Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha on Monday met with farmers from the Mahaicony area who were affected by the recent flooding.
Over the weekend, farmers from several parts of the Mahaicony area reached out to the Minister alleging that they suffered losses but were either assessed incorrectly or not assessed at all.
After receiving those complaints, Minister Mustapha called an emergency meeting with the farmers today. During the meeting, Minister Mustapha informed the farmers that he would, with immediate effect, put systems in place to ensure every farmer who was affected is assessed correctly and receives some form of assistance from the government to resume farming.
“For this roll-out, we started in the eastern part of the region. I was allowing the teams to work so that we can have a sanitized list of persons who should receive relief. The list came and then we began to roll out the flood-relief distribution. We are now hearing a number of concerns. I am not here to dispute any of those claims. I came to put a mechanism in place. If persons have questions or queries and want to ensure they have a fair deal, I’m here today to ensure that happens so I am putting the ball back into the court of the farmers. I want the farmers to elect representatives from each area to be on a special select committee along with senior officials from the Ministry and the Region. These persons should be familiar with all the farmers in the area,” Minister Mustapha announced.
Minister Mustapha noted that the committee is expected to present a final list within seven days.
“We now have to do a list for persons who were not captured and for those who didn’t receive the right amount. After that, we’ll do another verification to substantiate the information given by those persons on this new list. Those persons who are here today, we will take down the information, and immediately I’ll instruct the officers from our agencies to start the process so that within a week, we can complete the verification and map up the area. The officers will also be here tomorrow to continue the process,” Minister Mustapha said.
However, farmers present at the meeting were unable to unanimously select representatives to sit on the committee. As such, Minister Mustapha told the farmers to meet and decide on who they feel can properly represent them and have those individuals be present at the location on Tuesday to continue the process.
During the meeting, rice farmers told the Minister that the extension officer from their area never visited them. After listening to the farmers, Minister Mustapha sought an answer from the head of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB). The official explained that he too had received similar complaints and, as such, the officer in question is no longer under the employ of the GRDB.
Minister Mustapha reiterated the point that if extension officers are not effectively carrying out their duties, they will not be able to continue working with the Ministry.
He also told farmers present that in addition to the cash grant, the government’s ongoing flood-relief initiative will also see farmers receiving planting materials, seeds, seedlings, seed paddy, and other genetic material for rice and cash crops.