The shortage of irrigation water has taken its toll on Region Two, involving some 35,500 acres of rice which were cultivated for the first spring crop of 2014. If the dry weather prevails thousands of acres would be lost. Farmers are busy pumping water night and day to save their crop. The El Nino weather phenomenon seems to be here once more and there is no indication that there will be more rainfall.
Before sowing, there was plenty of water which was stored at the three-door sluice at Red Lock. After the rain started to fall, the doors were opened to release the over-topping water from Dawa and the Tapakuma Lake. Suddenly, however, the rain ceased and the main canal water level became low, so only the low lands were able to get gravity feed. The high land farmers had to pump water to cultivate their crops.
The farmers will then grow their seedlings under the water in the fields until the young rice is showing above; that process will last for 7-12 days, and after that the water will have dried up in the field. If the young rice does not get fresh water to grow, grass will then overtake the field. Owing to the unusual weather pattern at this time, water management is very important and some emergency measures should be put into place to alleviate the irrigation problem.
The region over the past decades has failed to supply irrigation water according to a schedule to farmers in the high land areas first, thus compounding the problems. Since my tenure with the Guyana Rice Producer’s Association (RPA) as a rice extension officer, I was advocating the installation of a four-door sluice across the main canal between Lima and Coffee Grove to assist farmers in the higher areas and solve the water wastage problem, but the regional administration had other ideas.
The main problem facing the crop has been the lack of irrigation water owing to the long dry season and no planning by the Drainage and Irrigation Board. The pumping of water by rice farmers will have consequences in terms of their input costs, with the impact of declining prices already being felt. The critical nature of the current situation needs urgent intervention by the government and the Ministry of Agriculture.