Wakenaam & Leguan farmers seek relief as dry season woes continue

On Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha hosted meetings on both islands to listen to issues faced by farmers.

While at Wakenaam, the farmers told Minister Mustapha that there was an urgent need for improved access to fresh water resources to support their farming activities. Rice farmers told the minister that as the sowing period approached, there was an urgent need for adequate fresh water as the water that is currently in the system was not suitable for rice planting.

Minister Mustapha said that he was aware of the situation brought on by the prolonged dry season and that the NDIA was willing to implement systems to assist farmers. While noting that the island usually relies on rain to supply fresh water, Minister Mustapha told the farmers that a better system needed to be implemented.

A farmer from Wakenaam while raising an issue during the meeting (Photo: MoA/ November 8, 2023)

“I know that farmers from Wakenaam depend on the rains for your fresh water. We’ve had a long dry spell and now farmers need water. The Hydromet Department has forecasted that we will be getting some rain soon but we don’t want to depend solely on the rain all the time.

“I know when we were in government prior to 2015 we’d engaged farmers on this and we were prepared to work with them to establish a reservoir to store water. The issue then was identifying land to construct the structure because farmers didn’t want to give up their land.

“We are here again and we are still open to having that catchment constructed because we agree that a constant source of fresh water is needed on the island,” Minister Mustapha said.

While acknowledging the efforts made by the ministry to improve drainage and irrigation on the island, farmers told the minister that there was a need for an additional excavator to support the ongoing drainage and irrigation programme.

Minister Mustapha told the farmers that funds will be made available to procure another excavator that will be added to the island’s fleet to support drainage works.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha (Photo: MoA/ November 8, 2023)

Similarly, farmers from Leguan also spoke about the need for the establishment of a reservoir to support agriculture throughout the year.

Livestock farmers told the minister that due to the high salt content in the water, their animals are being affected. One farmer who rears both cattle and poultry told the minister that his animals would usually be affected by diarrhea after drinking the water.

While responding to the farmers, Minister Mustapha explained that just like at Wakenaam, the ministry through the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) was willing to establish a reservoir to assist the farmers. He noted that a team from the NDIA and the GLDA would be returning to the island to meet with the farmers to develop a plan to effectively manage the available water resources. Minister Mustapha told farmers that the government was embarking on several new initiatives and encouraged farmers to come on board. He told cattle farmers that services such as artificial insemination (AI) were readily available to farmers to improve their flocks.

Minister Mustapha while speaking on the successes of the government’s aggressive agricultural development and diversification programme said that the government was cognizant of the effects climate change was having on the sector. He added that while the government will continue to support the traditional and non-traditional sectors, farmers are also being encouraged to diversify their production.

Minister Mustapha was accompanied by MoA’s Director General, Madanlall Ramraj, NDIA’s Chairman, Lionel Wordsworth, GLDA’s CEO, Dr. Dwight Waldron, NAREI’s CEO, Jagnarine Singh, GRDB’s Deputy General Manager, Kuldip Ragnauth and other ministry officials.