IN excess of 6,000 farmers and households across Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) received their flood-relief grants on Friday, at seven distribution centres set up throughout the region.
Leading the charge was Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, who spearheaded the distribution exercises at Seafield, Onverwagt and Bush Lot, all on the West Coast Berbice.
Speaking to farmers at the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary – Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA) compound at Onverwagt, Minister Mustapha said that the Mahaica-Berbice district was among the most affected by the May 2021 floods, which devastated some 52,000 households within 300 communities, as well as thousands of acres of farmlands.
“It also had one of the largest payouts,” Minister Mustapha noted.
He highlighted, too, that of the overall $7.8 billion allocated to the flood-relief programme, some $1.6 billion was being paid out to citizens in Region Five alone. Residents and farmers of the MMA-ADA district, alone, benefited from the distribution of $157 million.
“This region is one of the most important regions in terms of agriculture,” Minister Mustapha said.
He said that while residents could not be compensated for the devastation and losses that the floods brought, the government is hoping that the grants would assist farmers in returning to the fields, and recommencing productive activities.
“This is not a compensation that we are giving; this is a relief. This is a relief that we are giving to you the farmers, and we want you to go back to the land as quickly as possible,” the minister related.
It would appear as though farmers are also eager to return to productivity, and restart their businesses. This is the case for Vibert Sealey, who was one of the first set of persons to receive his cheques at the MMA-ADA distribution site.
He told the Guyana Chronicle that when the floods hit, it not only resulted in the loss of cash crops and livestock, but also in damage to the bottom flat of his home.
“It was a really hard thing to go through,” Sealey reflected.
The farmer, who received a cheque from the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) of the Ministry of Agriculture, expressed appreciation to Minister Mustapha and the Government of Guyana for recognising the plight of farmers, and assisting those affected in getting back on their feet.
“I didn’t get to go back to the farm and so, but I will go back now,” Sealey related.
Also at the MMA-ADA district was rice and livestock farmer, Anita Sammy, who was all smiles as she collected her cheque.
Her smile soon turned upside down, as she reflected on the damage that the floods have caused her and her family.
“It was really bad fuh we; we does mind cow, and sheep and duck and suh,” Sammy said, adding: “This year, we nah guh mek nothin’, because everything dead out.”
She said that while her house was spared the contaminated floodwaters, her son’s wasn’t. “He yard was real duck-out; garden, everything was duck-out fuh he,” Sammy said.
Asked how her family has managed to recuperate, the woman’s response was, “By the Grace of God!”
Looking back, she said: “We really thankful fuh the weather; the water gone, and we trying fuh get back to normal.”
She said that the government’s flood-relief money will greatly assist the family with the purchase of a “fresh crop of livestock”, and in repairing the requisite infrastructure that were damaged in the floods.
Also collecting his cheque was rice farmer Afzal Basalat, who said that even though the floods almost crippled his livelihood, he was relieved by President Dr. Irfaan Ali’s Emancipation Day announcement, which outlined the various categories of persons who will be benefiting from the government’s flood-relief grants.
“Long ah went waiting; ah went going all the time to see if ah get it. After all, ah get it today, and I very happy about it,” the young farmer said.
He said that even though he has suffered much losses as a livestock farmer, it was his rice field that was ravaged the most by the floodwaters.
“Me does mind sheep and goat; all de sheep dem get foot rot, due to the weather. And most ah dem dying out and all, because, after dem get the foot rot, dem nah able walk,” Basalat related.
Now that he has received the long-awaited assistance, Basalat is eager to prepare for the next crop, in the hope that the rains will “behave”.
Over at Bush Lot Village, Lenox Cambridge is also enthusiastic about his return to the farmlands.
Although the loss of his “layers” is significant, Cambridge said that he did not expect the government to come to his assistance.
“I really didn’t know that they woulda do this here, suh I really very thankful,” the West Coast Berbice resident said, adding: “Now that I get this here, I guh be able to buy back me li’l livestock.”
Aside from his livestock farm, Cambridge’s home was also flooded out.
“It was tough; all we coulda do was clean out the place and throw way the things that damage,” the farmer related.
At Mortice and Karamat villages in Branch Road, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara, Natural Resources Minister, Vickram Bharrat was leading the distribution teams. And, at Dundee, Mahaicony, Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill was overseeing the distribution efforts there.
In addition to the ministers and technical teams, the distribution of all monies in relation to the flood-relief programme are being audited on-the-spot.