There is a water shortage in the Essequibo rice-farming areas

Dear Editor,

Water management has always been crucial for Essequibo rice farmers to help them decide when to sow or to harvest their crops. There is a low water level in the main canal at present from where a number of rice farmers cannot access water to cultivate their crops. Climate change and poor water management by the regional administration means that they can no longer have certainty about when to sow their crops.

Weather forecasting by the Hydrometeorological Services has never been accurate about the rains, which have now also become irregular. Technology could offer a solution, but there is no weather monitoring network in the region. The extent of the acreage affected is not known at the moment, an indication that 15,000 acres might be affected by water shortage.

Farmers who have no access to irrigation water will feel the consequences if they have to pump water. This will be an additional cost in the context of the declining prices for paddy over the past year. Pumping water in the fields has become a norm although the practice was previously non-uniform. It has had more serious consequences for some rice farmers than others who receive gravity feed into their lands.

There are no major ongoing schemes like Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary/

Tapacuma and Black Bush. Not a single hectare of cultivable land should be allowed to remain uncultivated or give low yields because of the absence of some small facility for proper drainage and irrigation.

With the current trend of no irrigation water, it is expected that at some point the prices paid to farmers will level off. The implications for these farmers could be quite serious indeed.

Dawa pumping station is either not being used at all or is producing water below capacity because of a fuel shortage. This pump for the past few years has been either idle or inefficiently utilized. Drainage and irrigation systems malfunction and operate inefficiently because of inadequate maintenance or failure to monitor the regulators. A visiting El Niño expert in 1998 presented a report to the Minister of Agriculture in which he suggested ways to combat the water crisis. The document contained recommendations and findings relating to water for agricultural purposes. He identified areas where help could be sought, such as funds to purchase items like pumps to provide relief to farmers who have no access to water to irrigate their fields.

 

Yours faithfully,
Mohamed Khan

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