The Aurora Land Development project, an empoldering programme aimed at assisting small farmers on the Essequibo Coast is moving apace and Minister within the Agriculture Ministry Ali Baksh stated that machinery and the relevant surveys are in the process of being finalised.
A contributor to the letter columns of this newspaper , Archie Cordis queried yesterday whether the project was still in effect, noting that after a series of meetings with government officials this year as regards the project which was announced under the PNC administration, nothing has been said about the future of the venture.
The project was discussed at various levels of the regional administration and government several years ago. It entails the empoldering of land between the villages of Supenaam and Adventure on the Essequibo Coast for farmers to plant crops. When contacted by telephone yesterday, Baksh, who previously held the post of regional chairman of Region Two, told Stabroek News that the meetings held earlier this year were to inform residents of the project. He noted that it was primarily intended for small farmers; those who owned small parcels of land. While agronomy consultants are expected to determine what type of crops will be the focus of the project, he said that rice and cash crops are prime targets of the plan. The project is expected to be undertaken on some 5,500 acres of land, stretching a distance of 9 miles, Cordis penned.
Baksh said that survey work was undertaken on the area by officers attached to the Guyana Lands and Surveys Department (GL&SC) and the relevant documentation was being completed by the department before the allocation process begins. As regards the latter, the recently installed minister noted that the process is being undertaken to ensure that the farmers in the area benefit equally from the venture.
He said too that the aim of the project is to make available arable land for small farmers in the immediate vicinity of the project range. Baksh could not say how much money had been allocated to the project.
He said the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) was the agency which was overlooking the project. Efforts by this newspaper to reach NDIA head Lionel Wordsworth yesterday were unsuccessful.
Baksh said that while he was in the process of settling into his new post, he would ensure in the coming months that the project is streamlined and effectively serves its purpose.
The letter stated that about 15 groups were formed prior to 2006 when the project was announced. Cordis stated that residents met former agriculture minister Robert Persaud in April this year, along with other officials of the government at Aurora and it was announced by Persaud that the project had an estimated cost of $1.3 billion.
He said the government officials had told the farmers at the time that in a matter of weeks the project would have been put into motion. However, no evidence of that exists today, Cordis added.