The prevailing dry weather conditions linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon continue to threaten the livelihoods of
farmers in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and elsewhere. Region Five Chairman Vickchand Ramphal related to Guyana Times on Thursday that while rice farmers have obtained relief with access to water, many acreages of cash-crops have perished. Ramphal stated: “Some farmers are receiving water presently, that is because most of those at the front there is not in much need and so the water is flowing down there [for farmers further away from the access canal].” “The conflict that existed there is no longer… farmers on the other side are receiving water,” explained Ramphal. This was in relation to previous reports that many farmers whose fields are closer to the front of the canal were “bullying the system” and “refused” to allow other farmers to get water.
Ramphal also noted on Thursday that the farmers who have lost crops are “seeking subsidies from the Government to go back in the field.
“We will lobby for the farmers at the Regional level,” the Regional Chairman pointed out. He further noted that many of the region’s cash-crops are dying.
“I spoke to about five farmers from the De Hoop area, who said that they would have already lost their crops – about four acres,” explained the Chairman. To this end, Ramphal opined that the Regional Democratic Council’s budget does not provide for giving farmers that level of relief and noted that it is central Government which would need to make interventions. It was reported on March 3 that rice farmers were still waiting to get water onto their rice lands. Ramphal had said the project to provide relief was 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 had also related that the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) was in “constant contact” with the Agriculture Ministry’s agency to curb the plight of the rice farmers.
It was in February that reports surfaced of the farmers in the areas closer to the main canal who were blocking the water flow to allow more water onto their fields. This deprivation of water was said to have caused many acres to perish.
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.
The Region Five Chairman had also told Guyana Times on February 23 that he had encouraged farmers to cooperate so there is equitable distribution of water into the farmlands. Ramphal had explained back 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 had 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. The ongoing crisis continues to threaten over 17,000 acres under cultivation.