Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Ravaged farmers to get assistance - Farmlands left idle may be reclaimed by Government

Published:Saturday | February 3, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Farmer Headley Evans attending to his banana crops after flood rains destroyed his farm.
A look at some of the damage done to a banana farm at Canewood in West Portland.

Ravaged by back-to-back flood rains that have, seemingly, threatened to destroy their livelihood, farmers in Portland are to receive much-needed assistance through the Ministry of Agriculture.

The approximately 260 small farmers throughout the parish, who were hard hit by flooding due to four days of torrential rainfall, suffered heavy losses, including crops, livestock, and damage to farmlands.

During a visit to west Portland on Thursday, minister responsible for agriculture, Karl Samuda, who, along with Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz and a team from that ministry, toured three banana farms that had been heavily battered by the January rains. They pledged to provide the affected farmers with the necessary resources, including fertilisers, seedlings, farm equipment, and chemicals.

The touring party had a face-to-face meeting with more than 100 farmers at Spring Garden in the parish.

"It is going take a little while for you to get back up and running," commented Samuda.

He continued: "This is as a result of the ongoing inclement weather. But I must commend you for your resilience and determination as you have remained committed to your livelihood. Farmlands that are adjacent to the Swift River have to be protected at all cost. Gabon baskets will have to be erected to prevent water from the river overflowing its banks. There is also the problem of an inadequate drainage system in the Canewood area, which has to be corrected."

The two farm properties, which are owned and operated by Selvin Richards and Winsome Crosdale, respectively, suffered heavy losses and damage to their banana crop after the nearby Swift River overflowed its banks, inundating the approximately 24 acres of land combined, while downing thousands of bearing fruit trees.

And according to the minister, it is quite clear that the Rural Agriculture Development Authority will now have to look at acquiring small tractors and excavators that can be loaned to farmers in each parish to assist with the clearing of drains on banana farms and to assist with the plowing of farmlands.

"The farming equipment will have to be assigned to a driver, who will be held accountable at all levels. It will not be a situation where the tractor or excavator is abused or exploited by persons. A proper system will be in place and records will be kept as it relates to the whereabouts of the equipment. Under my watch, farming will continue to experience real growth, and farmers will be provided with the necessary assistance to boost their livelihood, "Samuda further stated.

Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz reiterated the Government's commitment to provide assistance to ravaged farmers in the parish. He also spoke about the need to reclaim farmlands that are left idle by their operators, who are unable to manage large properties that were acquired under a lease arrangement.

"As minister with the responsibility for lands, changes will have to be made in the case of farmlands that are left idle," said Vaz.

He added: "Under the present land lease arrangement, some farmers are in possession of dozens of acres of lands, but they are unable to fully occupy or farm on the majority of those properties. What I am proposing to do is to renegotiate with the commissioner of lands and to enter into an agreement wherein the idle sections are allocated to other small farmers in five-acre sizes, which can be utilised."