Tuschen cattle farmers fearful land takeover will force them out of business
Tuschen cattle farmers are concerned that they will soon be out of business if their animals’ grazing land continues to be confiscated to build Housing Schemes. The Tuschen West Cattle Farmer’s Association on the East Bank of Essequibo said that land that was handed over by previous Agriculture Ministers is being taken away by the Ministry of Housing, which charged that the original agreement for the farmers to have the land was a mistake.
Head of the Farmer’s Association, Deonarine Cheddie, said that the farmers who depend on cow rearing for a living are selling out their animals because the grazing land left is too small and because the animals have to graze on the road sides.
He said that in total, the farmers had about 200 cows grazing on almost 200 acres of land, but now, farmers have to occupy 89 acres of space.
According to Cheddie, on July 9, 2003, the Tuschen Cattle Farmers Association was registered with 16 members owning some 250 cows. Before their registration, the farmers had been using the said confiscated land to rear their animals, Cheddie continued.
He said that it was the late President Cheddi Jagan, who related to late Agriculture Minister Reepu Daman Persaud that he should work towards farmers attaining the land. He said the land was being used but they had not gotten any official documentation.
On July 11, 2005, the association wrote to former President Bharrat Jagdeo for the granting of the land. Subsequent, to that, Cheddie said Minister Satyadeow Sawh wrote the association on July 22, 2005 to say, that in light of a successful meeting which was held with the farmers, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission would be visiting the area for an occupational survey, “since it is part of the Commission’s criteria which ultimately results in the lease.”
After showing the letter from Minister Sawh to this newspaper, Cheddie said the Commission did conduct the survey for which farmers paid $48,500 on July 27, 2005. The lease was the only thing left, he said.
However in 2009, the Housing Minister Irfaan Ali, approached the famers and said that “he will be taking this land to build Tuschen Second Phase Housing Scheme.”
Despite showing the Housing Minister the documents from previous arrangements including the Lands and Surveys document, Cheddie said they were told that “Lands and Surveys made a mistake.’
Cheddie said that the farmers were however assured that another plot of land would be made available for them at Zeelugt but to date the farmers have not been issued any land.
Three days after meeting the Housing Minister they said workers commenced bulldozing the area sending the livestock “helter skelter.”
The remaining 89 acres, Cheddie said, is too small for the animals to graze and as such the cows end up on the road corner or in the Housing Scheme affecting the residents. This thus leads to the Home Affairs Ministry’s cowcatchers confiscating the animals and farmers then have to pay $8000 to retrieve one cow.
Since the matter started, Cheddie said the association has visited all the relevant agencies but there has been no relief to their plight. He said they even visited the Housing Minister but he chased them out of his office. “A you ah run all bout like you head na good. I am sorry I get involved with you. I can’t help a you. Get out my office,” Cheddie alleged.
In the meantime, the association head said the farmers are suffering and it seems like there is no concern about them. Some of these farmers include women, Cheddie highlighted. “Some of them husband dead and that dem do fah a living.”
He said that most of the farmers rear cattle for a living and it would be difficult for these persons to change their lifestyle, despite the remaining 89 acres of land being pegged for another housing scheme.
Some farmers have already sold their cows and have abandoned the cattle rearing business, but for people who were hurt while working in the sugar industry, it is hard. He said after his injury he was paid off and the money was put into rearing cows which is now his daily bread.
The farmer said that he is seeking some intervention into the cattle farmers’ plight and hope for a quick resolution.