THREE hundred and seventy-eight cash crop farmers in Region Three, on Friday, received their flood-relief cash grants which many said will go a far way in helping to revive their farms.
A total of $37.8M was distributed during the exercise. Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar, accompanied by Regional Chairman Inshan Ayube, distributed grants at Bonasika, Aliki and Lanaballi, which are all located along the Essequibo River. Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson, was present for the distribution exercise at Western and Northern Hogg Island. Each farmer received $100,000.
The exercise began with the distribution of $15 million to 150 farmers at the Lower Bonasika Primary School. Ramdai Singh, 67, was one of the first persons to receive the grant.
With over 42 years as a cash crop farmer under his belt, this has been one of the hardest years for Singh, who lives with her grandson in the Upper Bonasika Creek.
“Me feel bad, bad, bad, because me nah had nothing else. And how much money we spend on that farm. Me had about two acre watermelon and all flood out. We had dasheen, lime, cucumber, banana, plantain, all spoil up, nothing, nothing we didn’t get back,” Singh conveyed as she clutched the envelope that was given to her by Minister Indar moments earlier.
The senior citizen said that since the floodwaters subsided, she has been using whatever little savings she had to jumpstart her farm but it has not been easy.
“Me had lil money and we had to use up all the money to buy some things to raise it back. It was really hard but I hope to raise back the farm,” she said, as she praised the initiative that will now go a far way in making her journey to getting back on her feet, a little bit easier.
The three Essequibo River communities that were visited were among the hardest hit during the May/June rainy season. The flood situation was also aided by the monthly unprecedented rainfall that was occurring across the country.
In June, the situation was declared a Level Two national disaster, with five regions placed as Level Three.
Cognisant of the effects the situation had on the economy, the government set aside $7.8 billion for distribution as relief to farmers and households, to assist them in getting back on their feet.
Under the relief programme, homestead farmers will receive $100,000 each, those with kitchen gardens will get $50,000 each, and households excluding homestead and those with kitchen garden, will receive $50,000 each.
Meanwhile, Walter Sukhoo, 83, has been spending the past few months trying his hand as a fisherman to bring in an income and sustain himself while he tries little by little to revive his farm.
Sukhoo, who is from the Lanaballi area, estimates that he lost approximately 10 acres of cash crop. Like other farmers, he agreed that this was one of the worst floods he has ever experienced in all his years. Sukhoo said that he has been farming all his life, having been born into a farming family.
“Water used to come into the land a little bit but on the outer part. This time it came over the land and entered the farm. First time such a great flood. I had bananas, eddoes, plantain and some greens but all the greens die out with the rains,” Sukhoo told the Guyana Chronicle.
“I had over 70 acres but I shared it up with my children and right now I have 10 acres cultivated and I’m trying to revive it back.”
He too stressed how much the $100,000 meant to him, saying: “It mean a lot. I’ve been living here all my life, I was born in this river, married here, get my children here, and I’ve been farming all the days of my life. Farming to maintain my wife and my children. Farming is my life and this flood disturb me a lot so I am grateful to government for this assistance.”
At Aliki, Danny Cummings shared a similar story of being born into a farming family, and his fears of how he would source finances to rebound from the flood.
“It damage the crop a lot. The banana trees, couple acres they just stay so and not bearing it get like a disease. Right now, I’m just trying to replant now so this cash grant will be of great help to me with the farm getting it back on stream,” he told this publication.
In distributing the grant, Minister Indar and Ayube reassured the farmers of the government’s commitment to always being there to support them in whatever way it can.
He used the opportunity to emphasise the critical role farming plays in Guyana’s economy.
“When the flood hit, we saw everything went sky high so that tells you what would happen if the farming community is destroyed. Persons need money to go back into cultivation. So, we are here today to give a level of support for some persons who lose things. We can’t compensate you for everything, it was hard, we saw the tears, we know the hurt, but our government is one that responds and we respond positively,” Minister Indar said.
He also encouraged the residents to ensure they are observing COVID-19 protocols and to get vaccinated against the deadly virus.
Outside of receiving the grant, the residents were also given the opportunity to speak to the minister and the regional chairman about issues affecting them in their communities. Some community representatives noted issues such as the need for improved drainage and irrigation infrastructure. Minister Indar pledged to have the issues assessed with the intention of having them remedied.