In delivering on promises he made to residents upon assuming office in August 2020, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Thursday commissioned two long-reach excavators and a pontoon valued at $144 million.
The equipment forms part of National Drainage and Irrigation Authority’s (NDIA) capital programme for 2021. The contract for the construction of the pontoon was awarded to VR Construction for $84.5 million while the excavators were supplied by Guytrac to the tune of $60 million.
While offering remarks, Minister Mustapha said for five years prior to August 2020, there was a noticeable decline in the agriculture sector. He noted that since assuming office, the government has been working to put the necessary infrastructure in place to ensure farmers can produce.
“We’ve made commitments. We’ve made a number of promises and, today we are delivering on one of the promises we made to the people in the Pomeroon. As a government, we have to put in the necessary infrastructure so that our farmers can produce. Prior to this August 2020, there was a decline in the sector because of the burdens placed on farmers. If our country is going to develop, if our agriculture sector is going to develop, farmers have to make a big contribution. These pieces of equipment are only the beginning. We will continue to make the necessary investments to improve farming in the Pomeroon. I want to urge you when these pieces of equipment go into operation, please use them with care and for the benefit of the community,” the Minister said.
He told farmers that a work programme will be developed after which a management committee comprising farmers and other officials will be established to guide and monitor the operations of the machines.
As part of the government’s overall drainage improvement efforts for the region, Minister Mustapha also said that the ministry, through the NDIA, will be constructing pump stations at Charity and Andrews, a sluice at Capoey, as well as carrying out rehabilitation works at the pump station at Cozier.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the NDIA Board, Lionel Wordsworth said the newly acquired machinery will enable the NDIA to carry out additional river defense works along the Pomeroon River.
“Currently, we have contracts awarded to do 22 miles of embankment and channels in the lower Pomeroon and 25 miles in the upper Pomeroon. With these pieces of equipment, we will be able to do an additional 38 to 40 miles minimum annually along the Pomeroon River. This will add to the overall work programme that we have ongoing in the Pomeroon,” he said.
Wordsworth further disclosed that as it relates to the dredging of the Pomeroon River mouth, a contract has been awarded and the necessary surveys to determine the exact alignment for the dredging operations were almost completed.
Farmers who were present while thanking the government for the timely investment echoed the minister’s call for the effective management of the new equipment.
One farmer said he recalled discussing the need for such machinery to service the communities along the Pomeroon River with Minister Mustapha and was pleased to see the government delivering on the promise. He called on his fellow farmers to care for and protect the machinery and to cooperate with the management committee so that all farmers can benefit.
Another farmer present said that the delivery of the machinery proves that Guyanese’s lives were in the hands of a committed government.
“We are happy to see these pieces of equipment before our eyes. We can safely say that our lives are in the hands of a committed government. A government that keeps its promises because today we are seeing the promise of two excavators and a pontoon being delivered to the people of the Pomeroon. Thanks to the government, thanks to the President, and thanks to the minister who we know had the responsibility of putting things together so that today we can have these machines,” the farmer said.