The livelihoods of rice farmers in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) remain under threat as
Region Five Regional Chairman Vickchand Ramphal
much needed water has not yet reached many farmlands.
In an interview with this publication on Wednesday, Region Five’s Regional Chairman Vickchand Ramphal said that the project to provide relief is not being properly supervised by the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary-Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA).
“MMA is not managing and supervising the structure properly so all the farmers can get water,” Ramphal emphasised.
He also noted that much of the rice crops have withered and are burnt, as many of the farmers who are closer to the front of the canal are still preventing those further away from garnering the necessary water supply to save their acreages.
“There are some farmers who are bullying the system and are not allowing other farmers to get water,” the Regional Chairman pointed out. He related that the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) is still in “constant contact” with the Agriculture Ministry’s agency to highlight the plight of the rice farmers.
In February, there were reports that farmers in areas closer to the main canal were blocking the water flow to allow more water to enter their fields, an activity which caused farmlands further away to be deprived of the necessary water supply.
The MMA-ADA then implemented a system where farmers would be allowed to pump water for two days and also issued warnings to ensure that farmers allowed water in the canals to flow freely. However, some farmers continued to hoard water for their lands.
The Region Five Chairman told Guyana Times on February 23 that he had encouraged farmers to cooperate so that there is equitable distribution of water into the farmlands. Ramphal had related that in his engagement with the Agriculture Ministry, he suggested that in addition to the two pumps that are in operation, two others would be needed to ensure that there is an adequate supply of water to the affected farmers.
Ramphal also explained in January that the dry weather patterns had made the availability of fresh water scarce and stated that the Kaliserabo canal, a main source, was “clogged with weeds.” While an excavator was at that time deployed to remedy this situation, Ramphal opined that excavation of the said canal would have taken several months to complete.
Rice cultivation is the main economic activity in the Mahaicony/Mahaica area and farmers have already expended millions to bring their crop to the present stage. The current crisis continues to threaten over 17,000 acres under cultivation. The continued dry conditions are attributed to the El Niño weather phenomenon.