Jan 14, 2021 News
– Minister instructs high-level team to find solution
By Malisa Playter-Harry
Kaieteur News – Dozens of rice farmers from the 52/74 Villages in Berbice were on Monday, up in arms over the withdrawal of a letter issued by the Water Users Association (WUA) to impound cattle that have been grazing in their rice lands and destroying their crops. This has been a burning issue for years but a permanent solution is yet to be arrived at. In the interim, it has caused friction among rice farmers and cattle farmers. On Monday they verbally clashed, as yet again attempts were made to resolve the predicament.
The letter that was issued by the WUA enraged cattle farmers, but it was after word reached the Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, that the farmers were having major issues, that a team, including the Regional Chairman, David Armogan; Regional Agriculture Coordinator, Dennis Deoroop; Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA), Dr. Grayson Halley; Chairman of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) Board, Lionel Wordsworth; Legal Advisor within the Ministry of Agriculture, Attorney at Law, Umdat Chandan; Regional Vice Chairman, Zamal Hussain; were sent to listen to the plight of the frustrated farmers.
Chairman of the 52/74 areas WUA, Ahmad Rajab, who was part of the meeting, told media representatives that by way of a letter, permission was granted to impound the animals found grazing on the lands. This, he said, has been happening for the past 14 years.
However, a few days ago, he revealed that the attorney attached to the Ministry of Agriculture advised Minister Mustapha that the act does not allow WUA to “pound on NDIA’s structure.’ It was reportedly after receiving the guidance from the attorney that the Minister gave instructions to withdraw the letter. Rajab said that when that information was relayed to the rice farmers, they became enraged and demanded that the letter go through and that the animals be impounded. They all gathered at the WUA building at Number 63 Village where the team also met with them and a few cattle farmers that showed up as well. There, they argued about what was the best solution to resolve the issue.
Both sides disagreed with each other and there seemed to be no solution in sight. Arguments were centered on the cattle venturing into rice farmers lands and grazing on their crops. They stressed that the issue has been a protracted one and they are “fed up,” and want an immediate end to the issue.
Cattle farmers on the other hand, alleged that their animals are poisoned and killed by the rice farmers. They argued that those present could not make any decision to fix the issue and so they wanted the immediate intervention of the Minister. It was after the intervention of Wordsworth, the NDIA Chairman, that the farmers calmed down a bit. Rice farmer Ramgoolam passionately demanded that they be provided with 200 rolls of wire and 5,000 poles to fence the area “now!” He stated that many years ago that was given by the late Minister of Agriculture, Satyadeo Sawh, and that had worked well for rice and cash crop farmers. However, due to works that were carried out by NDIA to clear drains caused by heavy flooding, the fence was destroyed and never replaced.
Another farmer suggested that NDIA clear the canals and place the debris on the ground around the canal then construct the fence. This, he said, would hold the fence stronger in place. He added that when NDIA has to execute future works in the area, the fence will not be affected, this was agreed upon by all the farmers. The NDIA Chairman lauded the young farmer for his suggestion. Additionally, Deoroop, the Regional Agriculture Coordinator, stated that the Guyana Rice Development Board was set to conduct a survey to determine the losses incurred by the farmers.
Meanwhile, Armogan, the Regional Chairman, during an interview after the meeting, disclosed that the Minister has since instructed that the letter issued by the WUA be withdrawn. He stated that his administration is now tasked with finding a solution to an “age old issue” and that “the time has come where we have to find a solution.” Armogan said that the Minister of Agriculture “is intent on doing so and that is why he sent us here today to look at solutions so that he can find the resources to implement those solutions.”
He added that, “one thing that was established here today was that the Water Users Association does not have the authority to issue a letter to impound animals. So the Minister was right to say withdraw the letter. We are trying to find a solution where we can have an area for cattle so that they don’t roam around and destroy other people’s rice and cash crop.”
He said too it was suggested that an area “way down in the savannah where, once we can fence a particular area; GLDA is looking at that and I am sure GLDA will carry the suggestion to the Minister. They said they will need about 200 to 300 rolls of wire and about 5,000 posts to surround the area so the cattle won’t graze in the rice lands. Once we can locate another area for cattle and put rice and cattle separate, it can be a solution to the present problem that we have,” he said.
Additionally, President of the Rice Producers Association, Lekka Rambridge, has stated that having the fence will not permanently solve the issue but it will suffice until an area is earmarked for cattle grazing only.
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