The Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary-Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA) was last week forced to undertake emergency works on the near impassable Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice main access road, finally bringing some relief to users.
Farmers and other residents living along the eastern and western banks of the Abary River had complained about the state of the all-weather road, which they said significantly deteriorated due to recent heavy rainfall and the lack of maintenance by the MMA-ADA.
Farmers noted that they found it difficult to use the road to transport their produce from their farms.
MMA-ADA General Manager Aubrey Charles told Stabroek News that the remedial works commenced last Tuesday after the rains had ceased.
Charles related that the Authority has started to patch potholes and remove “slush mud” from along the access road. As a result, he noted that by last Friday, the road was in a passable state.
He also said the MMA-ADA was monitoring the road closely, while adding that it would aim to undertake further works when the dry season returns.
Farmers, who said they have suffered tremendously because of the challenges of transporting their produce on the road, were skeptical about the remedial works.
“The work they do on the road would not stay for long if the rain returns and paddy trucks have to drive through. It is an entire five miles of road that is in a terrible state. The work they did only creates one track and that is for light vehicles. Heavy vehicles would damage the road more,” one farmer, who asked not to be named, said.
The man noted that at present rice farmers are reaping and as a result they have to use heavy-duty trucks and tractors to get their produce out on the road.
He pointed out that some residents from villages along the road have also been forced to use tractors for transport from their homes.
“Even that is a risk because even tractors get stuck in the bad parts of the road. Parents do not want to send their children to school because of the condition of the road. Sometimes, the children fall and get themselves dirty…,” he explained.
The farmer said that in some parts of the road the foundation has eroded due to the deterioration.
Another farmer stressed that thousands of acres of rice are still to be reaped and some farmers had to use the canals as an alternative route to transport their tractors and grain carts to their farms to reap.
“A long time ago, representation was made to MMA-ADA for works on the road to be done but nothing was ever done. Now, majority of farmers who planted late are suffering severely because the rains are here and road is bad and they cannot reap,” said another affected farmer, who also asked not to be named.
“If they were looking after the road regularly, this situation would not have been like this but there was lack of maintenance of the road,” said the farmer.
Asked about lack of maintenance works, Charles said the Authority has not been able to maintain the entire stretch of road because of limited revenue.
“The farmers have not been paying their dues over the years and because of that we don’t have money to undertake maintenance work twice a year. The farmers have about $800 million outstanding for us. If we have that money, we can do the work that is needed and buy machines do rehabilitation work,” Charles explained.
He pointed out that the agency depends on the money from the farmers since it is not subsidised by the government to execute any projects.
“We do not have the money to do the work so we had to make some hard decisions and decided which canal we would irrigate and how much of the road we will fix,” he stated.
Charles explained that in some cases the Authority would work with farmers and pay them to clear canals but while some farmers work along with them, others are not willing and would prefer for it to do the work.
“We need the farmers to honour their obligations and pay their dues. We have to provide them a service and if they do not pay we would not be able to do our work to help them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Regional Chair-man Vickchand Ramphal called for a waiver in fees for the farmers since the situation imposed an additional expense to them. He told Stabroek News that the fees were recently increased from $1,000 to $7,000 per acre, which should be waived to allow farmers to offset their expenses.