Agri. Minister commits to assisting Kwakwani farmers
- initial assessment ongoing
- veterinary, other services to be made available by in the coming week
Approximately 300 communities across the country have so far been affected by flooding. Villages like Kwakwani in Region Ten and Black Bush Polder in Region Six, have been considered severely affected after many residents were forced to leave their homes due to rising water levels.
Like many other sectors, Kwakwani’s agriculture sector was also affected, leaving many farms inundated.
On Friday last, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha formed part of a ministerial delegation that met with affected residents as part of the government’s ongoing flood-assessment exercise.
During the meeting, several farmers engaged Minister Mustapha seeking assistance to return to the land once floodwaters have receded.
Juanita Thorn, a resident of Kwakwani said that officers from the ministry should move ahead with conducting flood assessments. This, she said, would let people know that the government was concerned with their livelihood.
“Before the flood goes down if we could have the relevant leaders in the community make a list of all the persons who were affected. Whether you are doing cattle rearing or farming. So by the time the water starts going down you know what you’re working it. At least you spoke to the people so that they know you’re paying attention to them and showing interest in their livelihood,” Ms. Thorn said.
Wade Russell, a farmer, said that assistance should be given to farmers to secure their remaining cultivation.
“No one knows when this water is going to go down. What is going to happen if all the plants are lost? We are asking for persons to be allocated higher lands to secure their crops right now because it is needed. Extension officers should be deployed to verify what people have. With that information your ministry would be able to render the kind of assistance needed,” Mr. Russell said.
Minister Mustapha told the farmers that an assessment is ongoing and that a team from the ministry would return to the village in the new week to give additional assistance to the affected farmers.
“Agriculture is important and we believe it is our future. Although we are an emerging oil and gas powerhouse, those resources will one day become exhausted. This is why we have to ensure we preserve and develop our agriculture sector. Those persons who suffered losses in terms of crops, as well as those who need help to move their livestock to higher ground or veterinary services, those services will be extended immediately. I’ve already instructed that a team from NAREI and the GLDA visit the area on Monday and carry out an assessment and offer veterinary services. We cannot do a detailed assessment now because the water is too high. If persons need planting material to go and plant on higher grounds, I will make those materials available. An initial assessment has commenced but for us to do a comprehensive assessment, we have to wait until the water recedes,” Minister Mustapha said.
Jimmy Reece, another resident from Kwakwani said, the village needed machinery to enter into large-scale agriculture.
“For years we’ve been doing agriculture on a subsistence basis. We’ve never done it on a commercial basis. There are a few folks who do agriculture on a large scale because most of the population is involved in logging. When the flood is gone, I’d like the government to help the community with machinery to do big-time farming. A COVID Relief Fund was given to the village and I submitted a proposal for them to use part of the money to purchase equipment to assist with developing agriculture,” Mr. Reece said.
Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill said that the COVID Relief Fund was given to the village council and that the funds would only be used to undertake projects that are suggested and approved by the entire village, and not an individual. He urged the resident to engage the council.
“Once they buy into the proposal, it becomes the village’s proposal,” Minister Edghill said.
Minister Mustapha told residents that Kwakwani was one of the communities considered severely affected by the ongoing flooding and that a lot of work would have to be done to restore the community once floodwaters had receded. The minister also told residents that, once the floodwaters recede, the government will make the necessary resources available so that farmers can return to the land.
He also committed to addressing issues with staffing in the village after residents raised concerns about the village’s agriculture sub-department being short-staffed.
A team of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture is scheduled to return to Kwakwani on Monday to conduct further flood assessments. Veterinary services and feed will also be provided free of cost to livestock farmers who were affected. Minister Mustapha also told farmers that the GLDA will also be providing transportation services to assist with moving animals to higher grounds.
Officials from Barama also donated 140 hampers comprising of protein-rich items and sanitary supplies to affected members of the three logging associations in Kwakwani.
Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat also formed part of the Ministerial team that visited the area.