Residents of Berbice can look forward to a return of the ferry service from New Amsterdam to Kwakwani by the end of this year after the National Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved a motion for the return of the service which was tabled by the Alliance for Change (AFC).
The motion moved by AFC Member of Parlia-ment Trevor Williams, lists the effects of not having the service and the impact it has had on communities that line the Berbice River. The resolve clause states that the National Assembly “immediately calls on the Government of Guyana to restore this service thereby reviving those communities and giving hope and stability to the many Guyanese who wish to venture into agricultural entrepreneurship.”
Minister of Transport Robeson Benn, in his presentation to the House, said that the service would be restored by year’s end.
In piloting the motion, Williams explained that since government removed the service several years ago it has not been feasible for residents to pay private operators as it is very costly causing some persons to travel with other private vessels under duress. “People now have to travel with lumber…women with babies sleeping and lying with wood,” he said.
As such the parliamentarian said that the sale of agricultural produce – which has been the main form of income for residents in the area – dwindled and some persons migrated to other parts of the country. “The Berbice River ferry previously served a number of communities from New Amsterdam to Kwakwani providing critical and affordable transportation to hundreds of Guyanese families and their goods to and from the Berbice coast,” the motion stated.
“The government of Guyana with no explanation unilaterally removed this critical service which linked the hinterland with the coast. Individuals, families, organizations and institutions from communities of the Berbice River benefitted from this service in the past and now have to severely alter their way of life to the extent of relocating and abandoning their primary activity,” it added.
Williams said that with the restoration of the service it is believed that persons who would have left would return to farm their lands and those currently farming for subsistence will be able to once again sell their produce. “The things that they long to do they can ….and that is to farm the lands,” he told the House.
A Partnership for National Unity’s Joe Harmon expressed his party’s support of the motion and lamented that many small communities suffer because of the lack of cheap transport for their agricultural produce. Harmon said that the inability of the farmers of De Veldt, Ebini, Kimbia, Sand Hills, Calcuni and Ituni among others, to transport their crops “broke the spirits of the farmers” and forced them to seek other means of supporting their families while others became nomads.
Further, the forced nomadic life placed pressure on the delivery of health and educational services in the areas and this contributed to a decline in the standard of living, he said.
“The missing and all-important component in this economic and social machinery for development of so many communities along the Berbice River is the necessity for the provision of reliable river transportation for the movement of produce from the farms to the markets,” Harmon emphasised.
“This is the imperative that demands the reintroduction of the Berbice River ferry, a decision that unquestionably would provide the single largest boost to the economy and social welfare of these residents while raising food production capabilities of Guyana immensely,” he added.
Benn said that there would be some movement on the ferry since by the end of this year it is anticipated that the MV Kimbia, when taken off the North West route to make way for a new ferry, will be placed to ply the Berbice River route.
He informed that government has already negotiated with the Indian government and the new ferry would be operational by the end of 2014.