Communal pastures should not become the private property of greedy individuals

Dear Editor,

There is now land galore being given away at the Office of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) at Corriverton.

On 13th February, 2018, nearly 800 prospective and current cattle and rice farmers flocked to the GLSC’s office to apply for lands located at the No 52-66 Communal Pasture. Some even came all the way from the USA.

This pasture comprises 17,000 acres and has been in existence for decades, but in the last 12 years or so, there has been a gradual fencing of portions of this pasture by cattle farmers who have been trying to stake ownership to it. This has accelerated since the coalition took office. The cattle farmers have been digging and fencing huge areas which makes it impossible to drain the pasture since water is now being trapped in the canals. The drainage and irrigation system has no structured design. This was evident during the heavy rainfall last year. The savannah was heavily flooded and the water took a long time to recede.

Unfortunately, this has now progressed to the stage where the GLSC at Corriverton has been inviting farmers to show an expression of interest and receiving applications. The application form is on the GLSC letterhead. The prospective applicants have been told that they should apply for the lands at that particular location.

On many occasions the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Noel Holder has made statements on his visits to Region Six in support of the development of our cattle and dairy farming. This was also supported by the Prime Minister, Mr Nagamootoo and the Junior Minister of Finance, Mr Sharma. However, from the applications made it is evident that many of these applicants, nearly 90%, are rice farmers and many applicants do not own any cattle, especially those from abroad. It is apparent also that those overseas applicants have real estate intentions or intentions to rent the land at a later date, especially when it is known that many of the lease land owners reside abroad and are renting their lands for hefty rental fees.

Moreover, many cattle farmers had complained to the PM’s Representative in Region Six, Mr Gobin Harbhajan about the constant problems and struggles they face with rice farmers, and it is clear that should rice be planted in localized areas within this savannah then conflicts may arise among these farmers.

It is indeed baffling why the Commissioner of the GLSC, Mr Trevor Benn, has not seen it fit to discuss this matter at length with the Regional Chairman, Mr David Armogan so that a collective decision can be made at the RDC level. Many times the GLSC would try to impose its will in the Region and the RDC has had to block the applications after the matters have been reported by the NDCs affected.

I have two cases at the Kilcoy/ Hampshire NDC where communal pastures of more than 200 acres have been applied for and claimed by avaricious individuals to the detriment of the residents who now have no pasture to rear their animals. Although the applications to the GLSC were blocked by the RDC upon my intervention, the individuals went ahead and fenced the lands. One of the areas located at High Reef Albion was crowned by dams by the applicant which now prevents the villages from being effectively drained, leading to persistent flooding. This has negatively affected more than 1,000 residents. It is indeed difficult to rationalize this. I am calling on the Minister of Communities to intervene in these matters. I have made a report to Mr Dereck Kowlessar on a few occasions but nothing has materialized.

These communal pastures should remain as that and should not become the private property of greedy individuals. There are lands available in remote areas, so let them apply for those. Everyone should have access to these pastures to rear their cattle and it is the function of the government to provide access roads and proper drainage to facilitate this. Why would Mr Trevor Benn desire to commit such an injustice?

Yours faithfully,

Haseef Yusuf

RDC Councillor Region Six

Chairman

Kilcoy/Hampshire NDC

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