Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
– evicted Hopetown farmers move on to other state lands at Fort Wellington
By Clifford Stanley
A number of cash crop farmers from Hopetown Village who have been farming state lands at Fort Wellington in Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice) along with other farmers from Bath Settlement and surrounding villages, have been evicted by the PPPC led Regional Administration of Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice).
This has happened over the past three weeks but since then the beleaguered farmers have moved to another section of State lands at Fort Wellington and have literally dug in their heels. They have vowed that they will not move from these plots and that they will not be pushed around anymore.
Ms. Shammy McAlmont a Regional Democratic Councilor, herself a farmer on those lands this week disclosed that the lands from which herself and others were pushed off amounted to approximately five acres. “The plot I used to occupy has been taken over by a fellow named Kaymo. There are other newcomers alongside of him. He was placed there and there wasn’t much we could do about it other than complain,” she said.
She disclosed that in the face of their removal herself and six other farmers from the village had decided to find another spot on the State lands and to move their farming to that spot. “So we found another area on the same State lands at Fort Wellington, which measures about one acre and we moved there and marked off our plots about two weeks ago. The one acre is less than what we used to occupy but we have said that this is where we will farm and we ain’t moving from here.”
The Hopetown farmers as well as others from neighbouring villages including Bath Settlement had been farming the lands at State Wellington for a number of years up to 2015. On the change of Administration in 2015 the new Regional Executive Officer Ovid Morrison had with the support of the Regional Democratic Council decided to convert some of this land into a model farm for demonstration purposes. Displaced farmers were given lands on the same area but outside the boundaries of the model farm.
Since the change of Administration last year the PPPC scrapped the model farm and this year made the lands available to persons apparently of their own choice. As a result, there followed an influx of persons the majority of them from Bath Settlement Village with the support and encouragement of the PPPFC led Regional Administration.
These farmers perceived in the main as PPPC supporters have now been given the bulk of the land including that formerly occupied by the Hopetown farmers. The Hopetown farmers have been pushing back saying that if the Regional Administration was scrapping the Model Farmer then they should be given back the lands they had been farming before the model farm was introduced.
They have said that their pleas on this request had fallen on deaf ears and they have had to look on while other persons perceived to be PPPC supporters have been taking over these lands. “This is the background and since they have taken away lands we used to occupy and given the plots to others, we thought it best to go to another area and to set up our farms there,” Ms McAlmont said.
She said that no one had as yet approached them on their actions but added that since then there had been actions which seemed aimed at discouraging them from their occupation of their new one- acre lot. “During last week they cut the access dam directly opposite our new plots which means that salt water intrusion will become a problem for these plots when the weather is dry. Them cutting the access dam just next to us effectively separates where we are from the rest of the majority of farmers. This gives an unfortunate impression of separateness. Why would they want to give this impression?”
She added: “Someone was saying this was not deliberate but we have reasons to believe it was deliberate.”
Additionally, she said this influx of farmers who have formed themselves into some sort of group, had during last week informally promised the Hopetowners a hymac excavator to help them clear the interlocking drain so they could get irrigation for their newly formed plots.
She said: “To our chagrin, that Hymac which is State owned was moved from the area the day before it was promised to us. The person who appears to be the leader of the group said this was not deliberate but we have reasons to believe that moving it away just the day before it was to help us, was deliberate.”
She said that as a result, the Hopetown farmers have decided to pool their own resources to place stop offs on the irrigation channels near their plot to prevent salt water intrusion. They will also pool their resources to clean the interlocking drains. “The other farmers, the chosen ones, placed here, didn’t have to pay for these services but we will do it ourselves using our own resources even if it involves hiring a Hymac excavator machine to do it.”
She said that seven farmers from Hopetown village were determined to stand their ground and had indicated their position to all and sundry, including members of the new group, in no uncertain terms.
She disclosed a recent development that all the persons given state lands at Fort Wellington for agricultural purposes have been invited to a meeting on August 28th next. She added: ”Not-withstanding all that has happened, we will attend that meeting.”