Black Bush farmers affected by flooding to get assistance

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The government has pledged assistance to farmers of Black Bush Polder who were affected by flooding and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority will intensify its work to drain the area. The flooding was caused by heavy rainfall.

The Department of Public Information (DPI) reported that after learning about the farmers’ plight, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha led a team to the affected areas to assess the damages and offer assistance to those affected.

Minister Mustapha said team from the Ministry is scheduled to commence a survey to determine the number of farmers who suffered and the extent of their losses.

“NAREI and GLDA will be sending officers here (Wednesday) to gather information to determine the extent of the losses.

“In the interim, I’ve put mechanisms in place to have effective and fast drainage in the scheme. This will see our drainage structures operating 24 hours and we’ll be working with persons in the community to monitor these structures,” Mustapha stated.

“I’ve also instructed NDIA to send in some machines to do emergency works because farmers indicated that a number of areas in the scheme need proper drainage. Places like Johanna and Yakusari, we’ll do all the back drains,” the Minister added.

He said four machines will be sent to the area to do all the works, “and they won’t leave until all the works are completed.”

Many of the farmers present at the meeting told the Minister that they would have experienced extreme flooding, resulting in losses of cash crops and livestock.

Bibi Khan, a cash crop farmer from Johanna, said that she is frustrated with the current state of the canals in the area. This, she said, contributed to the flooding of her farm which resulted in her losing most of what she had planted.

“We cannot give you cash but what we can do is assist you with some planting materials like seeds, some fertilizers and so on,” Minister Mustapha stated.

“This is not reimbursement, but rather some assistance to help you to get back on your feet given the amount of losses you would’ve incurred. GLDA will also assist you in whatever way they can.”

A number of farmers also appealed to the Minister for there to be some amount of infrastructural works done to upgrade their roadways.

Regional officials present would’ve indicated that proposals would have been submitted twice to the then Ministry of Public Infrastructure for budgetary allocations to do works on the roads in the scheme but no funds were ever made available.

Minister Mustapha informed the gathering that he will ask the Minister of Public Works to visit the area and meet with the residents. He also stated that the Ministry is currently working to construct farm-to-market roads in several farming areas across the country.

“We are trying as a Government but the resources are limited. We cannot do everything at once. We are working overtime and by the end of February, 2021 we should have a new budget. I know in places like Black Bush Polder and the Canal Polders and other agriculture schemes, we will be working to develop these areas once again to ensure we have proper drainage and irrigation.

“We are concentrating on constructing a number of farm-to-market roads so that farmers would not suffer when the rain falls. We are currently doing one an Onverwagt that is costing $329M,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Agriculture Minister also appealed to the Regional authorities to be more responsive to the needs of the farmers. He added that many of the issues farmers are experiencing can be handled at the regional level.

“I know for a fact that in the past, Regional Officials for this Region were not given the support from Central Government to carry out works in certain areas. Many of the issues that were mentioned are long standing issues which stem from works that were not carried out for a number of years. As Minister of Agriculture, I plan to work with the Region and all of the farmers so that the agriculture sector can develop further,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Minister was accompanied by the Ministry’s Director General, Madanlall Ramraj and other Ministry and Regional officials. (Ministry of Agriculture Press Release)

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