Abary River farmers display resilience after floods


By Andrew Carmichael

This year, Agriculture Month is being observed under the theme “Transforming our Food System: Achieving Food & Nutrition Security”; and in line with that theme, a young cash-crop farming couple are ensuring that they play a part in keeping Guyana’s food security intact.

The young couple, Ramchand Ramnarine and his wife Gomattie Arjune, of Abary River, Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica), are ensuring that Guyana’s food security is maintained as they defy the odds to continue producing vegetables for both the foreign and local markets.

Between May and early August, the couple’s entire 7-acre cash crop farm was under floodwaters, but that did not faze them, as they have already begun preparations for replanting. Although losing millions of dollars, the couple did not engage in despondency; rather, as soon as the floodwaters began to recede, they went back into their farm and tried to salvage what they could, and moved on to replanting.

“My experience during the flood was scary. I couldn’t go into the farm. I couldn’t come out of the house or go anywhere, because the water was so ‘big’. Everything I had in the farm died…it was like a drama,” Gomattie said.

When the floods hit, the couple had tomatoes, eggplant and sweet peppers that were bearing, while okra and a few other vegetables had not reached the bearing stage as yet. These were all destroyed.

Sunday Times visited the farm, where the couple had already incurred more than half a million dollars in debt to acquire seedlings for the new crop. From a position of harvesting tomatoes for two and a half days, to ensure all of the ripe ones were picked, and then starting the process all over one day later, Gomattie and Ramchand are now spending that time putting down new plants.

“It is hard, a lot of struggles, real struggle, because money is not there. It is really tight,” she told this publication.

Gomattie explained that the water receded about two months ago, and ploughing commenced. “We start to put down balanjay (eggplant), tomatoes, sweet peppers and other things that we normally pant. Every time the flood come, it takes everything, all the money to come back on the farm, but this trip is worst, this flood cripple us; everything…the flood took so long that all the money finished. Now, the boys that selling us the seedlings giving us a holdover on the plants,” she said.

However, despite encountering losses every year as a result of floods, they remain committed to ensuring that Guyana achieves food and nutrition security. Most of the vegetables take about six weeks to start bearing, and so, as soon as the water had receded from a section of the farm, preparations for the new crop commenced. However, that action has consequences.

“After the water pull off of this part, my husband start to fork it, and we get tomato. Right now, you could see the tomato bearing, but it is a lot of diseases, a lot of bacteria. The trees are not bearing as much as they supposed to bear because of the bacteria and disease,” Gomattie explained.

She said that because the water had remained for such a long period on the land, it left disease on the land, and it is now affecting the soft vegetable plants.

“When the bacteria hit the blossoms, they fall off, and so you can’t get the fruit,” she said as she showed this publication the spots on the leaves of the tomato plants.

The farmers have been impoldering after every flood, and according to them, they might have to make five- feet impolderment ahead of next year’s rainy season.

“Every year, the flood coming higher,” they declared.

She explained that there is a heavy additional cost to treat the diseases.

The Government, through the Agriculture Ministry, has been issuing financial relief to farmers who have been affected by the recent flood. However, the couple are still to collect theirs, but they are hopeful.

Meanwhile, they remain resilient, even though in debt.