I couldn’t help replying to Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder’s statement that there was no loss of rice in Region Two (GINA, January 10). This was a misleading report given to the Minister by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB). On my way from Anna Regina to Supenaam on Thursday morning I witnessed first hand that some 100 acres of young rice in the front lands between Cullen and Perseverance were smothered with duckweed due to the absence of drainage during the flood. This had left large areas in the field without rice plants.
Minister Holder should know that duckweed is a serious aquatic weed in a rice crop. It is generally observed at its most dense when the rainfall is heavy early in the growing season. Poor drainage contributes to its early establishment.
It competes with the rice plants for space and nutrients, reduces tillage and ultimately grain yield. Out of the 35,500 acres of rice which have been sown, around 2,000 acres will be lost because of the lack of proper drainage in Region Two.
The most affected areas are the front lands from Spring Garden to New Road of Essequibo Coast. In my tenure as a rice extension officer, I was responsible for monitoring from Affiance to Danielstown, a total of about 10,000 acres. Every day I would be in the fields to hear and see farmers’ problems and try to solve them on the spot. If we couldn’t handle them, we referred them to the Burma Research Station. There were other officers from the GRDB and the Rice Producers Association (RPA) who were designated areas and reported to their superior officers. They covered all the rice growing areas throughout the entire coast.
There were also a monthly meeting in the GRDB boardroom , when each officer had to present a report on their findings in the field.
That report had to be accurate, then it would be communicated to the General Manager in Georgetown. It was followed by the officers’ written reports on how many acres of rice had been damaged by flooding, pests and disease. What I observed is that these days no officer visits the fields to verify the extent of farmers’ losses, and so they supply misleading reports to their superior officer who would then send it to the general manager, who would then report to the Minister.
We shouldn’t blame the Minister for the misleading report which was given to the press or cabinet, ie, that no rice was lost in Region Two. One has to understand that the Minister depends on his people and his officers in the field to give him accurate information. When this information hits the press that all is rosy in the regions and there were no losses, the President and Prime Minister would believe it.
I can highlight a number of things which are causing the flooding in Region Two; most of the outfall channels and kokers are silted up, so the water cannot get out to the Atlantic Ocean and it keeps rebounding in the housing and rice areas. Most of the main irrigation canals have been clogged up for years and need urgent cleaning; one of the main canals leading from Anna Regina to Somerset and Berks’ outfall channel is clogged up with weeds so the water keeps rising.
The Pomeroon will always be flooded; all the canals leading to the ocean are clogged up with weeds.
In the ʼ80s I happened to work on a huge self-acting koker which is situated across the Cozier sea dam; it was called the Dr Reid project, and was constructed to drain the excessive water from the Pomeroon and the thousands of acres of farm lands with coconuts, cassava, bananas, plantain, and other cash crops. Those lands ran from the sea dam to the Pomeroon mouth where a National Service centre was established during the Burnham days. I doubt if anyone from the region knows about this project and its purposes, or the state of those clogged up drainage and irrigation canals.