By Isanella Patoir
Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha has committed to looking into issues affecting farmers on the West Coast of Demerara who have suffered millions of dollars in losses due to the deplorable state of the road.
When contacted on Monday, the Minister told the News Room that he will contact the regional engineer for the Region Three Regional Democratic Council (RDC) to assess the issues being faced and to assist the farmers.
Some of the farmers from the Best/ Klien Pouderoyen and Vreed-en-Hoop areas have been unable to transport their harvest from the rice fields to the mills and several complaints they reportedly made to the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) have fell on deaf ears.
Some of them during an interview with the News Room recently claimed that for the past three weeks, the road suffered extensive damage as a result of an excavator that conducted drainage works in the area.
It is important to note that it was the farmers who requested the NDC to conduct the drainage works.
Harry Lalgee, a rice farmer, said that the road was maintained by the residents for years but due to the heavy rainfall a few months ago, they asked the NDC to assist in cleaning the drains.
However, at the same time as the cleaning, the farmers were getting ready to harvest their crop but they could not transport it because the excavator that was used to clean the drains caused further damage to the already deplorable road.
The farmers said that their tractors and combine harvesters could not traverse the road, resulting in acres of rice rotting. These vehicles get stuck on the road and as such the farmers have decided to park them.
Lalgee said he did the majority of the maintenance works on the road.
“Me loss nuff, we get about 60 more acres rice to cut, me had to bring home my combine and tractor and wash am and park am,” Lalgee told the News Room.
He said he struggled to put in this last crop and also lost 60 bags of paddy due to the flooding. He is estimating his losses to be in the millions.
“Now to get benefit you cannot reap the crop, the rain fall I agree with duh but they gotta come to see,” Lalgee said.
The farmers are calling on the relevant authorities to construct an all-weather road from Pouderoyen to Windsor Forest. They are also calling for a meeting with the Agriculture Minister.
Jeevannauth Jagarnath, another rice farmer, explained that for years they have been farming and never experienced such terrible road conditions.
“This dam always used to deh perfect…the people are suffering here,” Jagarnath said.
He further claimed that whenever the council cleans the trench, the machine takes off a piece of the road, and this has resulted in the widening of the trench and a narrower road.
Meanwhile, cash crop and livestock farmers were severely affected by the recent flooding.
“We lost tremendously, we is livestock and cash crop, due to the rainfall and the flooding, we lost plenty animal,” Marlene Rambrijhaman said.
Her husband recently underwent surgery and could not assist to help save anything. Marlene said she managed to get help from residents to stock up her freezers when the water rose but “right now I don’t know if my generator will come on.”
“When we call the Chairman for the Best/Klein Pouderoyen, he said he is not responsible for anything, it’s the Ministry of Agriculture,” Marlene stated.
Mohan Jagdeo, another cash crop farmer said it is due to negligence that they are suffering, but for him, he values his labour more than his earnings.
“This is negligence for who in charge of this trench here.”
The government recently doled out millions of dollars to farmers countrywide who suffered losses as a result of the flooding and rainfall.
Meanwhile, when contacted by the News Room, Chairman of the NDC, Omesh Balram said the residents requested to have the trench cleared and this was done. According to him, they are “satisfied with the works” but are unhappy with the current weather pattern.
“I am aware of the drainage issue, I am aware of the bad weather pattern, I am aware that the farmers have their crops to reap, they have already consulted with me and nobody can stop the rain,” Balram said.
The Chairman denied that the machine damaged the road and instead said “it was the rain that continuously fall and soak the road.”