Thirty-one Berbice farmers get 25-year savannah leases Stabroek News
June 12, 2002

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Thirty-one farmers in the communities of Kimbia and Sand Hills in the Berbice River, Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Upper Essequibo), on Thursday received leases for lands in the intermediate savannahs where they are currently cultivating crops.

The 25-year lease confers a 25-acre plot to each of the riverain farmers, some of whom have been illegally occupying the same lands for several years.

Speaking at separate functions to hand out the leases, Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Satyadeow Sawh, who along with a delegation braved early morning showers to be with the farmers, acknowledged that it was the first time that the savannah farmlands were being regularised for orderly occupation.

While referring to the intermediate savannahs as the "second frontier for expansion of our agricultural base," Sawh stated that 120 acres or 50,000 hectares of its approximately 250,000 hectares, consisting of sandy to loam soils, are suitable for agricultural and agro-industrial development.

According to the minister, extensive studies conducted in the area over the past 50 to 60 years have proven the suitability of the area to certain types of agricultural activities.

As a result of these studies and to facilitate the orderly development of the savannah lands and neighbouring communities through agro-industrial investment, eco-tourism and community building, the Intermediate Savannahs Project (INSAP) was created in 1997, Sawh noted.

Initial funding for the project which came from the Organisation of American States (OAS) ended in December last year and has now been taken up by the government as it continues to encourage and facilitate occupation of savannah lands by farmers, developers and investors.

Thus far, leases totalling 60,000 acres have already been approved for investors involved in the cultivation of minica and blackeye peas, corn, citrus and passion fruit, among other crops. Some farmers are also engaged in cattle and sheep rearing.

Following the receipt of their leases, several farmers with whom this newspaper spoke expressed happiness at finally being awarded ownership after a protracted waiting period.

Thecia Lyte and Robert Thom, both teachers at the Kimbia Primary School, who are also peanut and peas farmers on a small scale, are hoping to expand their cultivation. Lyte also wants to get involved in rearing livestock.

Both have been involved in farming for a substantial period although, according to Thom, marketing of their produce is a constant worry.

They have been given an assurance that efforts are being made to effectively market their produce while plans are under review to place agro-processing facilities in the community.

Captain of the village, Frank Mascido, in an invited comment, used the opportunity to offer that community’s sympathy in light of the crime spree in the country.

People, according to the village headman, need to live in greater harmony while political leaders should get together to solve the present problems.

He voiced the hope that something tangible could be done to remedy the situation, which the people in the area have been monitoring via radio, newspapers and television.