Region Six administration refutes farmers claims of discrimination
Key canal needs cleaning
By Daniel DaCosta
February 25, 2003
The Regional Administration of Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) has refuted claims by some farmers on the East Bank of Berbice that the administration has discriminated against them and neglected their concerns over the years.
At the core of the 50-odd farmers’ contention is the proposed installation of a drainage tube across the public road at Highbury which they say will benefit only one rice farmer with approximately 70 acres of rice land. Highbury is approximately ten and one-half miles from New Amsterdam with about 16 families, including two rice farmers.
According to the disgruntled farmers, the drainage tube which is expected to cost some $1 million will be installed on the farmer’s property and would only be capable of draining his rice land or those in the immediate vicinity.
For decades farmers on the East Bank of Berbice, an agricultural district, have provided the bulk of the vegetables and ground provisions consumed by New Amster-damers.
However, in recent times a number of them accompanied by their families have abandoned their farmlands and migrated to New Amsterdam, citing perennial flooding and the deplorable state of the single access road.
Thousands of pounds of agricultural produce enter the New Amsterdam Municipal Market on a weekly basis from the farming villages which stretch along the left bank of the Berbice River for approximately 25 miles from New Amsterdam to Mara.
Some three decades ago a main drainage canal was dug at the back of the cultivation lots but did not pass through Highbury because of objections raised by farmers in that village. As a result the canal was dug from Rotterdam to Buses Lust encompassing four villages and from Light town to Mara.
The facade canal, according to farmers, has been clogged for the past 10 years. However late last year the Doe Park/Enfield Neigh-bourhood Democratic Coun-cil cleaned a section of the canal from Rotterdam to Enfield. This left some one and one-half miles still clogged between Buses Lust and Kortberaad, an area with a population of some 200, including 50-60 farmers and encompassing 3,000 acres of farmlands.
De Kinderen, one of the villages in this block with about 16 farmers is described as the area’s basin and is exposed to flooding for months annually. “We have been pleading with the administration for the past ten years for the canal within our area to be cleaned but we have only been receiving promises all the time,” one farmer lamented. “Two years ago we volunteered approximately 2,000 hours of self-help labour to clean the canal but a machine is needed to do a proper job,” said another. “The section,” he opined, “should cost approximately $2 million to clean.”
Regional Vice-Chairman, Kadim Bacchus, however refuted the claim of neglect and discrimination made by the farmers saying representation was made by residents of Highbury resulting in the Drainage and Irrigation Board being called in for advice. “The D&I Board advised that the tube should be placed at Highbury after a visit to the area and two meetings with residents. However after farmers in the Buses Lust-Kortberaad area complained about the inadequacy of the tube at Highbury the CEO of the Board promised to explore the possibility of installing another tube maybe at Buses Lust,” he explained. Acknowledging that farmers did indicate that only one farmer would benefit from the tube, Bacchus said the administration acted on the advice of the CEO of the D&I Board. He added that the administration is not neglecting or discriminating against the affected farmers. “We simply do not have the money to clean the canal now. We are awaiting the approval of the Budget to determine whether we would be able to execute the work as an emergency project.” He admitted that the cleaning of the canal was not in the administration’s work- programme for this year.
Jeenarine Ragunandan, a farmer who has lived at Buses Lust for the past 27 years told this newspaper that for the past ten years his cash-crop farm has been flooded every year. Among the crops he cultivates are peas, watermelons, tomatoes, ochroes and ground provisions. “We are not against the installation of the tube at Highbury but all we are asking for is equal treatment.
All we are asking is for us to be assisted also. Every year a number of farmers suffer losses totalling millions of dollars but this is all we know and can do here on the Bank so we have to return to the farm to sustain ourselves and our families.”
Another farmer said the installation of the tube has created a feeling of discrimination among those who have been neglected over the years. “Every year for the past ten years we have been suffering from flood-waters flowing into our lands from the savannahs.”
Some residents in the area are also fearful that the tube will eventually erode and destroy the road and this has been a concern for several years.