministry will be returning to the region in two weeks to continue the distribution exercise. He assured villagers, too, that the government remains committed to working with each farmer to develop agriculture in the country.
“As minister, I will work with the villagers to advance agriculture. Whatever it takes to develop agriculture, the government will work to make the necessary resources available, so that you, the farmers, can produce, because our President is very passionate about agriculture,” Minister Mustapha said. “In addition to the cash grant, we will also work to make seedlings, seeds, and other planting materials available to help you return to the land,” he added.
In addition to the distribution, Minister Mustapha invited villagers to use the opportunity to make requests, as the government is currently preparing for Budget 2022.
Villagers made requests for additional block drainage, kokers, solar systems, Internet service, land titles, and tanks for storing water during the dry period. Minister Mustapha told residents that his Ministry will work with their regional and village officials to have more block drainages and kokers set up in the villages.
He also told villagers that he will forward those requests that were made but are not the direct responsibility of his ministry to the relevant Cabinet Ministers.
President Ali and his entire Cabinet are currently in the region for a two-day outreach, to engage villagers on what they would like to see done in their region in the coming year.