What happened to the Aurora Land Development Project?

Dear Editor,

During the Burnham administration when Mr Gavin Kennard was the Minister of Agriculture, we the residents of south Essequibo were told of the government’s plans to employ about five thousand, five hundred acres of land for agricultural purposes behind the villages stretching from Supenaam to Adventure, a distance of about nine miles. Although Reid and Malik and Taylor Woodrow both did some drainage and irrigation work along the Essequibo Coast and the areas aforementioned, that promise was not kept.

About a decade or so ago, this project, now called the Aurora Land Development Project was discussed at all levels in the region and with residents living in this area as well as other who would benefit from the project. All were very, very excited about the benefits to be derived from it becoming a reality.

There were a lot of meetings convened by the Regional administration and about 15 groups were formed about comprising approximately nine hundred persons. Then some time in 2006 the then President, Mr Jagdeo, accompanied by Minister Robert Persaud along with senior ministry and regional officials, visited the Aurora Primary School and promised that within six months, this area of land would be available to farmers. The excitement and expectation grew further, then as the years passed by the anticipation vanished and the silence about this project grew.

I, as one of the Alliance for Change representatives on the Regional Democratic Council asked questions about this project at several council meetings, and no answer was given about this long overdue development promised by no less a person than the then Head of State. Then on the 8th April, 2011 shortly after Mr Donald Ramotar was elected to be the party’s presidential candidate, residents were invited to another meeting at the Aurora Primary School, the purpose of which was to discuss the said project and to address us would have been Mr Jagdeo and Mr Robert Persaud and other senior ministry officials. This time around the Minister told the gathering of more than five hundred persons about the estimated cost of the project which was tagged at $1.3 billion, the amount of acreage to be drained and irrigated and the benefits to be derived. The President on his arrival also endorsed what had already been said by the Minister Robert Persaud.

Mr Donald Ramotar after he was introduced to us as spoke briefly about this much touted project, and mention was also made of the Berbice River Bridge, the Skeldon Sugar Factory, the Providence Stadium and inroads the PPP had made in the PNC strongholds. At that time the address sounded like what you would expect to hear at a political meeting. A promise was however made by Mr Jagdeo that in a matter of two to three weeks evidence of things happening concerning this project would be seen. That meeting then concluded.

Surprisingly when we left that meeting we were none the wiser regarding the criteria to be eligible for a portion of land; the amount of land to be allocated to each successful applicant; the cost of a portion of land per acre; the terms of payment; and the terms and conditions under which the land would be acquired.

But after years of promises we are still in hope and not in despair; we are meekly waiting but we are beginning to murmur. I feel that is time a statement regarding the status of this project be made.

A copy of a part of this letter first appeared in the letter column of the Stabroek News on Monday, 19th March, 2011.

Now for the benefit of those hundreds of families who would have benefited from this once much talked about project, I would like the former Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy or any senior government official, to say as at 11th May, 2015 what the exact situation as regards this project was; and while it is early days for the new administration, the current Minister with responsibility for Agriculture Mr Noel Holder could say if there is anything in the file pertaining to this project.

Yours faithfully,
Archie W Cordis

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