West Bank cattle farmers seek new pasture grounds
A group of cattle farmers from Catherina Sophia, West Bank Demerara on Tuesday met with Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha seeking his assistance with providing alternative lands for them to graze their cattle.
The group of farmers, who are also involved in the cultivation cash crops, indicated they had made an application for lands to graze their cattle but, to date, they have not been given any assistance. The farmers are currently occupying a portion of land under the control of the National Industrial & Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
One of the farmers, Ricky (only name given) said that they had received letters from the (NICIL) about their occupancy on the said lands and sought the Minister’s intervention to assist them with acquiring a lease for those lands or making alternative lands available so that they can graze their animals.
The farmer said that the group has over 500 heads of cattle and that they would be grateful if the Ministry could assist with preparing part of the savannah for them to graze their cattle if they do not receive leases for the lands they are currently occupying.
Another farmer present said that after the Wales Estate was closed by the previous administration, many persons who received their severance payment invested in cattle while others went into farming. He also said that apart from having a suitable place for their cattle, road access, potable water and electricity also plague the community.
In responding to the issues raised, Minister Mustapha said that he was informed that NICIL had issued letters to several persons in the area, stating that a number of leases are currently being reviewed.
“It is not my desire for NICIL to take away lands from farmers who would have invested money to develop farms and other things, but that can only be NICIL’s decision because that is a different entity from the Ministry of Agriculture.
“While we were in Opposition, we made it clear that we would reopen the closed estates, with the exception of Wales because that estate was left in a state of no return. This is why we said that, as an alternative, we’ll create the Wales Development Authority to ease some of the burdens brought on when the estate was closed,” Minister Mustapha said.
He added further that his office would engage NICIL on the best way forward.
“My officers will engage NICIL to see what lands are available for you. As soon as we can identify this portion of land, I’m willing to make the necessary machinery available to develop those lands. I cannot say when that will happen, but I’m urging you to have your group registered.
“Once that process is completed and you have your registration, make an application for an allocation and we will engage NICIL to see how fast a suitable portion of land could be identified and made available,” he continued.
The Minister told the farmers that, if they are unable to acquire leases for the lands they are currently occupying, he would work with them and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) to designate a portion of the savannah and have it developed into a pasture.
The subject Minister told the group that government was focused on bringing economic development to Wales but, at the same time, government is also promoting the expansion of the cattle industry. He further explained that, only recently, a pronouncement was made about developing Guyana’s cattle industry.
The farmers also sought the assistance of central government to assist with repairing the roads and providing electricity and potable water to the community. Minister Mustapha committed to engaging his colleague Ministers to see how best they can assist through their respective ministries.
Ahead of today’s meeting, the farmers would’ve contacted Minister Mustapha to air their concern. Following their exchange, Minister Mustapha instructed the Deputy Chief Executive Officer for the GLDA, Dr. Dwight Waldron to visit the area. A report was later compiled and submitted to the Minister.