Gov’t should give more priority to all-weather roads in farming regions
Two massive Tapakuma Irrigation Projects made the Essequibo Coast and Region 2 one of the most productive rice regions in the country. Having worked 24 years with Drainage and Irrigation (D&I), I am quite familiar with rice and rice farmers in the Region. The projects brought a Pump Station at Dawa, a Main Canal from Somerset and Berks on the North to Johanna Cecelia on the South, numerous regulators, several canals, drains, sea sluices, bridges, and many fair-weather dams. Drainage and irrigation improved considerably for the rice farmers and rice production flourished. When I resigned in 1981 and migrated to the U.S. one of the very few problems that rice farmers faced was the fair-weather dams. There was one all-weather road at the time, Anna Regina. Farmers depended on miles and miles of fair-weather dams to get their paddy from deep in the back-lands to the rice mills on the Coast. With just one shower the earth dams became treacherous and D&I then erected barricades to save the dams from destruction. When this happened, and it often did, it brought transportation of paddy to a halt. This was when farmers began to lose sleep.
Many years after I had left, and when democracy was re-established, one all-weather road was constructed at Bush Lot sometime in the 90s under the then Regional Chairman, the late Ali Baksh. I was recently informed that to date there are only two all-weather roads in Region 2, Anna Regina and Bush Lot. Dawa Pump Station was opened on November 30 1963 by the late Premier Dr. Cheddi Jagan and between 1963 and 2020, a period of 57 years, there have been only two all-weather roads between Somerset and Berks and Johanna Cecelia. During the time I was Overseer the annual estimates for the maintenance of fair-weather dams were among the highest. There are recent reports by farmers of problems with many fair-weather dams in the country including the Essequibo Islands and Parika. Agriculture, be it rice, sugar cane, plantains or cash crops, etc are what keeps people moving. Time is of the essence and getting these crops to markets and to the consumers is important. For many decades farmers have been begging for all-weather roads.
I most respectfully suggest to the government to give more priority to all-weather roads in the farming regions. This will boost agriculture production and bring much relief to the hard-working farmers. At least one fair-weather dam should be transformed as an all-weather road every year in every agricultural region. If this was done in Region 2 during the past 50 years every fair-weather dam between Somerset and Berks and Johanna Cecelia would have been transformed into all-weather roads. Guyana most definitely needs farmers. Farmers most definitely need all-weather roads.
Mohamed S. Majeed
(former D&I Overseer)