Rice farmers at Wash Clothes and Hyde Park, Mahaicony say that if the MMA Scheme does not regulate their water supply in a more efficient manner, they may lose their crop, comprising thousands of acres collectively.
However, the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary-Agricultural Development Association (MMA- ADA) Scheme under whose jurisdiction the areas fall for drainage, said that relief work was to have commenced yesterday.
Speaking to Stabroek News, Ramgobin, a rice farmer,said there has been no water for about one week. “We have to get water for our rice. There is no water in the canal,” he said. This newspaper visited the area and spoke with farmers who shared their plight and showed the state of their rice fields. The farmers did not want to give their full names for the interviews.
The farmers this newspaper spoke with are located farther away from the inlets of irrigation water and as such they get what is left after those closer to the source would have utilised for their irrigation needs.
Asked why it was that the irrigation canal was almost dry, he said, “I don’t know what instructions came from the MMA, but we have a lot of farmers here and they cannot get water. If they don’t get adequate supply they are in trouble.”
He said that the farmers in the area have rice crops at all stages of development – some very young while others are mature. This newspaper saw that the earth on some of the plots was parched and the young plants withered.
Another farmer Paul said that, “We agree that the water has to be controlled but there is no system. People are losing rice because they don’t have water and people are losing their rice because they have too much water. We are wasting our fertiliser because we can’t get water.”
He said that it is very expensive when the farmers have to pay for fuel to use pumps to get water to their fields. “I would pump in excess of four or five days extra just to get water to my field. It is like pushing water uphill,” he said. He said that had there been enough water in the canal, he would have taken about four hours to get the water needed to his fields. The farmers explained that pumping water from the canal when the level is depleted uses up more fuel and takes much longer than when the water level is adequate.
He said that his crop is at the young stage and he has already applied fertiliser and without water the plants will die.
“The MMA or whoever is responsible for [regulating] the water supply have to see that the needs of both sets of farmers are addressed – farmers who need water and those who have too much water,” he said. “There are pumps that could be used to help us get water. There are Hymacs (excavators) that could be used to open somewhere to help us get water. But they don’t act in time…they allow the farmers to lose their crop…to lose their money, and then they try to do something,” he said.
“We don’t need five persons to report to one man to make a decision. If your job is a ranger and to see that there is water around here, you shouldn’t have to speak to 10 people to make a decision…you make the decision,” said Paul. “Everybody walks around and when you talk to them, they can’t make a decision…they have to speak to somebody else,” he said.
“Every day that passes our rice gets worse. Weeds take over rice. It cost so much to plant rice and if you don’t get good yield, [it makes no sense],” he said.
Another farmer, Johnny, said that they made “endless” phone calls and still no official has visited the communities. “Today is 32 days for the rice and I can’t get water,” he said. Another said that he stands to lose about $3 million if the situation is not speedily rectified. He said that he took a loan from the bank to plant and if he loses this crop, he “don’t know what gon happen.”
This man was one of the farmers with a crop in the infancy stages and he had already applied fertiliser. “I need water because I done put fertiliser on the land and it gon bun (burn the rice shoots). Me deh here two night now to duck two acre land and it nah duck up to now,” the man said.
Paul said that the farmers are not
getting the infrastructure that they need in terms of work to the various dams to ensure that drainage systems are in working order when needed. “Government is doing so little to help us. They say they are but they are not. It is the hardworking people who are putting their sweat into digging trenches to get the work done,” he said.
When contacted by phone on Monday night, General Manager of the MMA-ADA Scheme Aubrey Charles said that he was at the time coming out of a Backdam with other officials who had been assessing the problem.
“Hopefully we will get started [yesterday],” he said, saying that field officers will monitor and ration the water so that those farmers closer to the source would not overuse to the detriment of those farther away.
“We are also trying to put a pump into
operation at Mora Point,” he said, adding that there was no need to engage the use of a pump before since it was raining. “Right now we are at a point where everybody needs water. When we put water into the system the farmers are required to use pumps to access it. It is not gravity fed,” he said.
“But the water is not being allowed to reach some farmers,” he said. Charles explained that these farmers who are located on the right bank of the Mahaicony River depend on that river for their irrigation needs. He said that the MMA takes in water from three points along this river.