Farmers, private developers row over Friendship lands
A group of farmers who have for years been planting undisturbed at lands located in Friendship, East Bank Demerara (EBD) are now in a battle with a private firm which is claiming that the property was sold to them by descendants of two freed slaves.
For over 30 years, the farmers say they have been planting crops and rearing cattle on the lands located on Friendship, a village founded by freed slaves.
In 2015, some of the farmers finally received transport to their respective lands.
But sometime late last year, the farmers said their livelihood was disrupted by a company called ‘Fabulous Homes’ which plans on developing a housing scheme in the area.
During an interview with three of the farmers on Tuesday, they explained to News Room that they have practically been blocked from accessing their farmlands and the losses they have suffered.
According to Rajendra Ramnarain, they now have to take a detour via the river to access their farmlands since the development works taking place prohibit them from traversing with their tractors.
Another farmer, Ramraj Ramrattan said he was forced to sell out his cattle because they were no longer in a secured pasture in light of the development works taking place. Ramrattan also alleged that the workmen are consuming his crops without any regard.
But in an invited comment, company officials insisted that they purchased the lands from the rightful owners, who are descendants of freed slaves.
The company’s lawyer told News Room that the lands originally belonged to Thomas Moore and Robert Roberts who were freed slaves.
Joyce King, one of the descendants, is said to have an 1856 transport for the land.
According to Fabulous Homes, they bought the land from King and they have already invested significantly in developing a housing scheme there.
The lawyer noted that the company has no intention of removing the farmers who have transports from the land but opined that they (farmers) are refusing to cooperate.
Regarding access to the land, the lawyer explained that it was recommended that the farmers use the alternative route until the developers construct a road which will be opened to the farmers for use.
This issue is one of the many facing persons across the country regarding ancestral lands.
President David Granger had established a Commission of Inquiry to address these issues.
Sources have informed News Room that this issue at Friendship was raised before the COI.
The COI handed over its preliminary report to Minister of State Joseph Harmon late last year.
The COI is expected to make recommendations on how the Government and the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GLSC) should address issues where there are land disputes over ancestral lands.