The Regional Executive Officer of Region Six, Kim Williams-Stephens, has come under heavy criticism by the Regional Chairman, David Armogan, after she informed him that there is currently no money set aside to fix the deplorable dams in the rice cultivation areas as is normally done on the first and second crop.
Armogan stressed that the rice farmers are already suffering due to the paddy bug infestation that has ripped through their rice crop over the past few months and with the added problem of dams in a deplorable state during the harvesting season will only add to the existing issues.
“I cannot remember a time that farmers are not assisted to fix the dams. These dams are being done twice a year, in the first crop and the second crop, this year, however, things have changed,” he disclosed.
According to Armogan too, in the past, a substantial amount of money totalling approximately $15M would be expended by the region per crop to ensure that the dams in the rice cultivation areas are done to make it less difficult for farmers during harvesting time. “Unfortunately, this year, the REO has said very clearly to us although we had about $15M in the budget to do dams, this year she has said to us that the money under agriculture has completely expired, she has no further money to do the dams.”
The Regional Chairman opined that such a development will put the rice farmers in a very difficult situation, one that has already forced many of them to resort to fixing the dams themselves using their own finances. “There is only so much they could do and only so much expenditure they can involve to do the dams because as you know rice cultivation is an expensive business,” he said.
The region he said, as it is, has let the farmers down “for the first time since I am here and I have been a councillor for 15 years and this is the first time the region will not be assisting farmers to fix the dams.”
With the money reportedly exhausted, Armogan said that he had to find a way to assist and as such made contact with the Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and they have since promised to assist with $5M. The Chairman said that the money will be split 50/50 with $2.5 M going to Black Bush Polder (BBP) and the other $2.5 M to the 52/74 rice cultivation area. Farmers in Crabwood Creek, he said, will “unfortunately have to fend for themselves” since the money will be split to the two largest areas under cultivation (BBP and 52/74).
Armogan went on to chastize the government and said that the administration is operating in a callous manner “because they are still holding on to the belief when they came into government that rice is a private business and rice farmers have to look after whatever is in their interest in entirety. Now that cannot be so, the government will always have to provide the infrastructure for rice production and cultivation and that has not been happening here in Guyana”.
He said that the government on this occasion has neglected their responsibility at the regional level because “the REO should have been able to hold this money to do the dams because this is something that we anticipate.” Armogan, however, remained hopeful that the dry period holds for the farmers. He added that the farmers will have to utilize their tractors and harrows to remedy the dams.
The Water Users Association will be collecting and expending the money promised by NDIA, Armogan said. A sum of $117 M was allocated to Agriculture in Region Six for this year.
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