Essequibo rice farmers tallying flood losses

- regional councillor says D&I workers need to be replaced

Rice farmers in Essequibo are now computing their losses as floodwaters have started to recede from their fields after recent rainfall.

Region Two Regional Democratic (RDC) Councillor Hardat Narine told Stabroek News he estimated that over 2,500 acres of young paddy plants died owing to poor drainage, which saw water remaining in the fields after the rain.

Narine said while the pumps are in operation overtime to bring relief to the farmers, in some fields duckweed has started to grow, stunting the growth of the young plants.

Farmlands in the low-lying areas were particularly affected, Narine said.

A rice field with duckweed.

One farmer, Tika Narine Balroop, said close to 15 acres of young plants suffered after being inundated for approximately one month. He explained that two excavators have been deployed to Devonshire Castle to de-silt the canal leading to the sluice but operators are unable clear the canal since “the mud is slushy… the excavator na able pick it up.”

Balroop also said that in some areas the rice fields are looking like lakes since the water has been stagnant. He pointed out that Oko Creek is currently overtopping and poses a serious threat to fields nearby. He suggested that excavators be deployed to the area to build the dam higher.

Another farmer, who asked not to be named, said while it had not rained in three days, young plants were still under threat in Sparta. He explained that farmers who have farms on higher lands would open the regulator at the conservancy to access water for their farms but would not return to close it, resulting lands in the low lying area being continuously flooded.

He added that farmers who farm on state land were using the main canal dam, which they were not supposed to do. “The canal is in line with the road and now these farmers are travelling on it. When the dam break away we would be affected,” he lamented.

The farmer said he made several reports to the regional authorities but nothing was being done. “We are not seeing the rangers. We don’t know who these rangers are… The only time you can find them is when them draw pay and you go at the rum shop,” he charged.

He disclosed that he lost almost 30 acres of young plants as a result of the fields being submerged. He stated that because of the state in which the canals are, he has to pump water from his field during the low tide.  He added that he has started to replant in some areas and aims to make the best of the crop.

‘Continue to fail’

Meanwhile, Councillor Narine disclosed that at the statutory meeting of the RDC suggestions were made for a water schedule but to date nothing has been done. He explained that with the schedule, fields in the low lying areas would have been saved as the plants would have grown to a size that could have resisted the floodwaters.

“The drainage and irrigation workers have failed us and they continue to fail us. They are not listening to the recommendations and they are taking their time to carry out instructions… I don’t know how much longer we would continue with them,” he stressed.

Narine said the entire drainage and irrigation workforce needs to be replaced. “These workers have failed us under the PPP and now they are failing us again,” he said, while adding that rangers were not seen on duty and as a result some farmers were tampering with the regulator which caused other farmers to suffer losses.

He issued an appeal to Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder and his ministry to offer some sort of assistance to farmers who suffered losses.  “Some farmers are going to plant back I don’t know if they can offer some form of assistance to them,” Narine said.

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