Flood affected Black Bush Polder farmers to receive assistance from Agri. Ministry

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Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha interacts with affected farmers (DPI)

– NDIA to commence critical drainage works to minimize flooding

DPI – With areas on the Coast continuing to experience instances of heavy rainfall as part of the year-end rainy season, several farmers from Black Bush Polder, East Berbice – Corentyne were left counting their losses after their farms were flooded due to heavy rainfall over the past few days.

After learning about the farmers’ plight, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha led a team to the affected areas to assess the damages and offer assistance to those affected.

Minister Mustapha while offering comments on the situation, said that, in an effort to offer relief to those who suffered tremendously, a team from the Ministry is scheduled to commence a survey to determine the amount of farmers who suffered and the extent of their losses.
“NAREI and GLDA will be sending officers here tomorrow to gather information to determine the extent of the losses. In the interim, I’ve put mechanisms in place to have effective and fast drainage in the scheme. This will see our drainage structures operating 24 hours and we’ll be working with persons in the community to monitor these structures. I’ve also instructed NDIA to send in some machines to do emergency works because farmers indicated that a number of areas in the scheme need proper drainage. Places like Johanna and Yakusari, we’ll do all the back drains. I intend to send about four machines here to do all the works and they won’t leave until all the works are completed. I know Black Bush usually suffers a lot when there is heavy rainfall. This scheme is like a basin, draining all the high lands. I’ve instructed the NDIA to look at the system we have here to see how we can improve it,” Minister Mustapha said.
Many of the farmers present at the meeting told the Minister that they would have experienced extreme flooding, resulting in losses of cash crops, livestock and small ruminant animals.

Bibi Khan, a cash crop farmer from Johanna, said that she is frustrated with the current state of the canals in the area. This, she said, contributed to the flooding of her farm which resulted in her losing most of what she had planted.

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“If you go now you’ll see the whole front drain got small small pipes then everybody using that same drain to lead everything. So what you expect? So abe need the drains clean. When the back drain clean things ago go better for abe. For south, about four to five years half way clean and same place it block up but abe second street never clean. Me think if the back drain clean and get a pipe or something that will be more relief on abe,” Ms. Khan said.

Responding to those issues, Minister Mustapha informed the gathering that he had instructed the Chairman of the NDIA to have a machine come into the area within the following days to commence clearing of the drainage channels. He further stated that a team from the NDIA will be meeting with the farmers and residents to do a complete assessment of all the drainage works needed in the area so that representation can be made in the coming budget for funds to be allocated to carry out the works.
The subject Minister also informed the farmers that after the assessment exercise is completed, the Ministry will work with farmers to assist them with getting back to their lands.

“We cannot give you cash but what we can do is assist you with some planting materials like seeds, some fertilizers and so on. This is not reimbursement, but rather some assistance to help you to get back on your feet given the amount of losses you would’ve incurred. GLDA will also assist you in whatever way they can,” Minister Mustapha said.

A number of farmers also appealed to the Minister for there to be some amount of infrastructural works done to upgrade their roadways. Regional officials present would’ve indicated that proposals would have been submitted twice to the then Ministry of Public Infrastructure for budgetary allocations to do works on the roads in the scheme but no funds were ever made available.

Minister Mustapha informed the gathering that he will ask the Minister of Public Works to visit the area and meet with the residents. He also stated that the Ministry is currently working to construct farm-to-market roads in several farming areas across the country.

“We are trying as a Government but the resources are limited. We cannot do everything at once. We are working overtime and by the end of February, 2021 we should have a new budget. I know in places like Black Bush Polder and the Canal Polders and other agriculture schemes, we will be working to develop these areas once again to ensure we have proper drainage and irrigation. We are concentrating on constructing a number of farm-to-market roads so that farmers would not suffer when the rain falls. We are currently doing one an Onverwagt that is costing $329M,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Agriculture Minister also appealed to the Regional authorities to be more responsive to the needs of the farmers. He added that many of the issues farmers are experiencing can be handled at the regional level.

“I know for a fact that in the past, Regional Officials for this Region were not given the support from Central Government to carry out works in certain areas. Many of the issues that were mentioned are long standing issues which stem from works that were not carried out for a number of years. As Minister of Agriculture, I plan to work with the Region and all of the farmers so that the agriculture sector can develop further,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Minister was accompanied by the Ministry’s Director General, Madanlall Ramraj and other Ministry and Regional officials.



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