Five Water Users’ Associa-tions (WUA) were formed 12 years ago as a pilot project to assist farmers in the Abary/Berbice areas with their secondary drainage and irrigation (D&I) systems but “it never got off the ground.”
General Manager of the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary (MMA) scheme, Aubrey Charles told Stabroek News in a recent interview that the farmers contributed to the failure of the WUAs because they did not take full responsibility. And now he is appealing to the farmers to take up their responsibility to maintain the channels to avoid them becoming severely clogged up again.
According to him, MMA has had to rehabilitate most of secondary channels because of the poor state the farmers had left them in. He stated that MMA is currently rehabilitating the entire secondary system in the Abary/Berbice area using the machinery acquired from Italy during last year.
He said so far they have completed 21 channels, covering a distance of 40 miles. Work has also started in Area 1 – Number 22 Bel Air to Bath, Area 2 – Bush Lot to Onverwagt and Area 3 – Number 29 Village to Litchfield.
Charles explained that the whole objective of forming the WUA which was made up of farmers was to have their participation in the maintenance of the D&I systems. When the associations were formed in 1995/1996, he said, the National Drainage & Irrigation Board was charged with the responsibility for providing a one-week training for the executives.
Part of the training was based on keeping records of the fees collected and to sensitize and encourage farmers to recognize the benefits of upkeeping the D&I systems. He said the WUA would have been more cost effective both for MMA and the farmers.
He is confident that the WUA would have worked and felt that since it was new to farmers they would have required training for a longer period.
He added that General Secretary of the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA), Dharamkumar Seeraj had a meeting with farmers at MMA in an effort to set up smaller committees within the five areas where the WUA were formed.
According to Charles, RPA representatives “would reach with the farmers to find out the difficulties and bring it back to MMA and we would work along with them [farmers and RPA] and see how to assist.”
He said apart from relaying complaints, the role of the executives of committees would also be to encourage the farmers to pay for the primary D&I services provided by MMA.
He said the new system should be more effective because the committees would be responsible for smaller areas instead of several villages. Charles also said he expects more co-operation from the farmers as they would realize that they would benefit directly.
He said the basis of organizing the committees is based on the ‘number-names’ of the canals.
Meanwhile the GM said the MMA stopped collecting fees for the secondary systems in 1999 and the farmers were given the responsibility of maintaining these systems.
The farmers, he said, failed to do so.
He said the charges for both the primary and secondary systems were dropped from $3,550 to $1,673 for the Abary/Berbice areas. He pointed out that the current charge is only for the primary systems which MMA has continued to maintain. (Shabna Ullah)