The farmers of De Buff Village, Canal Number Two, West Bank Demerara (WBD) are now counting their losses after their cash crops were either destroyed or badly damaged during the heavy rainfall last week.
Reports are that the heavy rainfall began days before the holiday weekend and that some farmers notified Regional Chairman, Julius Faerber, about their concerns after the water began to rise and flood some of their crops.
The farmers explained to Kaieteur News that Faerber told them last Wednesday, that the Ministry of Agriculture is aware of the situation. Upon noticing that the water was continuing to rise a few days later, the farmers visited the pump(s) located at Stanleytown, WBD.
“When I was there, I called Faerber to tell him that the pumps were not working. He told me that they were. I have photographs of the gates for the pump station padlocked. I have proof and when I told him I was there and could see nobody there and no pumps working, he said it fall under the Agriculture Ministry and that he would make some calls to find out. We didn’t hear back from him,” said one man.
Kaieteur News was further told that days passed and the situation worsened. When the farmers tried to reach Faerber at his home they were told by his wife that “he was in Berbice for the holidays”.
It was only until two days ago after they were able to contact Minister within the Ministry of Local Government, Norman Whittaker, that an intervention was made and the pumps began to work again.
By then, most of the damage was done, and millions were lost.
Ian Cole, who recently spent millions of dollars investing in establishing and renovating his greenhouse, was very disappointed in the way the situation was handled. He lost over 15,000 heads of lettuce; 4,800 cucumbers, and 300 sweet pepper trees.
“It was over two feet of water in the nursery. Everything died because of the flood. This could have been avoided because the Ministry was aware that this would have happened. The pumps should have been operational.
“The canal should have been completely clean, not left up to a certain part. The water instead of passing out in the outlet is now seeping into everyone’s yards and flooding it. The outlet has become an inlet now,” said Cole.
For Vishnu Mohabir, his entire farm was destroyed because of the flooding. His loss totals in excess of $4M with 8,500 pineapples, 150 cherry trees, half an acre of cassava, and almost 100 duck eggs and chickens flooded out.
Meanwhile, his brother Haimdatt Mohabir, lost over 5,000 pineapples, 60 cherry trees, peppers, banana suckers and duck eggs.
Yesterday, his house was still surrounded by water over three feet deep. People had to fit themselves into an old refrigerator to be transported across his yard.
Bidramchand, another farmer, lamented that his tomatoes, cabbage and other plants died after the heavy flooding. More than 4,000 pineapples were destroyed and two acres of cassava badly affected during the past few days of rainfall. He estimates his loss to be close to $2M.
Many of these farmers are of the opinion that had the relevant authorities supervised and conducted works accordingly, such catastrophes could have been avoided. Some of them who farm on smaller scales explained that it was close to reaping time and this has “thrown back” their income and work.
Farmers such as Kishandayal, Shivbasant, Hunshant Lakeram and Dharamdat Deodatt, lost cassava, cherry trees, other fruit trees, pumpkins, papayas, pepper, ochroes, cucumbers and more amounting to millions of dollars as well.
“It was almost time to reap for nuff of us. That is why we vex. Nuff money spend and we work hard to carry on with we farming. We does got customers to supply who does buy in bulk. We children got to go to school. We got bills to pay just like other people. This could have been avoided.
“We went to the Agriculture Ministry to meet with the Minister this morning but we couldn’t get to see him. Instead we see the Permanent Secretary who just take notes. We talk to Lionel from there and he can’t answer we. Why should we have to suffer like this?” questioned one of the men.
The Ministry of Agriculture last evening stated that a number of interventions were undertaken; officers were instructed to “persuade” the contractor to clean the main Canals in both Canal Polder #1 and #2.
Kaieteur News understands that the contractor had discontinued cleaning the canals because of non-payment. On Friday, last, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy asked officers to approach the contractor to resume cleaning of the canals. Thus far 95 per cent of the cleaning has been completed.
However, these canals have not been cleaned for some time now and the contractor, unfortunately, did not work on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. This slowed the movement of water from the land.
“The Region had a practice whereby operators of a koker and a pump that contribute to drainage for the 1,400 acres in the area were not paid for the weekend and holidays. Once the Ministry of Agriculture discovered this practice, we instructed that funds from Central Ministry be used to have the operators paid for weekends and holidays. Had the operators been in place at the time of the rainfall, there would have been considerable easing of the situation,” said Dr. Ramsammy.
The Minister added that farmers in the area believe that there is need for some excavation in the Clay Brick Road area. The Agriculture Ministry has accepted the recommendation and will deploy an excavator to complete what is estimated to be a three-day work to complete this task.
In the same area, farmers recommended that a drainage tube be placed and the Ministry has accepted this recommendation also and will immediately put this in place.
According to the release by the Ministry, “The Minister of Agriculture is monitoring this situation very closely and will ensure we assist to alleviate the problems being encountered by these farmers. We will also monitor the situation in other places and will ensure we keep the problems associated with heavy rains in Guyana minimal.”
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